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Permit changes 'small potatoes'
Konge wants full review while rest of council favours efficiencies for homeowners with small projects

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Published Friday, February 15, 2013

City councillor and construction company owner Niels Konge is the sole member of city council opposing proposed changes to the zoning bylaw which the city says will make it easier for homeowners to build decks, fences and additions this summer.

NNSL photo/graphic

Winona Vienco paints her deck at her home on 49A Avenue, last year. The city is hoping to make it easier for homeowners to get through small building projects like building decks with proposed revisions to the development permit. - NNSL file photo

Last month, director of planning and development Jeff Humble presented amendments to the development permit process that includes a three-step process for the development officer to consider before the building permit process begins.

As opposed to the traditional six steps, applicants now will simply submit a checklist with the building permit application for the developing officer to review. If there are no problems found, the building permit approval process can proceed.

In the past, applicants have had to submit an application to the department, have it reviewed by a development officer and co-ordinate with the department before a public notice goes up. A 14-day appeal period would then follow before the process would continue. Councillors say this leaves homeowners in a process that takes too long and is inconsistent in its delivery.

The streamlined process also calls for applicants to submit fewer copies of engineering drawings when applying for a development permit, said Humble.

The motion to approve the proposed amendments passed first reading Monday night and members of the public will now be able to bring forth comments.

Konge, however, called the proposed changes "small potatoes" and said it falls short of what he would like to see for all development permit applicants, including big project applicants who suffer from red tape and outdated rules.

"I do think some of the ideas presented to us are good ideas, but I think it could have gone a lot farther," he said.

"I will not be supporting this because I think the bylaw requires a comprehensive review. It has been a long time due and I think this is a little piecemeal approach to that bylaw."

Coun. Cory Vanthuyne, who was acting mayor this week, said he understands Konge's position, but to do a comprehensive, line-by-line review of the bylaw as Konge proposes would require a lengthy process that would take up most of the term and include having to hire a third-party consultant and require council's suggestions to be compiled. In the meantime, council can help families get through their small building projects a bit faster and avoid having them go through a full-out development permit process, he said. Currently, such a process can take at minimum six weeks, he added.

"Families are not like contractors and don't necessarily walk in, in January or February to plan their projects," he said. "They come in, in June or July and then the next thing you know it is September or October before the time of approval. If we can knock off some time, especially some time that will streamline that process a little bit, I think that will create a little bit of efficiency for homeowners and people that have small projects around their houses."

City records show that 289 development permit applications were filed last year and 24.2 per cent of those involved people building decks, accessory structures and additions. The remaining three quarters, or 219 applications, according to Humble, were new permit types, including new building construction, homes, commercial buildings and institutions.

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