- "Homeowners and Homebuyers Struggle With 'Obscenely' High Building Costs" - Globe & Mail, June 26, 2023 <clip> "The cost of building homes and apartment complexes across 11 major Canadian cities was up 54 per cent in the first three months of 2023 compared with the same period in 2019, according to Statistics Canada data released last month."
- RBC Housing Affordability Index (June, 2023) <clip> "While welcome, the easing in ownership costs barely makes a dent in reversing the enormous loss of affordability since mid-2020. Big picture, owning a home is still a huge (if not impossible) stretch for middle-income households in Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto, and Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax to a lesser degree."
- Canadian Mortgage Delinquencies Begin to Climb - Better Dwelling (May 25, 2023) (Currently still just 00.15% of total mortgages in Canada)
- CMHC Housing Market Insight: Government Housing Charges in Large Metropolitan Areas (July 2022)
- Government fees crippling housing construction - Construct Connect (July 2022)
- "True Cost to Build A Home in BC" (Cressman Homes)
* Contractor fees
* Land Costs
* Serviced vs. Raw Land
* Building materials
* Permits and other government costs
* Service & utility connection costs
Structure of this post ...
* Introduction/starting points (last decade in review)
* Key legislative documents (national and provincial)
* BC Building Code + amendments: Secondary Suites (2019), Zero Carbon Step Code (2023)
* District of Sooke:
i) Building Bylaw 2020
ii) Development Cost Charge bylaw update 2021/23
iii) Development Approval Permit Review in Sooke and other BC communities 2021/24
* Province of BC Development Permit Review 2019: Recommendations & Challenges
* Building in Sooke: DOS and private sector
* EMCS TASK program
* BC Construction Industry + stats, careers
* Miscellaneous related news clips re: permit delays across Canada
* Quotes from Canadian Urban Institute's Mary Rowe
* Archive: Sooke Land Use & Development Committee 2011-2022
* Comparison shopping: Other municipal website materials re: planning/development
I started this one as a warm-up for the Sooke Builders Association luncheon on May 17 at the Sooke Legion. Absolutely required homework as the Province, local governments and the building community strive to overcome systemic procedural delays of the kind that bedevil municipalities across the country.
The SBA's launch comes as the District addresses planning/building department staff shortages while also moving into the public consultation/bylaw review stage of its Development Approval Permit Review (DAPR). Along with 42 other BC communities that received these grants, Sooke intends to dramatically improve/streamline our permitting system.
This blog entry has expanded considerably since then as I delve into yet another area about which I have zero practical experience but much respect for the professionals at the District and those within our building community. I empathize with all sides and wholly trust in the mature, patient, collaborative and fair process leading to better outcomes.
Builders associations have existed in Sooke since at least 2009 when an earlier iteration of the Sooke Builders Association is mentioned in council minutes in reference to the "brown bag" lunches Sooke's then-CAO Evan Parliament was organizing with local builders. Herb Haldane has represented the association in delegations to council over the years since he left office, most recently earlier this year.
This spring the SBA adopted a formal structure with the election of an executive led by Stellar Homes' Geoff Steele (President), Marsden Group's Patrick Marsden (Vice-President), MCW Property Services' Matthew Walsh (Treasurer), Keycorp Development and Marketing's Jim Hartshorne (Secretary), and Directors-At-Large Haldane (Haldane Homes), Dave McClimon (4M Bobcat & Trucking) and Peter White.
Steele's recent letter to the Sooke News Mirror captures the group's intentions, namely a desire to "create a positive partnership with Sooke council and staff to get things done in a cooperative way by discussing concerns and working together to resolve problems."
Traditionally, of course, this has been a rather adversarial relationship here and across Canada -- wholly understandable given the red-tape frustrations of builders as they waltz with planning/building departments that must, by law, deliver permits based on exacting federal, provincial and municipal regulations.
Here in Sooke, staff and council have, since at least 2011, been continually urged to replicate Langford's famous 48-hour permitting turnaround commitment -- which, as was rarely made clear, only clicked in following untold months of necessary groundwork by applicants and municipal staff; it required submission of a complete building permit application, site plans, construction drawings, geotech review, professional engineer's report and completion of all City of Langford approvals.
Speeding up Sooke's permit process was goal #1 identified early in the term of the 2012-2014 Land Use and Development Committee. In spring 2013, council directed staff to strive for faster approvals, however the requisite budget for additional staff wasn't forthcoming during this era of zero percent tax increases. A new Land Use committee was formed in 2018, and Head Planner Ivy Campbell was hired that spring (four years after former Director of Planning Gerard LeBlanc left the job).
Around this time, the Horgan government recognized that the province was facing a housing crisis after decades of inaction on the parts of Ottawa and the province. Its Homes For BC housing affordability masterplan (2017) was followed a year later by the Development Permit Process Approvals Review (final report, 2019) based on consultation with UBCM staff, local government officials, builders and developers, non-profit housing providers, academics and community representatives.
In my time on council, we've built on the work of earlier councils and sought solutions to long-standing, seemingly intractable issues faced by communities everywhere - especially growing ones like ours that must constantly recalibrate staffing needs to match rising service demand yet foot-drag given tax implications.
Unlike previous councils that could call on building expertise around the table, we had no such representation from 2018-22 and yet still got some significant stuff done as initiated/implemented by staff led by CAO Norm McInnis, his before/after interim Don Schaffer and now Deputy CAO/Director of Financial Services Raechel Gray.
Summary of District and Council initiatives, 2019-23
- Council reps meet with 30 individuals from Sooke building community re: permit delays, March 20, 2019
- Two long-standing vacancies are filled: Director of Planning and Chief Building Official, 2019/20
- Sooke Building Bylaw adopted in June, 2020 (based on Municipal Insurance Association of BC model bylaw)
- Application Process and Development Tracking report to council, Jan. 11, 2021 (see pp. 4/5)
- Launch of Sooke Development Tracker, March 2021 (video explainer)
- Application for (April 26, 2021) and receipt of (Sept. 2021) $494k grant from UBCM Development Permit Approvals Program to modernize Sooke's permitting system
- New Development Cost Charge bylaw adopted in July 2022
- Planning Department prepares next Official Community Plan for public hearing, Sept. 2022
- Preparation of new draft Subdivision and Development Standards Bylaw underway, fall 2022 (top recommendation in the Transportation and Parks & Trails Master Plans.)
- Consultant's report on Sooke building permit processes (pp. 5-23 of council's Feb. 27, 2023 agenda).
- New DCC credit, front-ender and latecomer policies (see pp. 33-57), May 15, 2023
- 1Q 2023 Planning and Development Quarterly Report at May 23, 2023 council meeting (see pp. 219/20 + slide deck)
- 50% time reduction in issuance of residential permits when properly submitted: 68 days (2019) vs. 34 days (2022)
Most critical now is to secure our next Chief Administrative Officer as well as key staff for both the planning and building departments, both down in their numbers due to retirement, health issues and maternity leave.
Ongoing is the analysis and revamp of the permitting system and related bylaws underway through the grant Sooke received via the UBCM. We are one of 43 BC local governments to get this funding, all of them now generating reports on various timetables. Ours must be complete by April 15, 2024. A consultant is now being selected before the next round of stakeholder engagement gets underway.
The new-look Sooke Builders Association luncheon upstairs at the Legion was a good next step. A full house of local builders and developers was in attendance along with Mayor Tait, Sooke's Director of Planning Matthew Pawlow and five of us from council. The Mayor reiterated how we're all in this together in building the complete, climate-adapted, multi-generational, safe, affordable, unspoilt, functional, aesthetically appealing, enjoyable and connected community envisioned in our current and pending OCPs. As she said, we won't get there if builders/developers are not onside and actively involved over the long haul.
