The District of Sooke plans to shorten the lag time between applications and residential and commercial building permit approvals.
At present, it takes planners an average of 43 days to approve blueprints for the new construction of homes and apartments. Land developers, however, report wait times of up to three months.
Work cannot begin until several municipal departments sign off the permits, and that practice is far too cumbersome and prone to delays, developers say.
“It seems that every department in Sooke gets a kick at the building applications, whether they need to or not. That doesn’t happen in other municipalities,” said Herb Haldane, a developer and a former district councillor, adding the process is “much easier” in Langford.
The district’s three building inspectors completed 2,018 inspections in 2021. That’s a 14-per-cent increase over 2020, which saw a rise of 22 per cent from the previous year.
Council on Monday (Feb. 14) approved a staff request to hire another building inspector and provide clerical support, using money from 2021 surplus funds. In addition, the district recently received a $494,270 grant to help review the existing system, from the first point of contact with a customer, to updating software and other resources over the next two years.
District staff will also examine the building bylaw protocols that could delay building permit approval, said Norm McInnis, the district’s chief administrative officer.
“We are absolutely committed to working with people through this process. There is a fairly complex process of getting an application and getting it approved.”
One of the most common complaints councillors hear from constituents is delays in building permits.
“I’ve been drowning in this since November to a point where it was causing severe personal stress. I’ve received a lot of phone calls and a lot of anger,” said Mayor Maja Tait, adding she recently inquired at municipal hall about getting a building permit to build a suite in her home and was told it would take 12 weeks.
When the current council was elected in October 2018, Coun. Al Beddows said improving the building permit process was a top priority.
“There’s been some headway, but I don’t think we’re there yet,” he said.