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The Electoral Area Services Committee passed a motion to identify transformational options to improve the building permit process in the Comox Valley Regional District.

Zone A Director Daniel Arbour, noting that local governments across British Columbia are struggling with building permit backlogs, introduced the motion at the August 8 EASC meeting.

“I think that would give at least, from an informed perspective, some of the big ideas options that a board might consider at a policy level,” Arbor said.

His motion followed a presentation by contractor Shaun Cole of Dragonfly Homes, who said it takes more than four months to get a standard permit application approved.

“I don’t know why,” said Cole, who has no problem with CVRD staff. Previously, he and other contractors were guaranteed permits within two weeks.

A major concern is a sweeping building code change expected in December.

“This will be (the Stage 3 codebook change) a huge game-changer for contractors,” said Cole, who had to lay off two staff members. “I can’t believe it’s taking so long. We have three months of work that goes into a permit before applying to CVRD.

Cole says the construction industry is at the mercy of CVRD’s inspection facilities. He estimates that 80 permits are pending approval. According to district staff, however, about 120 applications are pending.

“I think what’s lost here is the urgency of this,” Area C manager Edwin Grieve said, noting the ramifications and fallout of the issue. “We need to focus on basic municipal services, and this is one of them.

Deputy chief executive James Warren said some CVRD staff had been working overtime to resolve some of the backlog.

“Resources are being allocated to this situation to try to get us out of the backlog situation that we find ourselves in and process applications more effectively and efficiently,” Warren said.

Grieve asked if the district could consider outsourcing. Arbor suggested that triage and auditing could also be solutions.

Cole said there are extreme personnel issues in Nanaimo, where permit approvals exceed seven months. Campbell River, on the other hand, tries to solve the problem by offering a permit to sit, then having an inspector see the soles.

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Comox Valley Regional District