Langford-Juan de Fuca NDP candidate Ravi Parmar shared his own positive vision for the region before introducing his former colleague Ravi Kahlon, BC Minister of Housing. Kahlon repeated what he had said at the UBCM Housing Summit in early April: We're in a national and provincial housing crisis, some municipalities are falling well short of their housing-need targets, and development/permitting processes must be dramatically modernized to get a full-spectrum of new homes (from social housing to market-value homes) onto the market ASAP. (But not necessarily, he added, communities that are meeting those targets. Unsaid: Sooke is arguably one of them.)
Future monthly working and educational lunches are in the SBA's plans. And, to be sure, the executive will be organized and ready to bring their best OCP ideas forward for the Committee of the Whole relaunch on June 19. As will other voices in the community, I trust, all keeping things as hyper-efficient as possible by citing page numbers and section references to issues of concern. Bring it on, #Sooke!
- UBCM Fact Sheets: Land Use Regulation + Planning and Procedures + Statutory Officials (incl. Approving Officer)
- District of Sooke Building Safety website page
- Newly launched (March 31) Permit Connect BC portal intended to simplify/explain/speed provincial components of permitting processes - site remediation, subdivisions outside municipalities, archeological studies, etc. Questions welcomed at Housing.Authorizations@gov.bc.ca.
- BC Permitting Strategy for Housing (Jan. 2023)
- Province of BC Homes For People Action Plan (announced April 3, 2023)
- Bill 43: BC Housing Supply Act (Nov. 2022)
- Technical briefing presentation
Order In Council #328 (May 31) identifies first wave of 10 BC municipalities subject to BC Housing Supply Act provisions + Ministry of Housing press release: Abbotsford, Delta, Kamloops, North Vancouver, Oak Bay, Port Moody, Saanich, Vancouver, Victoria and West Vancouver.
- First cohort was selected according to criteria that ranks housing availability, affordability and urgent housing need:
- Sooke and the CRD's dozen other municipalities are among 37 other BC municipalities identified in the Housing Supply Regulation and "may be subject to a housing target assessment as part of a future cohort." New batches of eight-to-ten municipalities will be selected later this year and in the first half of 2024.
Anmore (village) • Belcarra (village) • Burnaby • Central Saanich (district) • Chilliwack • Colwood • Coquitlam • Duncan • Esquimalt (township) • Highlands (district) • Kelowna • Ladysmith (town) • Lake Cowichan (town) • Langford • Lantzville (district) • Langley • Langley (township) • Lions Bay (village) • Maple Ridge • Metchosin (district) • Mission • Nanaimo • New Westminster • North Cowichan (district) • North Saanich (district) • North Vancouver • Pitt Meadows • Port Coquitlam • Port Moody • Prince George • Richmond • Sidney (town) • Sooke (district) • Squamish (district) • Surrey • View Royal (town) • West Kelowna • White Rock
B.C. government documents reveal all 47 municipalities on housing 'naughty list' (Vancouver Sun, June 4, 2023)
<clip> "These municipalities were simply included in the order-in-council for expediency to not have to amend the regulation every time a new cohort is selected,” a ministry spokesperson said by email Sunday. “While these are areas with the highest need and projected growth, it is not a guarantee that targets will be set in each of those municipalities.”
<clip> "Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said that communities that meet the targets will be 'first in line' for federal funding through the $4-billion housing accelerator fund."
- "How Many Homes Do We Need to Build in Greater Victoria?" - Capital Daily, June 30, 2022 (includes infographic attached below indicating Sooke is ahead of its housing-needs target.)
- The pending Sooke OCP states (pg. 30) that "it is estimated that Sooke will experience demand for an additional 1,813 residential units by 2030, an additional 1,567 units between 2030 and 2040, and an additional 1,658 units between 2040 and 2050." Total: 5,038 within a quarter century atop our current 6,431 units. (If, indeed, this and future councils balance all other factors -- notably the realities of our increasingly congested two-lane highway -- in accepting projected population increases and inviting this volume of new construction.)
- Sooke Housing Needs Report Effective April 2019, the Province of BC amended the Local Government Act (Division 22) to require that municipalities produce Housing Needs Reports every five years. Sooke published its first such report in October, 2019. It detailed Sooke's community context, housing supply, housing market characteristics, land utilization, current gaps in the housing supply, housing needs projections and best practices. Related: CRD/Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Housing Needs Report (2020)
<clip> "Overall, Sooke is expected to display an additional net housing need for 2,014 owner-occupied and 439 renter-occupied housing units during the period 2016-2031."
Findings and Focus Areas in Sooke Housing Needs Report
- Address market-rate housing needs for all age cohorts
- Address non-market housing needs
- Enhance supply of rental housing
- Enhance housing affordability
- Facilitate development on vacant lands
- Prepare for growth in aged 65+ population
- Municipal Housing Supply Benchmarking Study (Canadian Home Builder's Association of BC, 2021). Study of 13 BC municipalities (Victoria included) reveals that "the average approval timelines for municipal approval of development applications is 13-14 months for rezoning and development permits, and over 20 months for subdivision ... This report found that the approval timelines and government charges within the B.C. municipalities studied were among the slowest and highest, respectively, in Canada, with the exception of municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area in some cases."
From this blog:
- Housing 101: BC's Homes For People Action Plan
- Our Sooke-Sized Building Boom (August 2022)
Key legislative documents
From Understanding BC's Building Regulatory System, Province of BC, 2015
"Each level of government has a role in regulating building. In Canada, the federal Constitution Act (1992) gives the provincial and territorial governments responsibility for regulating building and construction. In British Columbia, the Building Act gives the Province the authority to set the BC Building Code and other provincial building regulations. Setting regulations at a provincial level helps foster more consistent requirements throughout B.C.The Province gives local governments the ability to administer and enforce provincial building requirements, including the BC Building Code. Local governments also have powers of their own that govern related matters such as land use, property development or heritage conservation. In a nutshell, the Constitution Act gives the Province responsibility to regulate building and construction, and the Province gives local governments limited authority to administer and enforce the BC Building Code.
MYTH: The Province sets ‘all the rules’ for building and construction.
FACT: Under the Building Act, only the Province can establish building requirements. However, local governments have authority over related matters, including the administration of building & construction in their communities, such as:
- Preparing official community plans;
- Adopting zoning bylaws that govern land use;
- Hearing rezoning applications, or applications for variances from zoning requirements;
- Regulating development;
- Enacting heritage conservation measures;
- Setting design guidelines for neighbourhoods;
- Determining development cost charges or community amenity contributions;
- Issuing development and building permits;
- Conducting building inspections; and
- Issuing building occupancy permits."
- National Building Code of Canada (2020)
"The NBC is the model building code in Canada that forms the basis of most building design in the country. It is a highly regarded model building code because it is a consensus-based process for producing a model set of requirements which provide for the health and safety of the public in buildings ... Model codes have no force in law until they are adopted by a government authority having jurisdiction. In Canada, that responsibility resides within the provinces, territories and in some cases, municipalities. Most regions choose to adopt the NBC, or adapt their own version derived from the NBC to suit regional needs."
- National Plumbing Code (2020)
- National Fire Code (2020)
- National Energy Code for Buildings (2020)
"The National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB) aims to help save on energy bills, reduce peak energy demand, and improve the quality and comfort of the building’s indoor environment. Through each code development cycle, the NECB intends to implement a tiered approach toward Canada’s goal for new buildings, as presented in the “Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change”, of achieving ‘Net Zero Energy Ready’ buildings by 2030." (Canadian Wood Council explainer)
- Canadian Board for Harmonized Building Codes develops the national codes. Established in late 2022, it replaces the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes. The codes are updated every five years (next 2025).
