In an effort to streamline the development approval process at the City of West Kelowna, an in-depth examination of city development processes was conducted and produced several options for enhancing service.
Beginning with an internal Development Approval Process Improvement Strategy, started in September 2010 by staff and followed by the hiring of an independent consultant in April to conduct an independent Planning and Development Applications Process Review, a number of initiatives were recommended.
At its meeting August 23, 2011, Council adopted its Official Community Plan Bylaw which provides the community, staff, Council and businesses with more certain direction regarding future development in the municipality, prompting Council to begin immediately to streamline its business processes. First, Council rescinded the Community Consultation Process for Land Use Applications policy, which required developers to hold a public meeting regarding their proposed development. Community consultation is now a recommended best practice. Second, Council directed staff omit the Authorization to Draft process, taking one step out of the development process.
“These are just two of several initiatives staff are beginning. There are other changes in the works based on what information we have received from the development community, residents and staff,” says Mayor Doug Findlater. “We know the issues are and we are enhancing our services. With a very capable staff, solid planning documents in place and these new processes, Council is confident that West Kelowna is certainly open for business.”
The firm Neilson-Welch Consultants to Government was hired in April 2011 to complement and build on the internal review of development processes. The report, received in August 2011, corroborated the findings of the internal review and gave clear recommendations for improvements and outlined the strengths shown by the City of West Kelowna's processes. The report included three high priority recommendations:
The creation of the Development Services Department
Advancing applications to Council as quickly as possible, even in cases where staff do not recommend approval
Subdivision bylaw review
Consultants interviewed members of the development community, West Kelowna Council and staff and conducted comparative research. Several recommendations were provided to promote greater efficiency and certainty in the city's development approval process. The report included a number of strengths and areas for improvement for consideration. Council directed staff to work through the improvements and report back to Council on the implementation.
Implementation of many of these recommendations is completed.
City of West Kelowna hosts quarterly developer liaison meetings to discuss issues of concern.
The City is also continually reviewing and updating bylaws such as the Development Applications Procedures Bylaw, to bring them in line with legislative updates.
“Council is pleased with this review, although occasionally critical of our services,” says Mayor Findlater. “We know we have staff who are working extraordinarily hard during this time of transition, on not just development applications, but on a high volume of master planning documents that we’ve needed. We had reviewed how we did business ourselves. This report shows us that we are on the right track and gives us new directions to consider as well.”