The City has been readying for new growth over the last decade, making significant investments to infrastructure and planning and development resources. The impact of these investments are now beginning to be seen. One of the objectives of the Task Force was to recommend changes to processes, to allow for a more streamlined and user friendly experience, as the City enters this growth stage.
“The numbers are showing an impact on day to day activities, as well as in longer term, large scale projects,” confirmed Chris Marshall, Director of Development Services, at the Planning Committee meeting held yesterday at City Hall.
The Planning and Building divisions have seen an increase in applications. This translates to more jobs, building supplies and related needs, taxes, development charges and application fees to the City. In the first five months of 2017, the City is on track to exceed dwelling permit numbers over 2016. The Planning division has processed as many applications in the first five months of 2017 as it did in all of 2016. Over 15 subdivisions are in progress across the City.
This past week saw a milestone in the Northwest Trunk area, with the signing of a partnership between Mason Homes and Craft Development, the commercial developers for clients such as Loblaw, Walmart and Shoppers Drug Mart. Craft confirmed a two year timeline for occupancy by an anchor client, and estimated the project would create in excess of 350 local jobs.
Not only are overall numbers on the increase, but turnaround times are becoming shorter. Building division staff are continuing to process permits well above the provincially mandated expectation. Turnaround times are predominantly within the mandated timeframes, even when applications are incomplete and require additional follow up.
The Building Division is presently at full complement and added two new positions in 2017: a Building and Zoning Intake Clerk and a second Part 8 Inspector for sewage system permits. The Planning division has filled a new position, to take on complex development applications and help guide customers through the process.
In addition to more applications and faster turnaround times, a renewed focus on customer service is beginning to take hold.
Staff have taken an active role in advocating for solutions with outside agencies. An example of this is how Planning staff brought together staff from the Ministry of Transportation, Kawartha Conservation and Mason Homes, to resolve the Fill Permit for the Mason Homes project at the corner of Highway 35 and Colborne Street.
Regular meetings involving several departments and Kawartha Conservation have been taking place, to enhance communication and ensure projects run smoothly and efficiently for customers. Kawartha Conservation has hired a Professional Planner to assist with streamlining planning applications within Kawartha Lakes, and increased pre-consultations are resulting in a much improved time frame.
In 2016, the Task Force recommended a Development Charge Deferral Policy be adopted, to allow deferred payment of development charges. This new policy has made it possible for a number of developments to proceed. One example is the new apartment buildings, ‘The Railway Lands’, that have started construction on Victoria Street as a result of this new policy.
Aaron Young, owner of several established retail businesses in Kawartha Lakes commented, “In my experience, staff are willing to listen, be responsive and get the job done. I’ve recently been working through the process of renovating a unique building in downtown Lindsay, to become a craft brewery, restaurant and commercial space. Although this is a complicated project, we’re working through it together and I’m happy to keep my business here in Lindsay.”