- Canada's Construction System: The Context for National Codes (National Research Council)
- Longterm Energy Code Strategy (NRC, 2017)
BC Building Act
"The Building Act is British Columbia’s first act dedicated just to building and construction. It was introduced in spring 2015. The act introduces three main changes to B.C.’s building regulatory system. The changes will modernize the system; increase efficiency and productivity; and support innovation"
- What Local Governments Need to Know About the Building Act
- Building Act Guide + PDF brochure + (Province of BC)
- Building Act Information (BC Building Officials Association)
- MIABC Building Bylaw Project (2002)
- Consumer Protection in BC
(i.e., Homeowner Protection Act, Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, Builders Lien Act)
- BC Codes online: Building, fire, plumbing
- BC Building Code (2018)
- What Is the BC Building Code (Courthouse Libraries BC)
- Amendments (five since 2018)
- BC Building Code Revision #2: Secondary Suites (December, 2019)
"Allowing the construction of secondary suites in more building types helps to create more affordable housing units while still providing an acceptable level of health and fire safety to occupants. Secondary suites help provide more affordable housing options by expanding a community’s rental stock. By making more efficient use of land and infrastructure, secondary suites facilitate low-impact densification that supports community vitality and sustainability. Secondary suites can be integrated within mature neighbourhoods with limited visual impact on the street, which helps communities retain neighbourhood character while providing more options for rental housing.
The BC Code historically limited the size of secondary suites and only permitted them in single detached houses. Land use bylaws were often based on these requirements. Mid-cycle revisions to the BC Code increase the options for the design and construction of new secondary suites in a wider range of building types and remove the restrictions on size.
Effective December 12, 2019, the BC Building Code will allow the construction of new secondary suites in more types of houses, such as duplexes and row housing. Size restrictions for secondary suites have also been removed. This will provide local governments with more options for land use planning ... Local governments are encouraged to review their bylaws to determine if the BC Code changes will have any impacts. Local governments may wish to amend their bylaws to remove any previous code references or if they decide to permit secondary suites in more building types."
- BC Housing: Secondary and basement suites incentive pilot program (launching April 2024)
"The Province has announced a pilot, three-year financial incentive program to help interested homeowners turn a portion of their home into a secondary or basement suite for the rental market. Beginning in early 2024, homeowners will be able to access a forgivable loan of 50% of the cost of renovations, up to a maximum of $40,000 over five years. Over time, the loan can be forgiven if the homeowner meets all conditions laid out in the program, including renting their unit out at below market rates for a minimum of five years. The pilot program is expected to be open to at least 3,000 homeowners for the first three years and will quickly help create new rental housing units within the existing housing supply, for much less than the cost to build a large-scale, multi-unit housing development."
- Secondary Suites + Advisory + Secondary and Small Suites Policy, 2011 (District of Sooke)
- "Secondary Suites Causing Parking Congestion in Sooke" (Sooke News Mirror, July 14, 2021)
- Accessory Dwelling Units: Best Practices and Case Studies (BC Housing, 2021)
- Secondary suite code requirements (Saanich)
- Secondary Suites PDF guide (City of Nelson)
- Add A Second Unit In Your House (Province of Ontario, 2019)
- BC Building Code Revision #5: Opt-In Zero Carbon Step Code (May, 2023)
"The Zero Carbon Step Code is a new addition to the BC Building Code that allows Authorities Having Jurisdiction to limit operational carbon from new buildings. While an optional standard at this time, the Province intends to make operational carbon limits mandatory over time, with the ultimate objective for all new buildings to be zero carbon by 2030." (BC Building Officials Association)
The BC Zero Carbon Step Code (Zero Carbon Step Code): In 2021, the province released its CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 climate plan. It included a commitment that “all new buildings in the province must produce zero greenhouse gas pollution from their operations by 2030.” In 2023, the Province of British Columbia entered the Zero Carbon Step Code into regulation as the pathway to get there. As of May 1, 2023, local governments can reference the Zero Carbon Step Code in their building bylaws, if they wish." (Energy Step Code info bulletin)
- BC Building and Safety Standards info bulletin + guidelines for local governments + (May 1, 2023)
- Compliance Tools for Part 9 Buildings (newly revised Step Code checklist for builders and energy advisors)
"The Zero Carbon Step Code sets a maximum annual amount of greenhouse gas emissions that each building is allowed to emit. The amount for each building is based on the proposed occupancy and the size of the building. The metric that is used is kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per square meter, per year.
Similar to the BC Energy Step Code, the Zero Carbon Step Code has four levels each with a specific intent outlined below:
- Emissions Level 1: Measure-only (requires measurement of a building’s emissions without reductions and is intended to build knowledge and capacity)
- Emissions Level 2: Moderate Carbon Performance (in most cases, will require electrification of either space heating or domestic hot water systems)
- Emissions Level 3: Strong Carbon Performance (in most cases, will require electrification of both space heating and domestic hot water systems)
- Emissions Level 4: Zero Carbon Performance (in most cases will require the full electrification of a building)
- Zero Carbon slide deck
- Adopted by City of Victoria and District of Saanich (May 2023) + Victoria press release
- Central Saanich - Let's Talk Step Code files and PDF
- Saanich Zero Carbon PDF explainer + Saanich News article (March 31, 2023)
- Victoria Residential Builders Association feedback + Three Housing Myths Dispelled
- Urban Development Institute Capital Region - March 2023 letter referencing Zero Carbon Step Code and recommending it be used by the federal government in the national Draft Policy Framework for Climate Mitigation. <clip> "BC has taken the lead with regards to carbon pollution in new buildings ... The province recently approved a tiered Zero Carbon Step Code (ZCSC) which allows local governments to set operating GHG emission limits in new construction, and by 2030 all new buildings in BC will need to be zero-carbon ready. UDI is pleased that the federal government's proposals are generally aligned with BC's approach, so there should be limited changes for BC builders."
"Definitions: The Canadian Board for Harmonized Building Codes recommends the following working definitions be used to guide the development of code requirements:
A net zero emissions building or house has minimal operational and embodied GHG emissions, with remaining emissions offset through various mechanisms.
A zero or near zero operational emissions building or house is designed and constructed to minimize or eliminate operational GHG emissions through energy efficiency and energy source choice.
Emission factors represent the GHG emissions of energy sources (CO2e produced per unit of energy consumed).
Operational GHG emissions are related to the amount of energy consumed and the carbon intensity of the energy source used to operate a building. Operational GHG emissions are described as scope 1 or scope 2 emissions.
- Scope 1 (Direct): GHG emissions that are produced from fuels that are combusted on site, primarily from combustion of hydrocarbons, e.g. fossil fuels. Equipment examples: Natural gas / propane / oil and solid fuel appliances; CHP system; gas engine heat pump.
- Scope 2 (Indirect): GHG emissions that are produced from energy sources that are generated off site, e.g. purchased electricity. Equipment examples: Electric equipment, equipment that uses purchased energy, district heating or cooling."
