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An advisory group working to speed up Nanaimo’s building permit process says everyone needs to be on the same page for a successful fast-track permit system.

Darren Moss, who co-chairs the Joint Building Permits Advisory Task Force with Jeremy Holm, City Manager of Development Approvals, said in a report to council on Monday February 28 that the task force is ready to roll out the first phase. an accelerated building permit application system.

The advisory group is made up of the co-chairs and other city staff and development industry representatives.

“I’m happy to say that everyone is still here around the table and while there have been some raised voices, there hasn’t been a fight or anything yet,” said Moss, managing partner of Nanaimo-based project management and real estate development firm Tectonica. “I think the group still works very collaboratively and comes up with a very thoughtful conversation and good, solid policies on how to achieve those goals.”

The group is set to launch its first fast-track permit program for building applications for tenant improvements involving simple remodeling and alterations to interior spaces of commercial buildings that do not include major or complex alterations to the interior of buildings. a building. Moss said accelerated tenant applications will be an available option for tenants who meet the criteria. The goal is to approve permits within 15 days of submitting applications.

The program will feature a “soft” training period allowing applicants to learn the criteria and become more effective in subsequent applications, Moss said.

“I believe – and this is something that probably not everyone in the development community will agree with me – that it is important that if we are going to make these programs a success, everyone engages in the process…because the goal is after you leave the education phase, to have a pretty good idea of ​​what a clean application looks like, and then that’s the job of the development community of submit it.

For its part, the city added an expedited program supervisor and a building official to review building plans submitted with expedited applications.

“It’s already making a difference, and with some of the work we’re doing collectively with the industry, you’re going to see greater improvements,” Holm said.

He said the city had received a provincial grant of $500,000 for investments in technology, the implementation of a building function permit review, a review of the current planning process and “a variety of items that have been grouped together as overall improvements to development approvals”.

Technology investments include an improved online application portal with a payment system and an applicant tracking system.

“I would be remiss not to mention that it will be difficult to adapt, to adjust, to implement a new system, but there are definitely rewards to be reaped there,” Holm said.

Moss said improving the flow of the permitting process involves the city’s permit reviewers making sure key elements of applications are checked off and corrections made early “so they don’t come back late in the day.” the process and send us back to the starting point”.

“On the side of the development community, we have recognized that to achieve this and keep it effective, we need to do a better job of delivering permit applications that are clean, well thought out and well documented, so that reviewers are not spend their time researching the information to verify that the information has been properly assessed and that [building] code was followed,” Moss said.

Com. Don Bonner asked how the city will assess the success of the program, and Holm said the city will monitor its process, especially newly implemented programs, to see if it meets target timelines.

Holm said in an email that there is no hard start date for the accelerated permit stream. City staff are working with industry to identify a limited number of permits that will be run in the stream before rolling it out more widely and the stream will be fully implemented in early spring.

The task force intends to work to expedite approvals for more complex applications involving safety and hazardous industrial considerations.

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