The Safe Surrey Coalition majority on council – whose members campaigned on reducing permit issuing times in the city during the 2018 election – defeated a motion Monday that sought to take that a step further.
Councillor Linda Annis’s motion asked the city’s planning department to review the city’s permitting and inspection processes and then report back to council with recommendations on what can be done to improve turnaround times to make it easier for business to get up and running as quickly as possible.
“More than ever cash is tight for our businesses,” she said.
Annis, sole member of the Surrey First slate on council, noted that there are more than 17,200 small businesses operating in Surrey, with over 2,500 more starting each year. She said that many of these businesses have negotiated rental agreements that include the first few months either rent free or at reduced rent.
“But it appears that we’re taking too long to process the permits and inspections oftentimes,” she said. “This results, often, that businesses end up having to pay rent before they are actually able to open.”
Councillor Laurie Guerra dismissed Annis’s motion as “vague.”
“The Safe Surrey Coalition campaigned on reducing permit times within the city and since being elected the turnaround time has decreased from 25 weeks to 10 weeks,” Guerra said, “and that is no small feat for this city. And staff get my compliments for efficiently implementing council’s direction.”
Councillor Mandeep Nagra agreed with Guerra.
“I think staff has done a very good job on reducing those times,” he said. “I think staff is already doing a fantastic job at it.”
Councillor Jack Hundial suggested council is looking behind, not ahead.
“Coming up to two years in our term now, we can probably stop talking about how we ran on something, because let’s look at the future, not the past,” he said.
Annis said her particular motion wasn’t targeted at residential construction but rather businesses “that are trying to get up and running with very little cash up front.
“Particularly in these times I thinks we need to be working more closely with them,” she said.
Councillor Doug Elford said he thinks staff is “already in the process of working on this.”
Staff told council the city is tracking its permitting process timelines and is currently on a positive, downward trend.
Mayor Doug McCallum praised city staff for moving quickly “on all levels.
“Because our growth is so fast it’s a constant battle to keep up,” he said.