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Planners under the gun as Kelowna building booms

City planning staff are struggling to keep up to new development applications in Kelowna.
September 12, 2017 - 9:00 PM

KELOWNA - If you want proof of a building boom in Kelowna, look no further than the city’s planning department, where staff last year handled the largest number of development applications since 2007, right before the Great Recession.

Community planning manager Ryan Smith says nine staff planners are going full tilt right now, handling close to 100 files a year when 50 to 65 is more the norm.

Smith said planners saw 835 development applications of various kinds cross their desks last year, with similar numbers so far this year and warns planners can’t handle much more and keep quality high.

“Any more permitting than we are getting right now, certainly from the city side of things, we won’t be able to give them the rigour they are due when so many applications come in the door,” Smith said. “The quality of the permitting process suffers when we try to pump them out too quickly."

The recent addition of a new planner to the eight already on staff plus a dedicated lot grading inspector have kept the load tolerable, Smith says, adding that while growth is good, unrestricted growth always leads to problems

“We always hear ‘why does it take so long. It should be faster’,” Smith says, of the development permitting process.

“When there’s no rules, the results can be really bad, depending on who’s involved. We try to walk the fine line between too many rules and too little.”

Smith says Kelowna’s planning department is amongst the busiest in Canada and the city regularly makes the top five list of B.C. communities with the largest gross value of building permits.

Despite the brisk pace of development, Smith says at this point, a valid development building application will aways be considered.

“Council may say they want staff to slow down the process and give them a more thorough review,” he adds. “That’s their decision to make."

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