Sooke home builders slowed by permit delays

Sooke home builders slowed by permit delays

Mayor Maja Tait urged to resurrect a district policy that would see building permits approved within 48 hours.

Home prices and rents are surging in Sooke, but local builder Herb Haldane said some construction work is grinding to halt.

The reason: Builders can’t get permits fast enough for new projects.

The process can take as long as eight weeks, almost half as long as it takes to build a house.

To help rectify the situation, Haldane urged Mayor Maja Tait to resurrect a district policy that would see building permits approved within 48 hours.

District council implemented the policy in 2013, but Haldane, a former district councillor, said he learned recently it was suspended indefinitely due to the lack of staff at municipal hall.

“The checklist was laid out so you could qualify with everything and get a permit in 48 hours,” he said.

Mayor Maja Tait said she is concerned why the 48-hour checklist policy wasn’t implemented and plans to have a discussion with council and staff, but noted there are other mitigating circumstances.

Among the challenges is permit applications sent to other agencies, such as the Home Warranty program, for approval; the building needs to be physically inspected and building inspectors often get incomplete information, which delay application.

“I heard there were delays [with building permits], but I didn’t know the extent of it as he (Haldane) articulated it,” Tait said.

Sooke has seen huge growth in the last five years and in 2016 broke a record for the number of building permits issued.

The situation hasn’t eased moving into 2017. The district issued 38 building permits in the first two months of the year. The average number is usually below 20.

The district employs two building inspectors and staff is asking council to hire one more so the process can move forward quicker.

“It’s a good problem to have when so many people are interested in Sooke, but we do have some issues on where building inspectors put in their time,” said Teresa Sullivan, the district’s chief administrative officer.

Haldane said Langford has a quick turnaround time and the same is needed in Sooke.

“Langford’s done it for years. You don’t want to miss the market because you’re waiting six to eight weeks for a building permit,” he said.

Sullivan pointed out the wait time has been reduced to three to four weeks since late summer.

“Three to four weeks is pretty fast if you compare it to Saanich or Victoria,” Sullivan said.

“I understand time is money for developers, but it still comes down to what the taxpayer is willing to afford.”