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Vancouver Island contractors struggling with building permit backlog

Comox Valley officials, debate issue, point to concerns across the Island
File photo of building site in Courtenay.

The Electoral Area Services Committee has passed a motion to scope out transformative options to improve the building permit process in the Comox Valley Regional District.

Area A director Daniel Arbour, noting local governments throughout B.C. are struggling with building permit backlogs, moved the motion at the Aug. 8 EASC meeting.

“I think this would at least give from an informed perspective what some of the big idea options could be for a board to consider at the policy level,” Arbour said.

His motion followed a presentation from contractor Shaun Cole of Dragonfly Homes, who said it takes more than four months to have a standard permit application approved.

“I don’t know why,” said Cole, who has no issues with CVRD staff. Previously, he and other contractors have been guaranteed to have permits within two weeks.

A major concern is a sweeping building code change expected in December.

“It’s (Step 3 code book change) going to be a huge change to the contractors,” said Cole, who has had to lay off two staff members. “I can’t believe it takes as long as it does. We have three months worth of work that goes into a permit before we apply to the CVRD.”

Cole says the construction industry is at the mercy of the CVRD’s inspection facilities. He estimates 80 permits are awaiting approval. According to district staff, however, about 120 applications are in the cue.

“I think what’s lost here is the urgency of this,” said Area C director Edwin Grieve, noting the ramifications and spinoffs of the problem. “We have to concentrate on core municipal services, and this is one of them.”

Deputy CAO James Warren said some CVRD staff members have been putting in overtime to work through some of the backlog.

“Resources are being put to this situation to attempt to get ourselves out of the backlog situation that we’re in, and processing applications in a more efficient and effective manner,” Warren said.

Grieve asked if the district can look into outsourcing. Arbour suggested triaging and auditing could also be solutions.

Cole said there are extreme staffing issues in Nanaimo, where permit approval exceeds seven months. Campbell River, on the other hand, is trying to fix the problem by offering a sitting permit, and then having an inspector view the footings.

READ: Delays expected for building permits in Comox Valley

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