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Comox Valley directors approve home occupation use for water extraction

Home occupation use does not permit water bottling

In a 2-1 vote, the Electoral Area Services Committee approved a home occupation use for the owner of a Merville property who has applied for a water extraction licence.

Scott Mackenzie is proposing treatment and two storage tanks with a drive-thru dispensing unit on Sackville Road. The home occupation use does not permit water bottling.

Area C director Edwin Grieve and Area B director Richard Hardy voted in favour at the March 6 EASC meeting, but Area A director Daniel Arbour opposed the recommendation.

“I’m really torn about voting in favour,” Arbour said. “The attitude of the applicant has been challenging, and I don’t think has been helpful in this process…Home occupation doesn’t sit well with me.”

Based on the interpretation of ‘home occupation,’ Hardy said the committee has no reason not to go forward with the recommendation.

Mackenzie’s application has drawn its share of criticism in recent years. Some area residents are concerned about the effects on their local aquifer. The Merville Water Guardians feel the neighbourhood is not amenable to a water trucking business.

READ: Water bottling debate continues

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Former Area B director Arzeena Hamir is disappointed in the directors who supported this motion.

“The community made it loud and clear that they did not want the district to encourage the sale of groundwater,” she said. “Hundreds of people showed up over the last five years to make presentations and appear at public hearings. This decision is a slap in the face to the community.”

Mackenzie anticipates using less than 2,000 litres of water a day. He intends to have a small building at the front of his property, a water vending machine and a U-fill.

“It’s never been about single use bottling or factories or selling to conglomerates,” Mackenzie said at Monday’s meeting. “We feel we’ve been treated unfairly throughout this entire process. Five years is long enough.”

The Province had issued a water licence to Mackenzie in 2017 to “divert and use water for industrial (fresh water bottling) purpose,” which authorized groundwater extraction of 10 cubic metres a day, or 10,000 litres. Following an unsuccessful application in 2018 to amend a zoning bylaw to allow water bottling on the property, Mackenzie applied to the Province to amend the water extraction licence. The Province then referred the amendment to the CVRD for comment.

The committee’s confirmation for a home occupation use will be forwarded to the Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship for next steps.

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