Surrey council has approved a new program that would cut single-family building permit processing rates nearly in half.
The program to reduce building permit waits to a 10-week average received council’s blessing on Monday, Dec. 17. During the campaign, Safe Surrey Coalition promised to work with city staff to “try to reduce the time to eight to 10 weeks,” Councillor Mandeep Nagra told the Now-Leader shortly after being sworn in.
During the meeting, Mayor Doug McCallum praised staff in their efforts to quickly establish this program.
“Another good corporate report that we have all been asking for,” said McCallum. “Again I have to compliment staff on the direction of this report of ways to speed up the permitting ways. Certainly it’s something we heard a lot in the campaign and I’m glad to see this report here.”
According to the report, the proposed strategy aims “to meet Council’s expectations of 10 weeks’ timeline to issue single family building permits.”
Currently the processing time for single-family building permits is 19 weeks, the report states.
In 2018, the Engineering, Information Technology and Planning and Development departments “began designing the process for complete digital building permit submissions,” which will first be implemented for single-family dwelling building permits.
The report says that this “improvement process,” which is currently underway, is planned for a full roll out in the third-quarter of 2019, “once all testing has been completed.”
The corporate report states that the new process will allow customers to apply for building permits “at any time of the day or week” by submitting the required documentation online. Staff will then proceed with the digital review, and the permit and payment will be accepted online with the mobile inspection to follow.
“As a result, the complete building process, from building permit application to building occupancy, will all be available to the client through one simple online account.”
According to the report, in order to meet council direction to reduce processing times, staff has made the following changes:
• A total of 14 additional staff members have been added in a “variety of functions, in order to ensure higher processing capacity of building permits.”
• Staff implemented a “triage” system for single-family dwelling permits with three queues: building permits for renovations, permits for single-family dwellings in new subdivisions and new permits on infill lots.
• Changes were made to expedite the tenant improvement permit.
• Additional resources have been added in order to ensure minimum basement elevation reviews are not holding up the permit process.
• The referral process, which is still paper based, is “incrementally” moving to a digital system.
• With the changes, staff can digitally access the queues which “will provide them with a summary of all permits in queue, of average processing times and of staff workload.”
Since 2010, according to the report, development in Surrey “has consistently exceeded $1 billion in construction value.” The report also states that each year, the city sees an “increasing number” of permit applications.
“Over the past eight years, a number of initiatives have been implemented to better serve the increasing numbers of customers with the Engineering and Planning & Development Departments. These changes ensure that the City remains efficient and innovative in order to meet the increasing demand for development services,” the report reads.
From 2010 to 2017, the report states that “a number of improvements” in the development process have been implemented such as pre-application meeting process, online development inquiry, a development tracking system was added to City of Surrey’s Online Mapping System (COSMOS) and a web portal was also launched to enable the erosion and sediment control process.