Salmon Arm Council is moving forward in its quest to see if city zoning can be changed to prohibit the extraction of groundwater within city boundaries for commercial sales.
Council asked city staff to look into options following discussions triggered by a groundwater licence application to the provincial Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development ministry for a property at 3030 40th St. SE in the industrial park area. The applicant requested the use of water from an aquifer for a water bottling facility.
No decision on the application has been announced.
Municipal governments are not generally consulted regarding such applications within their boundaries, although, in this case, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District was, because it is the owner of the nearby landfill which falls within the consultation perimeter. The CSRD expressed opposition to the plan.
Kevin Pearson, director of development services, prepared a report outlining options that he said came from other communities.
They included a general prohibition of the bottling of groundwater for commercial sales in all zones or, under the definition of ‘light industry’ use, adding the phrase ‘but does not include the bottling of goundwater for commercial sale’ – or a combination of both options.
He said he would be more comfortable if the city received a legal opinion on a proposed change, as legal challenges come up quite often in B.C.
Coun. Tim Lavery, who spearheaded the motion to have the city look into changing the uses allowed, said he has discovered that there may already be 19 municipalities in B.C. with similar zoning, and he is fine with getting a legal opinion.
Coun. Chad Eliason said perhaps this issue is similar to the plastic bag ban, where a critical mass of municipalities pushing for it will help the province move ahead.
Mayor Alan Harrison said he thinks Eliason’s point is important, because council has tried unsuccessfully to have input to the water licensing branch regarding private access to aquifers in the city. He said he’s also spoken several times to Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo who has been trying to get clarity from the government about the issue.
“We’re not talking about one application here, but on this specific one, of course we were not asked for consultation, and any consultation that we provided on our own, which were letters, holds no weight.
“So this (changing city zoning) is the only way we can go in order to have input.”
Council members present unanimously passed the motion to have staff develop the options for regulating land use and get a legal opinion on them. Couns. Louise Wallace Richmond and Sylvia Lindgren were absent.
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