Developers in Kamloops waited longer in 2018

Which is why council will consider a request to hire a building inspector to manage large projects such as the Royal Inland Hospital patient-care tower and Thompson Rivers University growth

Local builders support the city’s plan to hire additional staff after experiencing longer wait times at city hall last year.

“It’s critical that they do get the increase in staff,” Canadian Home Builders’ Association Central Interior president Kelly Reid told KTW.

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A report on the city’s development, engineering and sustainability’s year in review, which will go to council on Tuesday, noted that, on an annual average basis, applications for residential building permits last year took about a month, at 4.2 weeks, and commercial/multi-family building permits were processed in just shy of two months, at 7.5 weeks.

Those numbers exceed city targets, which are three weeks for residential building permits and four to six weeks for commercial/multi-family permits. In previous years, residential permits took between two and three-and-a-half weeks, while commercial/multi-family applications took between three and five weeks.

The city said increased application processing timelines in 2018 were due to construction in the city — last year saw a record-setting $285 worth of building permits issued — and challenges filling staff vacancies.

Reid said permits are taking too long, noting builders have been frustrated. He said the homebuilding industry is a significant economic driver in Kamloops, adding the faster permits are processed, the more economic activity can flourish in the region.

“If that slows down, the whole thing slows down,” Reid said.

Local developer Joshua Knaak said he is currently waiting for a building permit at 443 Tranquille Rd. Tenants had given notice at a previous location and planned to move into the space at the end of the month. Delays have postponed that, however, by a couple of weeks.

“A couple of weeks means our tenants are moving out of their space on Feb. 28 and March 14 isn’t fast enough,” he said. “There’s your two weeks. I can’t be pushing back my construction schedule by two weeks.”

At Tuesday morning’s council supplemental budget talks, staff will propose hiring a building inspector to manage large projects such as the Royal Inland Hospital patient-care tower and Thompson Rivers University growth.

The business case for the new full-time position details a financial request of $107,000, which includes office furniture and a vehicle. Staff suggest funding the position via building permit revenues. No building fee increase would result. The city saw a nearly $200,000 revenue surplus in 2018, exceeding its projections.

Both Reid and Knaak support hiring additional staff, noting the city is doing the best it can with the resources it has. Knaak said some staff members work Sundays and late into the evenings and it’s still not enough.

“I just think that the city needs to recognize that we have been growing and I think we are going to continue to see growth,” Knaak said.

The business case also notes the city has 10 building department staff, compared to Kelowna’s 31 and Vernon’s eight.

“Even with the addition of a building official, Kamloops will still process more permits per staff member than the other responding municipalities,” the business case states.

Council will hear more on Tuesday.

Thirteen supplemental budget items will go to council on Tuesday morning in advance of Thursday’s public budget meeting.

The city is currently anticipating a 2.26 per cent tax increase in 2019. The public budget meeting is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday night in the Valley First lounge at Sandman Centre.

For more on the budget, go online to https://letstalk.kamloops.ca.

Kamloops building permit processing times (annual average) in the past five years:

• 2018: Residential: 4.2 weeks; Multi-family/commercial: 7.5 weeks;

• 2017: Residential: 3.4 weeks; Multi-family/commercial: 5.2 weeks;

• 2016: Residential: 2.5 weeks; Multi-family/commercial: 2.9 weeks;

• 2015: Residential: 2.1 weeks; Multi-family/commercial: 2.8 weeks;

• 2014: Residential: 3 weeks; Multi-family/commercial: 4 weeks.

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