Area C residents packed the CVRD’s boardroom at a committee meeting in 2018 to protest a proposed water bottling operation. Black Press file photo

Cumberland moves to ban bottled water businesses from zoning bylaw

Issue will go to advisory planning commission before coming back to council

The Village of Cumberland wants to shut the taps off on any possibility to set up bottling of groundwater in the community.

The idea came up during Monday’s committee of the whole meeting. Council passed a motion around prohibiting water bottling as an amendment to the Village’s zoning bylaw. It will still have to pass this at a regular board meeting to move the amendment forward. The idea will be referred to the council’s advisory planning commission for comment in the meantime.

“I’m glad to see that this came forward,” Coun. Jesse Ketler said during the discussion.

Rather than a reaction to a specific proposal, senior planner Karin Albert told council members that the move was a response to a previous presentation from Bruce Gibbons, founder of the Merville Water Guardians, who encouraged council to consider a ban on bottling as a ‘permitted use’ in all zones.

“This is a follow-up to a presentation we received in September 2018,” she said.

In the time since, the City of Courtenay, the Town of Comox and the Comox Valley Regional District have updated zoning bylaws. The moves from Courtenay and Comox have been to ban bottling other than from the municipal source, which leaves out bottling groundwater. The CVRD is prohibiting water and beverage bottling facilities in all zones.

RELATED STORY: Water bottling debate continues

Albert said the Village could not prevent the extraction of water or transportation of water but can limit their zoning bylaw to exclude bottling.

Cumberland staff recommends the Village ban water and beverage bottling at locations where the source is something other than the regular municipal supply – for example, groundwater.

Albert said, for example, if a business wanted to set up at the Bevan industrial lands, which does not have municipal water, it would have to apply for a variance.

“They could still apply, but it wouldn’t be a given,” she said.

A couple of years ago, council heard a presentation from Gibbons in response to a proposal in Merville. The Merville Water Guardians started up to stop a proposed operation in Area C of the Comox Valley Regional District. A Cumberland staff report notes that the Guardians’ position is that there is not enough information about the extent and capacity of aquifers to justify the risk of bottling and selling water.

At the time, the applicant, Scott MacKenzie, had received a licence from the Province to extract up to 10,000 litres per day from the aquifer as well as bottle and sell the water. However, the CVRD zoning bylaw did not permit bottling as a use for the land in question, and it denied a rezoning application in response to strong opposition from neighbours, the K’omoks First Nation and others.

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Cumberland council is considering a zoning amendment to prohibit the bottling of water in the Village. (File photo)

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