Halifax's planning process to get major restructuring, fees may increase

Streamlined development approval and creation of a rural development team would improve planning for the municipality, Halifax council hears.

Halifax regional councillors asked to review construction permit fees

Halifax regional councillors are meeting today to discuss next year's budget. (CBC)

Major changes are proposed for Halifax's planning and development department including restructuring, streamlining approval processes and increases to the fees charged for building and development permits.

"It's a combination of cost recovery and making our operations as efficient as possible." said planning director Bob Bjerke.

Bjerke has asked for a $350,000 increase to the department's budget for 2016-2017 .

About a dozen new people will also be hired over the next 18 months to two years.

But most of the increased costs will not come from property taxes but from higher fees.  

Bjerke says Halifax's fees are low compared to other places in the region and other cities of the same size across Canada.  

Application fees don't reflect cost

"There's quite a discrepancy between the fees that we charge and the cost to process the applications," Bjerke said.  

Restructuring plans include creating a rural planning team dedicated to development in areas outside the urban core, a new research group, a new team focused on infrastructure and transportation and another one set up to simplify planning by-laws.   

Halifax planning director Robert Bjerke is proposing a more streamlined approval process and increased fees. (Twitter)

Bjerke hopes the changes will reduce the amount of time it takes for a development proposal to get through the process.  

"People are frustrated with the timelines." said Coun. Steve Adams.

'Time costs a lot'

"Whether the answer is yes or no is not as important as getting an answer. Time costs a lot."

A number of councillors think developers would be willing to pay more if they got faster, better service. But not everyone is convinced. 

"I'm not a strong supporter of increasing those fees." said Coun. Russell Walker.

The CBC's Pam Berman live blogged from city hall.

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