District of Sooke
- Sooke Building Bylaw #780 (2020)
- Subdivision and Development Standards Bylaw #404 (2014), now undergoing revision
- Community Amenities Contribution Policy (2010)
- Development Permit Delegation Bylaw #705 (2018)
- Fees and Charges Bylaw #752 (latest amendment Nov. 2022)
* schedule 3 - Building Bylaw Fees (pp. 6-8)
* schedule 5 - Development Applications (pg. 9)
* schedule 10 - Subdivision Fees (pg. 12)
- TBD: Parkland Dedication and Cash-in-Lieu of Parkland Dedication Policy
- Revelstoke UBCM resolution: Value of Land for Cash-in-Lieu of Parkland (2016)
- TBD: Geotechnical Policies and Procedures
- "A Guide to Subdividing Property in the District of Sooke" - (DOS, 2014)
- Sooke Building and Safety website page
- Building and Plumbing Permit Application Form
Municipal regulations must be consistent with the BC Building Code (2018, amended as recently as May 1, 2023. A new set of codes is expected to be approved by late 2023.) They must also align with the British Columbia Building Act.
As per this Province of BC website page: "The BC Building Code is a provincial regulation on how new construction, building alterations, repairs and demolitions are done. This code sets minimum requirements for safety, health, accessibility, fire and structural protection of buildings and energy and water efficiency."
Sooke Building Bylaw #780 (2020) replaced the previous 2001 bylaw (which had been amended multiple times over its lifespan). The new bylaw is based almost entirely on the model building code for BC local governments prepared by the Municipal Insurance Association of BC in conjunction with lawyers versed in building law.
- Report to Council (Feb. 18, 2020)
- Step Code Report (June 15, 2020; see pp. 3-79)
- Builders Virtual Meeting presentation (Oct. 22, 2020 slide deck)
- Building Bylaw presented for first reading (Nov. 23, 2020; see pp. 185-404, includes survey results and feedback)
Sooke Development Cost Charges Update (2021/22)
Enabling legislation: Local Government Act, Section 19 - items 559 onwards
Province of BC: Development Cost Charges
DCC Guide for Elected Officials
DCC Best Practices Guide
Municipal Development Works Agreements
District of Sooke DCC website page
Sooke Development Cost Charges Bylaw #775 (adopted July 12, 2022)
- Road Program Projects – Pg 14
- Sanitary Program Projects – Pg 19
- Storm Program Projects – Pg 25
- Parks Program Projects – Pg 30
- Final Development Cost Charge Background Report (Urban Systems, 2021)
- Sooke DCC Brochure (Nov. 2022)
- Let's Talk Sooke DCC page
Sooke Development Permit Approval Review (2021/23)
Sooke's building and development community continue to call, as builders in every municipality across the country routinely do, for reduced red tape and faster permit turnarounds. They've been doing so since at least 2009 in my research and likely for many years earlier.
Following the release of the province's Development Approvals Process Review (DAPR) report in 2019 (scroll down for granular details on its findings), funding was made available through the UBCM Development Permit Approvals Program.
Sooke's successful application netted a $494k grant in Sept. 2021 that enables a top-to-bottom analysis and revamp of our permitting system based on recommendations from the 2019 report.
- We are one of 43 BC local governments to get this DAPR funding
- The Ministry of Housing shared this update during last month's Housing Summit.)
Since work on this grant began in later 2021, consultants have teamed with District staff to draft a new Development and Standards Bylaw and review the Building Permit application process.
A progress report was presented at the council meeting of Dec. 12, 2022. Staff have been training up on new digital review software (Tempest and Bluebeam Revu) as we heed the province's stated commitment to become a North American leader in digital permitting as the best possible way to speed up the process.
A follow-up report incuding a building permit process review conducted by LMH Consulting was included on pp. 5-23 of council's Feb. 27, 2023 agenda.
- DOS service delivery fixes (timelines, roles and responsibilities)
- e-application technology implementation
- policies for incomplete applications (reject them at the get-go and clearly provide direction on what's required)
- education for staff and applicants
The next step is a public (read: building/development sector primarily) engagement process to be led by a consultant drawn our way by this recent Request for Proposals. As you'll read therein (pp. 8/9), the District is seeking qualified professionals to assess development application processes and review current bylaws, staff capacity, communications tools and information technology. They are to engage with internal and external stakeholders, deliver and implement recommendations. Staff recommends that the contract be awarded to Urban Systems. (See its application in full on pp. 83-171 of the June 12 council agenda.)
Staff must deliver a final UBCM report by the March 15, 2024 deadline.
Other communities with DAPR processes underway or completed include:
- Regional District of Nanaimo - Oct. 2022 (see agenda pp. 80-176 for KPMG report)
- Sunshine Coast Regional District (contract awarded to KMPG in Dec. 2022)
- Village of Cumberland Development Permits Approval Modernization (council report, March 27, 2023)
- City of Fernie (consultant: McElhanney)
- Town of Comox (final report, Jan. 2023)
- City of Vancouver: Permitting Improvement Program
- District of Tofino: Development Approvals Framework (consultant: Urban Systems)
- City of Coquitlam DAPR + 2021 Progress Report Card (collaboration with Urban Development Institute)
"The City previously handled its development planning referral process – during which applications are reviewed by internal departments and external agencies – through a labour-intensive process involving email and spreadsheets. Tracking was challenging and the manual steps slowed down turnaround times ... To streamline the review process, Coquitlam introduced a Granicus digital platform that stores all project data, automates communications to and from reviewers, consolidates responses, generates reports, flags issues and tracks processing times. The result has been a savings of up to 100 hours per project. Since 2019, the average time between development application submission and issuing of the first review letter has been reduced by 40 per cent."
- The City of Kelowna is the first to look at AI as a means to speed-up building processes and has promised to share its findings with all BC local governments.
- Archived: District of West Kelowna, Planning and Development Applications Process Review (2011)
BC's Development Permit Process Review (2019)
All of the above localized reports address the challenges and recommendations identified in the final report of the Development Permit Process Approvals Review. (Press release.) This consultation with builders associations, local governments, non-profit housing societies and others was recommended by the Horgan government's Homes For BC housing affordability masterplan a year earlier.
At the outset, the review established a set of "effective and efficient" guiding principles ...
1. ACHIEVES OUTCOMES IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: The approvals process is set up to support development that is strategically aligned with adopted community plans, supports community values, is strategically aligned with the public interest and results in high-quality built environments.
2. CERTAINTY: The requirements, timeframes and costs of development approvals are clearly outlined and communicated in advance or as early as possible in the application process. The expectations remain consistent throughout the process.
3. TRANSPARENT ACCESS TO INFORMATION: Decisions during the approval process are documented and communicated in a clear and timely manner. Application status is accessible to proponents and to all staff involved in the approval process. The public is informed.
4. COLLABORATIVE: Local governments and applicants work collaboratively to achieve desired outcomes. Where public involvement is appropriate, the process seeks public input early in the process and in an informed manner.
5. FLEXIBLE: The process achieves consistency while providing flexibility that enables developments in line with these guiding principles. Flexibility also allows for and even rewards innovation.
6. TIMELY: The development approval process occurs on timeframes that are appropriate to the level of complexity of the application. All parties, including local governments, proponents, provincial agencies, professionals, and others involved in the application process, provide needed input in a timely manner.
7. BALANCED: The development approval process strives to achieve a fair balance of costs and benefits to the public and the proponent.
The challenges common to builders and local governments across BC ...
- incomplete or poor-quality submissions by applicants;
- increased complexity of building requirements;
- inconsistent development permit guidelines;
- contradictory advice from different local-government departments;
- lack of transparency on the status of development applications;
- lack of consistency of requirements between neighbouring local governments.
Appendix 7 (pp. 22-29) lists high priority ways to address these challenges ... cut-and-pasting from the report:
* Lengthy and complicated internal staff development approvals process
- Training and best practice guide to be used to optimize process
- Local governments make the internal process of development applications more effective and efficient
* Incomplete and poor-quality applications
- Developer training & best practices guide prepared by private sector with local government input.
