About 30 local builders came to the municipal hall to voice concerns about the permit process. (Tim Collins / Sooke News Mirror)

Sooke mayor vows to fix building permit delay

Maja Tait describes the current process as ‘a mess’

Mayor Maja Tait pulled no punches when she met with about 30 Sooke builders on Wednesday morning.

“It (the building permit process) is long … it takes forever. We get that,” said Tait at the start of the meeting.

“The whole process is a mess.”

She said she had an appreciation of the failure of municipal staff in providing a reasonable turnaround for building permit applications with delays that regularly stretch to the three or even four-month mark. It’s a time frame that far exceeds that of any of the West Shore communities.

She promised that all that will change and within six weeks the system will be altered so that the turn-around for building permit applications will be reduced to seven to 10 working days.

It was a sentiment and a commitment echoed by Coun. Al Beddows was also in attendance and joined Tait in taking a leading role in the discussions.

“The system is not working but we’re working on it. I know it seems slower than hell, but we’re going to get there. We just need to get on with it,” said Beddows.

The problem, Tait said, did not develop overnight but has evolved over the years as needed priorities were not set and much-needed resources were not allotted to the permitting function.

“This has been a sort of perfect storm,” said Tait

“The service has been under-resourced and there were moves made, like moving the supervision of the building inspectors under the fire chief, that never made sense.”


She noted the district had a senior building official that retired and was never replaced, leaving the municipality with one building inspector and one planning inspector. In comparison, she said, the municipality of Langford, which is often held up as a model of efficiency in the issuance of permits, has a team of eight inspectors and another 10 working in planning inspections.

She also noted that the proposed budget for the municipality has demonstrated the commitment to improving Sooke’s system by including several new staff positions for the service.

Local builder, Herb Haldane, who was instrumental in organizing the meeting and who has been a vocal critic of the building permit process, was at the meeting and acknowledged the under-resourcing of the service as one problem.

But he added that there are other problems that have led to delays.

He said that he noticed a difference when Sooke adopted the Tempest Land Records Database.

“The boxes you checked off (in Tempest) were to avoid having to send it from department to department but here they still send it everywhere anyway,” said Haldane.

“And I get that they’re short staffed and we feel for you, but we all have people sitting at home waiting to get to work. “

Interim chief administrative officer Don Schaffer admitted that there were serious problems to be addressed but said that fixing the problems has become a priority.

“When I got here I was told to first stabilize the administration and keep the ship off the rocks. The second thing was to fix the building permit process,” said Schaffer.

“The process now has a whole lot of roadblocks, and I’m trying to knock those back.”

Schaffer’s promised timeline and the responses of Beddows and Tait combined to placate the concerns of most of the builders.

“It’s absolutely fabulous. Obviously, the council wants to move forward,” said Mark Forget of Forget Construction.

“It was well worth coming here today.”

Tait was pleased with the meeting as well and observed that the administration had been doing some work on the problem but had failed to communicate to the builders what was happening.

“They have to improve that and they (the builders) need to realize that we have some great staff who have been frustrated as well and wanted the system fixed. Staff take a lot of pride in their work and they want the system to work as well.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The long road to recovery will have a few bumps

Some things will never be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic, local experts say

Peninsula farm stands open for business with COVID-19 restrictions

Growers hopeful shoppers will support local farms

Income tax deadline looming

2019 individual tax returns are due June 1, June 15 for self-employed individuals

Langford’s City Centre Park cautiously reopens most activities as of Friday

Ice rink, bowling alley and restaurant to follow new regulations

Sooke council approves new funding for chamber of commerce

A $16,000 service agreement to be created

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

COLUMN: Canada needs to remember rural communities as thoughts turn to pandemic recovery

Small towns often rely on tourism, which has been decimated by COVID-19

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

Schools in Tahsis and Gold River will open on June 1, with 30 per cent students expected to come in

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

POLL: Do you agree with the provincial government’s decision to increase the minimum wage?

B.C.’s lowest-paid workers will be getting a few more dollars to try… Continue reading

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

Most Read