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Ottawa looking to hire more staff to meet new approval timelines for developments

City of Ottawa, City Hall

The city of Ottawa is looking to hire 37 new staff members to speed up the approval process for new developments, to meet new targets under the Ontario Government's 'More Homes for Everyone Act.'

To pay for the new positions, the city will increase planning service fees for Official Plan Amendments, Zoning Bylaw Amendments, Subdivision Draft Approval, Subdivision Final Approval, Site Control Plans and other fees by 17 per cent this year.

As part of the Ontario government's Bill 109, municipalities are required to reduce the review time for development applications, with fees for Site Plan Control and Zoning Bylaw Amendments refunded to the developer if the timelines are not met.

According to a report for Tuesday's joint Planning and Housing Committee and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee meeting, the city must cut the timeline for reviewing Site Plan Control applications to within 60 days, compared to the current 196 days, on average. The timeline for Zoning Bylaw Amendments must be trimmed from the city's average of 178 days to 90 days for a decision.

Staff recommend the city hire 37 new full-time equivalent employees over the next few months, including 10 engineers, 17 planners and five "Subject Matter Experts."

"Staff need to change the way they work to meet Bill 109’s reduced timelines to process Site Plan Control (SPC) and Zoning By-law Amendment (ZBLA) applications, and the City’s recommended multi-tiered pre-consultation process to solve issues early in the process," says the report.

If approved, the process to hire the new staff members will take a "few months." The hiring of 37 new employees would cost $5 million for a full year.

A second report for Tuesday's meeting features recommendations to "best position the city" by adjusting internal processes to meet the new provincial timeline requirements.

Staff recommend Council and the Planning and Housing Committee increase meeting frequency to up to 26 meetings a year to ensure staff meet the 90-day timeline for approving Zoning Bylaw amendments.  Meetings would be held bi-weekly on alternating Wednesdays to "enable more frequent opportunities for Council to reach a decision on development applications," according to staff.

Another recommendation is a "multi-tiered pre-consultation process", which staff say, "is the best mechanism to ensure the information staff need to make a decision is present in the requested studies and at a level that enables for a fast Official Review."

  • Phase 1: Applicant presents their idea and city staff provide clear "high-level feedback" on Official Plan and Provincial Policy Statement consistency
  • Phase 2: "The intent of Phase 2 is for applications that have refined their proposals since the presentation provided in Phase 1," staff say.  Applicants would be required to submit any draft studies identified as part of Phase 1 and participate in a virtual pre-consultation meeting.
  • Phase 3: Applicant provides the revised and completed studies to staff, and the city reviews the studies before advancing to the Official Review.

The city is also proposing amendments to the consultation policy since there is "no longer sufficient time to do so" during the 60-day Official Review period. Top Stories

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