At a Special Council meeting on March 2, Burlington Council unanimously approved a motion memo from myself and Deputy Mayor for Business and Red Tape Reducation Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith related to the delays being faced at the Committee of Adjustment.
You can read a copy of the full motion memo further down this post or here: CPRM-01-23 – Motion Memo – Committee of Adjustment Efficiencies.
I want to thank Councillor Kelvin Galbraith acting in his role as Deputy Mayor for Business and Red Tape Reduction for sponsoring this motion memo together with me. We have heard concerns from constituents across the city regarding delays to get on the Committee of Adjustment (CofA) agendas — delays that are 4-6 months out, while a normal turnaround time when you submit an application for a hearing should be at least half that. This recommendation is to get back to a 3-month turnaround. This is really to help both sides of the table: staff to clear their desks more quickly, and applicants to be able to get on with their lives, as they’re losing contractors with the delays. We want to address this important issue for all CofA applicants rather than prioritize some over others, and thie city-wide approach to improve the process for everyone, gets us there. I appreciate correspondences of the Halton chapter of Building Industry and Land Development (BILD) and Hamilton Halton Home Builders’ Association (HHHBA) in support of this recommendation.
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MOTION MEMO/APPROVED RECOMMENDATION:
Direct the Executive Director of Community Planning, Regulation and Mobility to implement measures to clear the Committee of Adjustment (CofA) backlog within the next 4 months, including those efforts which have already been implemented to date; and
Direct the Executive Director of Community Planning, Regulation and Mobility to submit a progress report to Council, by way of a memo in the Council Information Package, on a monthly basis beginning March 15, 2023, until the CofA backlog has been cleared; and
Direct the Executive Director of Community Planning, Regulation and Mobility to target that applicants be placed on a hearing agenda within 3 months from the date of a complete application, and to report back to Council by end of Q2 with status and challenges of CofA application in process; and
Direct the Executive Director of Community Planning, Regulation and Mobility to implement, by Q2, a CofA Terms Of Reference that aligns the procedures of CofA meetings with those of Council. Include results of this implementation in the Q2 report back to Council; and
Direct the City Manager and Chief Financial Officer, in conjunction with the establishment of the governance structure of the new Innovation and Digital Transformation Reserve Fund, to consider as a 2023 workplan priority, the allocation of dedicated project funds towards advancing process change and technology improvement related to the CofA.
Applicants are currently experiencing a temporary backlog of severe lags in elapsed time of four to six months from the City’s receipt of a complete application to the date that they are assigned to a hearing agenda. Currently, there are 48 CofA applications that are awaiting a staff report, some of these have already received a date for a hearing.
The causes of this backlog are broad, including among other things:
- Significant volume of variance applications:
- 5 year avg. 120 applications go to hearing/year;
- 103 applications in 2021, 133 applications in 2022;
- total of 591 applications from 2018-2022;
- CofA meeting procedures are currently somewhat less structured than those of Council, which sometimes permits lengthy discussion of some agenda items, thereby impacting the number of items that are discussed per agenda:
- 5 year avg. of 6 items/agenda;
- Staffing challenges associated with retention and attraction through 2022 of staff across the development services area who are involved in the processing of CofA applications; and
- Staff resources having been focused on other corporate and legislated priorities such as the Streamline Development Application Fund (SDAF) for the PreBuilding Application Process (PBP) and process changes necessitated by Bill 109, which impacted staff resources dedicated to the core duties of the development services area.
Staff have commenced a number of process changes to address the backlog within the next quarter, with the initial focus of expediting staff reports of those 48 files, and where possible to move forward currently scheduled dates to an earlier hearing.
The following is an example of some of the process changes that staff are exploring:
- Leveraging external services that we have available for other application types to free up staff capacity to focus on CofA files;
- With staff capacity to process applications, we are targeting a doubling of the number of applications on a CofA agenda; and
- Other novel approaches inspired by Council committee processes, including but not limited to the inclusion of a consent agenda for applications that which are simple in nature, have no staff concern and have not received public comments of concern.
We also recognize that the speed of processing an application is directly reliant on the quality of information received, and that poor-quality applications experience delays through multiple revisions and resubmissions and have a greater risk of being refused by the Committee.
Staff will continue to seek innovative solutions to meet or exceed the strategic objectives outlined in this Motion Memo.