oaa site plan approval

Yesterday, the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) published a report that quantified the financial impact of a delay in the site plan approval process.

The data revealed that many applications take longer than nine months to get the go-ahead, but even a one-month delay has financial consequences. The report also detailed how delays specifically affect homebuyers, developers and the local economy.

To give those non-land development industry types some context: the provincial government sets out a basic framework in The Planning Act that municipalities must follow when approving site plans submitted by land developers. However, as the OAA report notes, “the various ways of implementing the site plan approval process are unique to each municipality.” These variations and a general lack of coordination and inefficiencies cause costly delays to the approvals process.

The OAA presented its report to industry experts and government officials at the Design Exchange in Toronto on October 10th.

Sheena Sharp, the Vice President of the OAA, was the moderator of the panel discussion at yesterday’s conference. We had the chance to get her thoughts on the need for political support and how the association plans to move forward with their agenda.

BuzzBuzzHome: What do you hope to achieve with this report?

Sheena Sharp: Over the years, the site plan process has become increasingly lengthy and complex.  We hope to highlight the amount of work involved and the costs that are passed on to all Ontarians through higher prices and lost equity.

We want the public to ask: “is the cost worth it?”,  “Is it delivering great buildings?” and “should we be streamlining the process?”  We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater; we want to provide Ontarians with well designed, beautiful and functional buildings, at a better price.

BBH: What’s the next step, following today’s event and the release of the report?

SS: Going forward, we hope to work with the provincial government and other stakeholders to address these issues and improve the situation, and we hope that they see that the situation urgently needs to be addressed. We do not want to turn this into a long process to fix a longer process!

BBH: Who has the most power in the provincial government to bring about positive change?

SS: The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has the most power in the provincial government to bring about positive change. We were glad that Janet Mason, the Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for local Government and Planning Policy was able to open the symposium. Her comments indicated that they are aware of problems and are working towards solutions and that they would welcome our participation. Working together could lead to really positive change.

BBH: This is the first report quantifying the cost of site plan approval process in Ontario. How will you determine if there is a need for a follow-up report?

SS: A more detailed report would involve analyzing comprehensive municipal data. That is a huge task and may not be necessary: we can quibble about the number of months, but it seemed from our panel that the municipal representatives were aware of the problem and eager to address it. If we can focus public understanding of the importance of the issue, perhaps political support will follow.

Photo: Dan Zen/Flickr

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