Courtenay council unanimously passed the first three readings of a new and improved development application procedures bylaw recently.
The new bylaw is intended to streamline and clarify processes around all applications to amend a plan or bylaw or for the issuance of a permit, according to a report from Courtenay director of development services Peter Crawford and director of operational services Kevin Lagan.
City CAO Sandy Gray noted the report was compiled after developers voiced concerns regarding the process and delays.
Jay Oddleifson was hired as a consultant for the City late last year, and he spoke to numerous local developers, as well as city staff from Nanaimo, Langford and Sidney to gather information. According to Gray, many of the procedures are based on other cities’ practices.
Crawford pointed out a notable change is the requirement for the developer to meet with the public before the matter comes to council — rather than after.
“The public are asking for more input, asking for more consultation,” Crawford told council, adding public input would be increased from the new requirement. “Getting public input early is critical.”
Courtenay senior planner Ian Buck, who worked for the City of Campbell River until this spring, noted Campbell River has used this process for years, and he believes it’s positive for developers, affected neighbourhoods and City staff.
“It does give staff that upfront information on what the issues are, it does allow for some work and negotiation to be done with the developers to try to make things go smoother,” he said. “So it’s a positive step, I think, for the neighbourhood, as well as the developer in understanding what the issues are.”
Coun. Doug Hillian asked Crawford how issues around noise and disruption of neighbourhoods close to commercial or industrial developments could be addressed with the new bylaw.
Crawford pointed out increased public input early on in the process would likely help with these sorts of issues.
“Ideally, hopefully, we can address future issues coming up with conflict between residential and commercial,” he said.
Buck also noted a new requirement for all residential developments larger than three units and commercial or industrial developments in excess of 470 square metres would require services from a licensed landscape architect to plan and design, oversee construction and monitor post-construction.
“The primary reason for this is so the landscape fabric of our community, the urban fabric, is dealt with in a positive manner,” he said, adding most of the landscaping done in new developments in the city is at a high level, but this new requirement would ensure it is.
Pre-application meetings would also be encouraged for all applications, rather than just for larger projects, and they would be more formal, allowing of a better understanding between City staff and the developer about what the project is and what is required for each application.
The internal referrals process would have agreed on response times and would be tracked in order to speed up the process.
Other internal changes to streamline the process are included in the bylaw — such as giving the director of legislative services more power to approve minor amendments to an application.
Council spoke positively about the work City staff put into the new bylaw and accompanying report, with Mayor Larry Jangula noting the changes look positive for everyone.
“If things are going smoothly for them (developers) it means employment for people, it means cash flow is coming into the City, it means things are happening,” said Jangula. “It’s a positive thing for both sides, and we need to address both sides of the issue, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The final reading is expected to come back before council on Aug. 7.