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City moves to speed up home development

Campbell River is taking the first steps to streamline development approvals in order to get more homes built.

City council agreed Friday to take steps based a review by Dillon Consulting and Performance Concepts Consulting on the city’s development approval process, which was approved by council in October.

The first steps would include better pre-application meetings to make sure all stakeholders are at the table and all issues are dealt with early on a development. There’s also a recommendation to increase some engineering and development fees.

The report says the City of Campbell River has “the lowest base rates for applications” and that it doesn’t apply an “escalator” to fees based on the complexity and construction cost of a development. Public hearing fees are $500, which the report states that “its next closest peer municipality charges four times that amount.”

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The engineering department is understaffed and has “chronic staff turnover” but Development Services Director Ian Buck told council improving the process should happen first.

“Anyway, when we talk a lot about efficiencies, you can hire all kinds of staff but if you’ve got lousy process and you’re really inefficient it’s not going to make a meaningful change where I think these will be a bit more meaningful,” Buck said.

Coun. Ben Lanyon seemed to be troubled with the situation and spoke a length about removing “pinch points” – he wanted things to move faster.

“In my opinion, and I think most of the community, we’re operating at about a quarter of the speed in our approvals process as what we actually need. I guess what I want as a councillor is to sense an urgency from you because you’re the one who has to drive that boat. And I’m not sensing that urgency for some reason,” Lanyon said.

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Development Services Director Ian Buck disagreed, saying the work is already underway on all the recommendations being voted on by council. He says the industry has told the city not to rush and make a mistake.

Later on, Lanyon stated he didn’t understand the department well enough to make “any kind of valid criticism.”

Mayor Kermit Dahl noted that some subdivisions have been years on the books with no movement and questioned whether any lots will be built this year. Buck answered that 60 lots should get to market by the end of the year or early next year – both at the sound end of the city.

Recommendations on changes to the development approval process and fees should be coming to council in January.

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