- Local government to implement process changes to establish effective “gatekeeping” to keep poor quality applications from being received
* Inconsistencies between neighbouring municipal practices
- Create model development application checklists accessible by any local government
- Harmonize bylaws with neighbouring municipalities when possible
* Lack of funding/staff resources for development processes
- Local governments to increase staffing
* Shortage of building officials
- Province and local governments to work with the Building Officials’ Association of B.C. to provide more opportunities for training, encourage transfers from related positions, allow local governments to train in-house
- Local governments to pursue building official retention and recruitment by creating a positive, healthy work environment, improve compensation package, consider sharing a pool of workers within a region
* Staff delegation
- Increase councils’ ability to delegate individual development approvals, including reframing legislation to make delegation the default with opt-in option for elected official review
* Public hearings
- Provincial review of public hearings and consideration of alternative options for more meaningful, earlier public input and in different formats
* OCP amendments and housing targets
- Provincial policy review of OCPs with respect to development approvals - adoption process, update requirements, recommended levels of detail, streamlined process for minor amendments
- Provincial policy review to consider tying development approvals to housing targets
* Development Cost Charges and Community Amenity Contributions
- Provincial consideration of more reliable funding from senior government for municipal infrastructure to reduce dependency on development cost charges and community amenity contributions
- Pending more funding, local government best practice for the use of development cost charges and community amenity contributions including method of calculation (lift or fixed), early notice to owners/developers, fairness, in-stream protection
* Onerous local government requirements
- Internal training on maintaining balance on requirements imposed through the development approval process
* Social housing
- Recognizing social benefits (affordable/ special needs housing) as community amenities
* Subdivisions and Approving Officer
- Develop enhanced communication materials about subdivision processes for elected officials and the public.
- Prepare plain language guidance and checklists to explain the process.
* Preliminary reviews
- Develop model Preliminary Layout Approval review letters that give early direction and help avoid unexpected impacts on developer later in process
* Changes to Building Code
- Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing: Review policy for building code changes, including opportunities to provide in-stream protection, potential to provide earlier notice of upcoming changes and increased education to accompany changes. To support innovation, the Building and Safety Standards Branch could review opportunities to enable faster local government approval of innovative alternative solutions
* BC Hydro Engagement
- Applicants to include early engagement with BC Hydro / utilities to avoid delays as a best practice
* Lack of training
- Provide training on the development approval process for all participants involved in development applications and approvals (council members, planners, engineers, Approving Officers, fire prevention, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, health authorities, developers, etc.)
* Lack of access to and awareness of materials
- Create development approvals portal (similar to the BC Energy Step Code portal)
Building in Sooke
+ more (list in progress)
- Alair Homes
- Anderson General (Roy Anderson)
- Bigfoot Contracting (Tray Spaidal)
- Bodnar Construction (Mike Bodnar)
- Brohman Construction Ltd. (John Brohman)
- Clark's Quality Construction
- Clarkston Construction (Paul Clarkston)
- Coltart Construction
- Colibri Construction (Luke)
- Fenway Construction (Kevin Berger)
- Forget Construction (Mark Forget)
- Haldane Homes (Herb Haldane)
- Island Elite Homes (Kevin Maycock)
- Largo Construction
- Len Banner Construction
- Living Land Development
- Marsden Group (Patrick Marsden)
- Martin Swift Construction
- Osa Construction
- Rob Reid Construction
- Sooke Bay Construction (Josh)
- Stellar Homes (Geoff Steele)
- West Coast Design (Randy Clarkston, Laurie Wallace)
- Yates Construction
- Agius Builders (Grasslands, Meadowlands)
- Aragon Properties (Wadams Farm)
- Butler Family (Erinan Estates + next phase)
- Farrell Estates (West Ridge Trails phases 1/2/3)
- GT Mann Contracting (commercial/residential at former Mulligans)
- Mid America Venture Capital (Country Grocer project near Hope Centre, rezoning)
- Seacliff Properties (Bayshore Village, formerly known as Harbourview)
- Sunriver Estates
- Totangi Properties (Woodland Creek)
- Westbrook Consulting (Viewpointe Estates + website)
- WestUrban Development (west-side, Brownsey Blvd.)
- The Wild Group (Melrick Place)
- 4M Bobcat and Trucking (Dave and Darcy McClimon)
- 660 Hardwood Flooring
- J.E. Anderson and Associates (land development, surveying, engineering)
- Butler Concrete and Aggregate (Travis Butler)
- Compass Electric (Brian Banner)
- DJ Fencing (David Peters)
- Drywall Medic
- Gladiator Drywall (Blue Vasseur, Andy Turnbull)
- Good Neighbours Fencing
- Homewise Plumbing and Drainage
- K.O. Exteriors
- Menard Plumbing and Heating (Mike Menard)
- Northern Star Plumbing (Rob Brown)
- Ocean Breeze Drywall (Russell Davies)
- PLAN Contracting (Doug and Kelby Wittich)
- RR Roof Rider (Vincent Cummings)
- Sasquatch Home/Heat Pump Services
- Sooke Backhoe (Ron Shambrook)
- Sooke Gutter
Edward Milne Community School TASK (Trades Awareness Skills and Knowledge) Program
- "EMCS program forges new path for trades" (SNM, Oct. 15, 2020)
- Camosun College Dual Credit + SNM article (2013)
From the May 23, 2023 SD #62 Board agenda ...
"SD62 Trades Awareness and Skills K-12 (TASK) Youth Work Awards. TASK is dedicated to fostering the growth and development of students interested in pursuing careers in the trades. Here are some notable accomplishments:
- Graduates: 26 graduates from all four SD62 Secondary Schools. The graduation ceremony witnessed over 80 attendees, including district staff, students, families, employers, representatives from the Ministry of Education and Child Care, Skilled Trades BC, and our valued community partners.
- Total Apprenticeship Hours: Over 30,000 hours reflect the commitment of our students to gain practical experience and develop valuable skills in their chosen trades.
- Red Seal Trades: Training in trades such as Carpenter, Cook, Electrician, Sheet Metal, HF Insulator, Autobody Tech, Metal Fabricator, and Welder, enabling students to gain expertise and industry-recognized certifications.
- Employer/mentor sponsors: Compass Electric, Farmer Construction, BC Regional Council of Carpenters, House of Boateng, White Spot, Mr. Mikes, Jacks Place, Flynn Canada, Wild Mountain, Composite Builders, Bin 4, Ocean West Marine, Tower Fence, and Fix Auto.
- Four new programs in 2023/24: Two construction programs, one metal program, and a new automotive program. These expansions will accommodate up to 72 students annually."
District of Sooke Planning and Building Departments
Responsibilities include long-range and current land-use planning; review of development proposals; providing council with advice on planning-related matters; building approvals and inspection services; and community marketing and investment.
"Planning ensures that the OCP is relevant to evolving community priorities. It is responsible for the preparation of detailed planning studies and bylaws including, but not limited to, the Zoning Bylaw, Town Centre Plan and Housing Needs Report. This service area plays a key role in creating and supporting the implementation of the Building Bylaw, Transportation Master Plan, Parks and Trails Master Plan, Sooke 2030: Climate Action Plan, Community Economic Development Strategy and other documents that impact land development in Sooke."
