Land-Use Issues

  • Priority Level: Moderately High
  • Issue Affects: Thousands of People
  • Solution Team: Council, Staff

Land-Use, Planning & Bylaws

Have you ever had to contact the planning, engineering, building inspection or bylaw office? Have you ever had to apply to add a new deck or build a house or add a sign for your business? You've likely run into delays, experienced frustration and paid more than you should. That needs to end.

Our departments at North Cowichan are filled with extremely educated & experienced people. In speaking with several, they really want to assist residents in their issues, inquiries and plans, but some feel hemmed in by frustrating processes. They are also frustrated by the lack of coworkers to assist in completing their roles - there's just not enough people, in the right positions, to meet the demand of the community. Much of their time is spent dealing with inquiries that take them away from reviewing development applications, building permits or transportation designs. They need some help.

Why? We seem to have quite an exorbitant budget and spend an awful lot of our taxes on wages. But it seems like there is some waste - we hired five people in the past year, and NONE of them were hired to assist in the backlog of the planning, permitting & building process. How does that make any sense?! Instead of hiring a senior planner or a planning tech, we hired a climate specialist. Really? So instead of hiring to meet the needs of the community, there was hiring to meet the pet projects of the current council. That's nuts! We need people to push development, building, rezoning, infrasture and similar plans & projects through... NOW.

Many frustrated residents & developers talk about the expediency of the processes at other cities. On Vancouver Island, Langford is usually the one most admired by those in most need of speedy applications. Langford is a city of 45,000 people and has an operating budget of $77,000,000, which equals $1,711 per person. North Cowichan is a community of 32,000 people with an operating budget of $60,800,000, which equals $1,900 per person. What's fascinating about those numbers is, their actual tax burden (the amount paid by property tax revenues) is $37,800,000, which is LESS than North Cowichan's at $38,500,000. How does Langford do it? DEVELOPMENTS. Their fees for development activities are $15,500,000 versus only $2,200,000 for North Cowichan.

Again, why? Why can't North Cowichan have similar development activity, resulting in an excess of fees paid by developers? A couple of simple answers - a development-unfriendly current council (no medium or large-scale developments have been approved in 3 3/4 years) and a backlog of applications on the desk of the staff.

The best solution to the issue is to allocate resources in the places they most need to be deployed, to meet citizens' requirements, revise bylaws to limit certain applications from needing council approval (i.e. update & expand Approving Officer authority), and convince our council members to push through applications. Hiring a community liaison person, to deal with the daily & constant inquiries, letting the planners & techs do their job, would solve a lot of the issues. That person can then prioritize the issues, provide those issues to the correct person and assist the team in meeting the citizens' concerns.

Hire, hire, hire! And get obstacles, and unnecessary staffing, out of the way. Getting the right people in the right departments, to push applications through, is paramount. Removing all obstacles and provide strong guidance and timelines for the public, so staff can manage their expectations. If Langford can do it, North Cowichan can do it. Let's get it done!