Committees move to make development review more efficient
At a joint meeting on May 30th, 2023, the City’s Planning and Housing Committee and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee recommended approving a series of changes to City policies, by-laws and processes to help speed up development review.
The Province recently introduced strict timelines for processing both site plan control applications and Zoning By-law amendment applications. Site plan control applications must be approved within 60 days and a decision on Zoning By-law amendments is required within 90 days. If no changes are made to City process, these new timeline pressures could represent significant loss of City revenues as failure to meet the mandatory timelines would require the City to refund application fees.
The recommended changes include introducing a multi-tiered pre-consultation process whereby applicants would get feedback from City planning staff early in the development process. To help build consensus before a complete application is submitted, three phases of pre-consultation are planned. Applicants would first be required to present a preliminary idea for initial feedback, then present a refined idea for further comment, and lastly, submit the completed supporting information and materials for review to ensure they meet City standards.
The schedule for both City Council and Planning and Housing Committee meetings would also change, with meetings being held bi-weekly on alternating Wednesdays to reduce the time between Committee and Council consideration. Special meetings would be convened as needed to consider any time-sensitive matters.
Other changes related to the Planning and Housing Committee include that reports for committee consideration would be released for public review six calendar days prior to a meeting instead of the current 10 calendar days. Planning and Housing Committee could also consider rural zoning applications if waiting for the typical once-a-month meeting of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee (ARAC) would result in a missed deadline. Effort would first be made to hold a special meeting of ARAC.
Additionally, the City would seek Council approval of a future Official Plan amendment to define zoning applications that could be deemed minor, setting the stage for delegating authority on such amendments to staff and eliminating the need for lengthy legislative requirements, rising to Committee and Council consideration.
Multiple changes to internal business processes are also proposed for the sake of efficiency, and the City would change its:
- Development Application Study Policy By-law, to streamline the list of information and material that the City could request as part of a complete application
- Public Notification and Consultation Policy, to recognize all legislated changes applicable to Zoning By-law amendments and site plan control applications
- Planning Fees By-law, to institute fees for each pre-consultation phase, make pre-consultation fees non-refundable and remove any fees impacted by the provincial legislation
The Committees also recommended approving funding sources to employ 37 full-time equivalent positions to support the changing workload. Of those positions, 32 would provide the capacity needed to review development applications to meet the shorter mandated timelines and offer timely comment during the multi-tiered pre-consultation process.
Planning Services fees would be adjusted to fund those 32 positions in 2023, with the increase phased in throughout 2023 and an additional increase planned in 2024.
Another five temporary full-time equivalent positions would be added using existing resources. Those positions would support efforts to assess the heritage value of more than 3,400 properties on the City’s Heritage Register as the Province has also enacted legislation that requires such properties be designated within two years or be removed from the register altogether. Two existing temporary positions would also be made permanent.
Recommendations from the joint committee meeting will rise to Council on Wednesday, June 14.