- Official Community Plan and Amendments
- Zoning Bylaw amendments (rezoning)
- Development Permit applications
- Agricultural Land Commission applications
- Development Variance Permit applications
- Housing agreements
- Sign permit appications
- Temporary Use Permits
- Building permits
- Input on building and subdivision applications
Director of Planning and Development: Matthew Pawlow
Manager of Community Planning: TBD (now hiring)
Senior Planners: Lauren Mattiussi, Tara Johnson (mat leave until this fall)
Senior Planning Technician: Kevin Kaiser
Community Economic Development Officer: Gail Scott
Planning and Development Administrator: Susan Dyble
Chief Building Official: TBD with recent retirement of Stan Dueck
Building Official II: Tony Bastone, Brad Metzger
Building Official I: Vacant
Building Official Auxillary Pool: TBD
"Reporting to the Chief Building Official, the Building Officials are responsible for reviewing, processing, and issuing building permits, and providing technical information and assistance, as it relates to fire protection, life safety systems, building structures, health of occupants and energy efficiency, and ensure compliance with building codes, acts, bylaws, standards, and regulations."
"Building Officials are responsible for overseeing that building and plumbing permits are issued and inspections are completed. (These inspections are) conducted in accordance with the provisions of the District Building Bylaw for compliance with the Provincial Building and Plumbing Codes, with the objective of protecting the health and safety of the public." (from the 2022 Council Orientation Manual)
Director of Operations: Jeff Carter
Subdivision Land Development
- Approving Officer - Duane Blewett
- Land Development Technician - Nikki Zerr
Engineering and Infrastructure
- Manager - Raph Mattson
- Lead Engineering Technologist – Vacant
- Engineering Technologist II – Vacant
- Engineering Technologist I – Joshua Mollard
Delegated Authority: Guidelines for Decision-Making by Staff and/or Council
As per Sooke Development Permit Delegation Bylaw No. 705 (2018), section 4
The Director of Planning and Development has been delegated the authority to consider for approval the following development permits:
a) Any single-family residential developments;
b) Any multi-family residential developments;
c) Commercial, industrial or institutional development with 2500 square metres or less of gross floor area;
d) Development permits required for the subdivision or alteration of land, or construction of, addition to or
alteration of a building or structure; and
e) Amendments to existing development permits that do not exceed the authority granted in parts a, b, c or d.
The following development permits are exempt from the above and require consideration by Council. Development permits that:
i. Vary a Bylaw (Development Permit Variance applications);
ii. Form part of a Phased Development Agreement;
iii. Are within the Official Community Plan Development Area (DPA) #1 Town Centre;
iv. Are within a Comprehensive Development Zone in the Sooke Zoning Bylaw; and/or;
v. Are on lands owned by the District of Sooke.
From May 23, 2023 Quarterly Planning and Development Report to council ...
- In 2022, local governments within the south island were recruiting for over 100 various positions within planning and building departments.
- Up until recently, minimal interest was being shown in developing the waterfront. Staff are fielding more pre-application meetings to implement the OCP/Town Centre Plan.
Sooke resident suggestion for "reforming" the system (Don Brown)
~ From mistrust to trust
~ From precedence to case-by-case
~ From governments’ liability to service providers’ responsibility
~ From virtually complete risk adverse safety standards to risk assessment reasonability
~ From detailed uniform, prescriptive procedural, regulatory and technical rules to principles and objectives applied by professionals
BC Construction Industry
- BC construction data (housing starts, house sales, building permits issued)
- BC Major Projects ($20m+) Inventory (4Q - 2022; see pp. 18-20 for Vancouver Island)
- Construction industry profile (WorksBC)
- Construction industry overview
- CMHC Housing Markets, Data and Research
- BC Residential Building Statistics and Trends Report (BC Housing, 2020)
- WelcomeBC Immigration portal
- Fastest Growing Industries: Construction (Vancouver Public Library, 2021)
"Over the period 2021-2030, industry growth increases the labour force by more than 18,600 workers – up 10% compared to 2020. Industry must also address the need to replace an aging workforce, with an estimated 41,000 workers, or 22% of the current labour force, expected to retire. Combining retirement and expansion demands, the construction industry will need to recruit close to 59,650 workers over the coming decade. This demand may be partially met by up to 35,150 new entrants under the age of 30 available locally, but a significant portion of remaining demand will need to be drawn from other industries or other provinces."
BC Construction Association
- BC Construction Industry Survey (2022) + PDF + Stat Pack infographic
- mentorship program
- BC Builders Code
- Acceptable Worksite Policies -- Smaller Employers + Larger Developers
- Immigration Trends in the Construction Sector (2020)
Vancouver Island Construction Association
Affiliated with the BC Construction Association: "We currently represent 450+ members. Our members represent 90% of the institutional, commercial, industrial, and multi-family residential construction sectors on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and coastal BC ... BidCentral, a suite of web-based products and services for the complete construction bidding process."
Victoria Residential Builders Association
- Contractor Listings
- Trades/Suppliers/Services listings
BC Building Trades
"Established in 1967, the BC Building Trades represents 25 local craft construction unions belonging to 13 international unions. There are more than 45,000 unionized construction workers in B.C."
Independent Contractors and Businesses Association
"Representing 4,000 entrepreneurs, businesspeople, skilled construction professionals, independent contractors, sub-trades, and responsible resource development companies – who together employ 150,000 Canadians."
Careers in Construction website (BuildForce Canada)
- Types of Construction
- Construction Activity Across Canada (map)
- Construction Cost Index Calculator (Butterfield Development Consultants, Vancouver)
Sample: Single Family Home, On Grade, Up to 2500 s.f., Medium Quality, in Victoria: Estimated Cost per Square Foot: $338.10 (incl. PST). The above represents the expected on-site construction costs in a normal, competitive environment. Areas are based on above ground, gross floor, calculations. Costs should be adjusted for site specific conditions." (no indication of when this calculator was last updated for current pricing)
- Statistics Canada Building Construction Price Indices (quarterly reports, most recent 4Q 2022)
* Residential: "In 2022, the 11-CMA (major Canadian urban centres) composite for residential building construction costs rose 19.1%, which represents its largest annual increase since the inception of the Residential Building Construction Price Index in 2017. Yearly construction costs for residential buildings rose the most for single-detached houses (+20.9%) and townhouses (+20.4%) from 2021 to 2022."
* Commercial: "The 11-CMA composite for non-residential construction cost increased 12.5% in 2022 compared with 2021. This was the highest annual increase since the beginning of the Non-Residential Building Construction Price Index in 1981. The wood, plastics and composites, structural steel framing, and metal fabrications divisions led the increase in costs for these buildings."
- Sooke Builders Association Forms In Response to Frustration With City Hall (SNM, May 4, 2023)
- Sooke Aims to Slash Building Permit Delays (SNM, Feb. 17, 2022)
- Sooke Building Permit Application Backlog Hits Three Months (SNM, Feb. 9, 2022)
- Building Permit Frustration At Boiling Point (SNM, March 19, 2019)
- Sooke Workers Struggle to Find Housing (SNM, Nov. 30, 2017)
- Waterfront Permit Issue Makes Waves (SNM, June 15, 2011)
Geoff Steele letter to the Mirror (May 11, 2023) ... "The Sooke Builders Association is a newly incorporated non-profit society made up of home builders, subtrades, construction consultants and land developers building in Sooke.We aim to work together with the District of Sooke and other governing bodies to support quality construction and development in the area, and address issues impacting the industry.
Our goal is to create a positive partnership with Sooke council and staff to get things done in a cooperative way by discussing concerns and working together to resolve problems. We recognize frustrations from both the public and staff as we navigate through the growing pains that Sooke has encountered over the years.
We believe that multiple voices coming at the district is not productive and hope that this association can help alleviate some of the burden that Sooke is dealing with right now on top of being understaffed.
We understand that council is looking at hiring a new CAO and we’re encouraged that the review of the new OCP will be part of their mandate.
