Council updates planning fees and application processes

(Gazette file photo)
OLIVIA TIMM

FOR THE GAZETTE

A new planning fee structure and application process has been approved by Prince Edward County Council.

Jon Van Huizen and Angelo Puglisi of the Quinte Home Builders’ Association (QHBA), a local advocacy group for developers, planners, renovators and engineers, voiced their support for the new fee structure at Tuesday’s regular council meeting.

The new fee structure features increases across several County departments and services, while the new application planning process involved circulating planning application materials to respective advisory committees and First Nation groups. The new process will also engage a larger number of residents in nearby areas of proposed developments.

Van Huizen explained the impact land development has on residential home construction in Prince Edward County, noting the data collected is from 2019 and that the 2020 data has not been released as of yet. 

“It creates about 761 jobs, it creates about $48 million in wages and $83.4 million in investment,” he summarized. “When you look at us in terms of an industry in terms of the impact, it is a very significant employer and contributor to the Prince Edward County economy.”

He said land development is also important due to the housing crisis in terms of supply, affordability and in terms of getting projects from the concept phase to reality in a timely manner. 

“What is really important to us is working with our municipal partners, our planning departments and everybody engaged in the whole process to make sure that we have the skilled trades available, we have the housing supply available that we need,” he added.

He said it is a core part of the QHBA’s mandate to deal with affordability, immigration and population growth and all of the red tape that comes along with the development and the process.

The QHBA met with planning staff in May to review the proposed changes to both planning and building fees as well as the planning application process. They provided a letter of recommendations, he said, to County staff based on concerns. 

These points of concern included major delays in the process – one of which is “NIMBYism” in the community.

NIMByism is an acronym for the phrase “not in my back yard” which is defined as a characterization of opposition by residents to proposed developments in their local area. 

“It’s a real issue when it comes to getting projects through and we need to get put our heads together as a group to come up with solutions for either communicating with everybody in advance, or creating processes that are effective at dealing with NIMByism so people feel heard, but that the impact and the delay to the process and the ability to scuttle projects is diminished,” Van Huizen said.

“Right now, if you had a piece of land and you wanted to bring it to the point of being shovel ready, you are lucky if it’s 10 years. So, we see a bunch of delays in the process,” he explained.

He said another concern is under-staff departments. 

“We feel that you need to have the right people in place and they need to be compensated properly so that they can make those decisions quickly,” he said.

Van Huizen said he is also looking to see a streamlined process of development fees for projects and will work with staff to make it happen.

He also presented the need for a fundamental framework which would include the development of master servicing and drainage plans that look at long-term planning for lot supply, as well as secondary plans, transportation plans and engineering standards.

“We recognize that change is always inevitable. Things are always moving, we always have to pivot and we realize that as a municipality, there is importance for you to change your fee structures and how you do things,” he said. 

“We ask that you help us to help you to continue to develop a framework for efficiencies that we gather together as developers so that we can give you that unified voice,” Van Huizen added. 

Council approved the proposed changes to the planning fees and charges by-law further in the meeting.