The District of Sooke has a three-month backlog for the issuance of building permits for single-family homes, says a local developer.
The backlog comes despite a plan in 2019 to reduce the time builders wait to get the necessary permits to build a house.
The district’s 2020 annual report stated the time to process permits improved by 36 per cent from 2019 to 2020, dropping from 68 days to 43 days. However, the district did not provide any updated figures.
The district’s chief administrative officer, Norm McInnis, is expected to address the issue at Monday’s (Feb. 14) council meeting.
“Despite council’s efforts to rectify this situation, the problem hasn’t gone away,” said Mayor Maja Tait, adding she is trying to determine what’s hindering the process.
“What have we adopted as a council that is causing this situation? If something new was done, can we explain the rationale, or if it didn’t work, let’s get rid of it.”
Developer and former district councillor Herb Haldane initiated talks with the mayor and district three years ago to seek ways of reducing permit times.
He attributed the backlog to corporate culture and micro-managing.
In 2019, the district managed to get building permits issued in about a month. It now averages about two to three months, Haldane said. He’s still waiting for a permit he applied for 2.5 months ago.
“It seems that every department in Sooke gets a kick at the building application, whether they need to or not. That doesn’t happen in other municipalities. There, the plans are only referred to a department if there’s a need to do so.”
Haldane also faults a building bylaw ratified by council in February 2020 that adds “more onerous” requirements for builders as the permit goes through various departments before getting approved.
“What they’ve done is created a whole bunch of work for themselves by putting all this stuff in this new building bylaw,” he said.
Tait said the building permit issue also adds to the lack of home supply and affordability in Sooke.
“I find it all very frustrating,” she said.