We are very excited to be meeting with the Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon and hear, firsthand, about the government’s strategies for fast-tracking the delivery of new homes, increasing the supply of middle-income housing and how we can help those with the greatest housing needs.
Having the mayor, council and senior staff attend, will be a big part of the meeting and a great start to our partnership in creating a structure to support our growing community now and in the future."
- "BC construction industry expected to cool in 2023/24 amidst high interest rates" (Castanet, May 4, 2023)
- "Residential sector poised to drive growth to 2032" (BuildForce Canada, April 28, 2023)
- "BC government new investment in construction job training" (Business In Vancouver, April, 2023) + BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction press release
- "Province announces one-stop-shop for homebuilding permits" (Times Colonist, January 2023) + Cautious Optimism
- "New report outlines tough times ahead for BC construction industry" (Journal of Commerce, Nov. 2022)
- "BC construction industry to lose 25,000 workers by 2028 due to retirement" (CITY News, May 2022)
- "Revolutionizing BC's construction industry" (Douglas Magazine, Aug. 2022)
- "Pressure building on construction industry bottom lines" (Business In Vancouver, Oct. 2022)
- "CHBA BC's Benchmarking Study Reveals Average 13-14 Month Wait Time for Building Permits" (Business Examiner, Oct. 24, 2022)
- BC Chamber of Commerce re: Development Permit Timelines (2020) + DAPR (2022)
- "Slow permit processes undermine Canada's competitiveness" (The Orca, Feb. 2020)
"In the length of time it takes to get a general construction project approved, Canada ranks 34 out of 35 OECD countries. It’s a telling and embarrassing statistic for a G7 economy. It takes nearly 250 days to get a permit in Canada – three times (168 days) longer than our competitors in the United States. In the OECD, only the Slovak Republic takes longer." (Chris Gardener, president, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association)
- "Want to See A Grown Man Cry? Try getting a building permit in Vancouver" (The Province, Sept. 22, 2022)
- "Developers in South Okanagan can expect delays" (Keremeos Review, July 2022)
- "Extremely High volume of building permit delays in North Vancouver" (North Shore Post, March, 2022)
- "No Progress On Planning Bottlenecks at City Hall" (London Free Press, Jan. 26, 2023)
- "Permit Application Backlog Prompts White Rock to Seek Outside Help" (Surrey Leader, Feb. 2023)
From my notes: Quotes from presentation by Canadian Urban Institute's Mary Rowe at the South Island Prosperity Project's Rising Economy Local Government Day, Nov. 15, 2022
- "Urban planning is generally too predictive and too restrictive ... local governments have the false notion that they can control everything"
- "Municipalities must try harder to get out of the way ... They should enable and encourage more. Must learn to take risks, and yet governments of course are absolutely risk-averse. Ask the question: How can we get the balance right?"
- "The pilot project is your best tool. Try them in a modest way: experiment with a different kind of speed bump or design look in a certain place."
- "Human pattern settlement is often self-organized and a matter of trial and error ... You want to create conditions for people to take a flyer. Some things work, others fail. Local governments need to be more flexible and enable innovation. Just try stuff!"
- Example of the NORC (Naturally Organizing Retirement Community). <clip> "A NORC is more than just a housing design. In the case of New York’s program, NORCs coordinate a broad range of health and social services to help support older residents to age in their own homes. NORCs do so by facilitating and integrating the health and social services already available in the community while organizing additional services and supports necessary to help meet the goal of enabling older adults to remain in their community."
From my Jan. 24, 2021 blog post, shared in anticipation of a new such committee being formed later this year
Land Use and Development Committee
This will be third time a Land Use Committee has been struck over the last decade. First was the Land Use & Environment Committee during Mayor Milne's term (2011-2014). A standing committee (like the Finance & Administration Committee of the time), it featured at least three council representatives (builder Herb Haldane included) and such appointees from the development community as Adrian Cownden and Geoff Steele. (I'm unable to find, at a first attempt, its Terms of Reference within the District's electronic archives, aka the Civic Portal. Easy access to the committee's minutes from 2012, 2013 and 2014, however.)
The District organized a Development & Engagement Workshop in September, 2017 and it identified issues (many related to the notorious need to alleviate developer wait times for permits) that spurred the creation of a new Development & Land Use Committee in early 2018. It was chaired by Cllr. Berger and featured local building stalwarts Randy Clarkson and Herb Haldane along with former Sooke Region Food CHI treasurer Lynn Saur.
At the first of a half-dozen meetings during its one-year term, the discussion covered much ground starting with the need for a new Transportation Masterplan. Four areas of focus were determined for future meetings: A new Sooke Building Code based on the Municipal Insurance Association of BC's model bylaw and aligned with the then-newly updated BC Building Act; the delegation of Development Permit approvals to staff (as opposed to council) to speed the process; the District's need to cover the costs of staff time by charging applicants for consultation meetings; and the integration of the BC Energy Step Code into a new building bylaw.
Council received a draft Building Regulation Bylaw in mid-February (see agenda, pp. 27-91). The COVID-delayed public engagement process outlined back then is moving ahead now with this month's survey and Thursday evening's feedback session intended for local builders and developers. This is on top of earlier informal consultation, as noted in the staff report early this year: "This new edition of the bylaw has been under development for over one year, starting at the Development & Land Use Committee, followed by a heavy internal review, fulsome discussions with all affected staff and the building community, as well as several legal reviews throughout the process."
(That said, there is definite pushback in the survey responses to the proposal that the new bylaw launch Sooke at Step Code level three. Echoing sharply critical feedback heard when the code was introduced in 2017, the Victoria Residential Builders' Association summarized its objections recently, noting "our builder’s estimate of the added cost for a BC Step Code Tier 3 home is $28,000 not including overhead. The home was modeled by a Certified Energy Advisor and this was the lowest cost option. The BC government has previously claimed the added cost is $3,945 for Tier 3." Housing affordability and margins are the issue. The VRBA is calling for BC to adhere to guidelines in the next update of the National Building Code of Canada expected in December.)
With the OCP underway and a new zoning bylaw to emerge from it, the timing is definitely right for a new Land Use committee. It shapes up to be more balanced and inclusive than those in the past with one member each drawn from the following sectors:
* Land Development Communitiy
* Home Builders Community
* Business Community
* Agricultural Community
* Environmental Climate Change Community
* Ocean and Fisheries
* Plus two members at large, one councillor and, in her ex-offico capacity, Mayor Tait.
As the draft TOR also states ...
"Mandate: The objectives of the Committee are to encourage adherence to District of Sooke land use policies, and when presented with alternative solutions to achieving the strategic goals of the organization, provide policy recommendations or best practices to achieve the desired priorities. Topics for consideration:
• Secondary Suites
• Town Centre Development
• Shoreline-Waterway Interface
• Development Incentives
• Subdivision and Development Standards
• Sub-Regional Land Use Planning
• Agricultural Land Reserve Parcels
• Official Community Plan Analytics
• Zoning Bylaw Updates"
Councillor Tony St-Pierre (chair)
End of term report to council
(minutes, April 2022; presented to COW on June 20)
"- climate action was not considered sufficiently during the committee's term;
- the community is well represented through a diverse and informed membership;
- members possess both expertise and passion;
- members had hoped to contribute more to the OCP's final draft;
- all recommendations have been acknowledged as valuable by Council;
- the delay in the OCP’s adoption has slowed the committee’s productivity; and
- future iterations of the committee should consider innovative recommendations which support affordable housing and encourage balanced priorities.
Subsequent to that meeting, further feedback was offered by a committee member in writing. In summary:
- members should be carefully selected for their subject-matter expertise to ensure appropriate and informed recommendations;
- responses to staff reports or items referred by Council should be sought from members who's expertise is relevant to the topic; and
- the committee's purpose was not clear at times and more specific requests for recommendations from Council would have been well received."
Subjects discussed and agendas, 2021-22
- May 2022: Inclusion of Deconstruction Bylaw in Sooke Climate Action Plan (agenda)
- April 2022: John Phillips Memorial Park (agenda)
- Feb. 2022: Tree management + building permit backlog and wait-times (agenda)
- Dec. 2021: Zoning bylaw updates (agenda)
- Nov. 2021: Bill 26 - Municipal Affairs Statue Act (agenda)
- Oct. 2021: Draft Official Community Plan discussion (agenda)
- Sept. 2021: SRCHN Food Security Report (agenda)
- June 2021: DCC bylaw update + further discussion on secondary suites (agenda)
- May 2021: Secondary suites (agenda)
- April 2021: Additional dwellings on ALR land + Low Carbon Resilience policy (agenda)
- March 2021: OCP Engagement Draft Growth Scenarios (agenda)
- February 2021: Inaugural meeting (agenda)
2012-14 notes from Land Use & Environment committee meetings ...
Committee was formed by Mayor Milne in Jan. 2012. Meetings begin in February. At first meeting, the committee identified priorities and working process ...
"Need to provide clear timelines for applicants"
"Streamline planning process."
"Reduce lead time for development starts"
"Committee to vet preliminary development applications instead of pre-application meetings"
"Committee needs to be informed to make decisions; staff to provide legislative and technical advice"
"Committee to encourage development, rapid use of the process, but respect the process."
"Need to determine how we can work together: committee, staff and applicant."
Need for "48-hour building permit process for registered builders" first raised as topic for discussion at meeting of March 19, 2012. "Two week turnaround is the norm in other municipalities."
John Brohman, Bev Berger, Laurie Wallace (representing the Sooke Community Development Association) and Randy Clarkston were among the minuted speakers in early meetings -- all of which were given full staff support from Gerard LeBlanc (Municipal Planner), Elizabeth Nelson (Municipal Engineer) and Bonnie Sprinkling (CO).
Main emphasis of committee was the new Subdivision & Standards Bylaw #404, a dramatic upgrade from Bylaw #65 (created following Sooke's first OCP in 2001).
A promised staff report on the 48 Hour Building Permit process was seemingly not released prior to the Committee's final meeting in April 2014, and may never have been, but process is addressed repeatedly (and often by regular meeting attendee Clarkston).
The committee did cover a huge amount of ground, from ALR exclusions and cel phone tower applications to rezoning applications, strata title conversions, the community amenity contribution policy, social housing, development variance permits, etc. Did all the groundwork before sending recommendations to council. Most councillors were involved in meetings.
June 18, 2012 Item 4 ... 48 Hour Building Permit Processing. Committee discussion:
"~ current process for applications with incomplete/pending information - staff work with the applicants.
~ builders required to have engineering documents related to trusses with 48 hour building permits - imposes additional costs to builders
~ timeline for implementing 48-hour turnaround for building permits - additional training to staff is required/builders must be willing to provide the required documentation
~ financial impacts - council is not opposed to additional training
~ further cost implications to the District: only additional training of staff
~ builders currently wait up to 5 weeks for a building permit to be issued - need a more streamlined process to allow builders to conduct their business - onus is on the builder to provide the required documentation
~ covenants and requirements from other departments/governmental agencies must be addressed at time of or prior to building permit submission
MOVED to direct staff to obtain further input from the builders and affected parties in Sooke with respect to possible cost implications for 48 hour building permits and report back to Committee
Nov. 19, 2012 "Randy Clarkston, Sooke resident, advised that the referral process for the District of Sooke is approximately 4 to 8 months whereas most other municipalities have a 30-day referral process."
Feb. 18, 2013 Councillor Pearson requests that staff provide a report to committee on the 48 hour building permit process. Committee discussion ...
~ "eliminate requirements for submitting BCLS, Geotch, Truss drawings etc before a building permit is issued"
~ "ensure the requirements & process does not incur further costs to the applicant"
~ "ensure improved process for contractors, homeowners, residents."
~ "streamline process"
~ "ensure the resident/purchaser is well protected"
"Clarkston advised that with all the new changes in the Building Code and the requirements of BP applications, permits are going to cost approx. $10k. If engineers are required to sign off on all documentation, this will not provide for affordable housing."
May 21, 2013 Councillor Pearson reported that a service review is currently underway by Mr. Howie, which will include recommendations to ensure improvements to processing timeframes."
June 17, 2013 "CAO Gord Howie explained that the reason for a delay in the application process is sometimes due to incomplete applications, sometimes a lack of communication between both parties (staff and applicant) in sorting out what the interpretation of something may be."
By fall, focus has shifted to work on what would become Bylaw 404 - Subdivision & Standards Bylaw #404, replacing Bylaw #65. No further mention of a 48-hour BP process nor any further reference to the promised staff report prior to what seems to be last meeting of the committee on April 22, 2014 (at which a preliminary draft of Bylaw #404 was presented).
Housing Action Items in the pending Official Community Plan Bylaw #800 (pp. 170/71)
* Review the Zoning Bylaw and consider amendments that support purpose-built rental unit development
* Explore tax ememptions, Development Cost Charge reductions, and other funding mechanisms to support housing affordability
* Assess DCCs to incent smaller size units and more compact developments
* Prepare an affordable housing contribution policy
* Set targets for affordable housing based on CMHC criteria
* Facilitate workshops that instruct on how to develop a secondary suite
Comparison shopping re: municipal building permit website presence
Inspired by a panel discussion on housing and permitting at the 2022 UBCM Conference in Whistler. Preliminary conclusion so far: Sooke's website content, checklists and advisories are absolutely solid for professional eyes, but not as accessible nor clearly communicated as some other municipal examples.
SOOKE Our website home page for building is titled "Building Safety" and it's there that you will find drop-down links to application forms, advisories and bulletins.
- Building Permit page
- Building Permit application form (15 pages with seven separate permit checklists)
- Sooke advisory example (secondary suites) for comparative purposes
SIDNEY The overall website category is titled "Building Permits and Inspections"
- Development Permit application (three pages, with checklist)
- Applicants in Sidney are directed to this how-to brochure
- Sidney advisory example (secondary suites) is a two-pager without extensive detail
SUMMERLAND Former Mayor Toni Boot stated (according to my UBCM notes): "Target for permit-turnaround in Summerland reduced to three weeks. If applicant does not get a permit within 30 days, they get a 20 percent reduction in fees." The new system emerged through review by a "Development Process Advisory Committee comprised of reps from Chamber, building community, financial institutions and the designer/architect community."
- Overall website category is titled “Planning and Building”
- that page leads to "Building"
- Building Permit page + BP application form (9 pages with at-a-glance check list prominent):
- Summerland Secondary Suite info brochure
- User-friendly guide for what to expect in the Part 9 building permit process:
PARKSVILLE Former Mayor Ed Mayne stated at UBCM: “What developers want from a local government is an open for business attitude backed by proven and reliable customer service.”
- The department title is “Community Planning and Building”
- Under “Building Department” is a PDF list of general information advisories and forms
- Planning Applications and Fees page:
- Development Permit application (includes three checklists: main list + “sustainable community builder checklist” and “accessible community builder checklist” … also, unlike others, includes a schedule of current application fees)
- Parksville secondary suite advisory - version 1 + version 2
Images: Sooke Planning and Development Quarterly Report, May 23, 2023