I write on behalf of the members of UDI regarding the newly implemented permitting system. This new system has been the cause of great confusion and frustration.
I had sent out an email requesting input from our board asking to outline their concerns and offer solutions. The responses came quickly and from broad base of individuals. Although there are many issues which are of significance, I will bring the most significant to your attention at this time. Perhaps we could discuss some of the other issues at your convenience.
A common issue raised is that the system requires all applications to go through the Development Department for review and sign-off, before progressing to other internal departments. Building Permit applications are not being reviewed in parallel which is adding considerable delays in obtaining permits. It needs to clear the first reviewer before it goes to the next, and so forth. Therefore, every time a change is required, it must be addressed by the architect or design consultant before it moves to the next reviewer. The new system has also taken away the personal interaction which we desperately need; at least until the issues with this system are addressed.
Further complicating this concern is that some staff members are not familiar with the new system. There is a significant disparity in the level of service received, depending upon who has been assigned the file. These aspects of the new system are not only costly to the applicant, but also add time to the process.
Many comments focused on the lack of an available staff member to contact to answer questions for any of the steps in the process. It is difficult to ascertain who the individual reviewer is on the file and although they say you can click and find who made the comment, it is impossible. It is unknown if the request for information is delaying the review and because there is no contact person it is difficult to know with whom we should speak.
Contractors are left waiting for weeks at a time for a response to their submission, and if they have questions on amendments required contact information is not necessarily provided. Applicants need to be able to talk to the person in charge of the permit approval.
Application dates of when they received the application are not reflective of the actual date the application was made. Whether it is a change of date due to feedback being given to the developer and then their response, it makes it seem as though the application was only made on X date when in fact it has been in the system for multiple months. There are fewer applications in the process than the numbers suggest.
Some very experienced members who have over 50 successful applications for industrial/commercial warehouses are struggling with the process and timelines. A permit application which usually took four weeks has now taken over 8 weeks, with no end in sight.
The new online system is very clunky. It is hard to find permits that you have applied for and track what it what. When a builder has a high volume of permits, they all cannot be seen on one page. A search is required for all building permits which is very time consuming, as you cannot go back to the previous page. You are required to go out and start the search again. If there is a way in which to delete obsolete permits, we would appreciate information as to how to do it.
It does not seem that there is enough staff (at least Engineering and Development) to review things in a timely manner. To further complicate this, when a resubmission is made to address engineering comments towards a subdivision, we continually get additional comments that were not made on previous submissions. In a few instances, our members have been told, “due to excessive applications no one has been assigned to the file”, even when it is complete.
These are but a few of the issues which have been raised. The underlying theme is that the new system is taking more time than previously experienced, it is very impersonal which doesn’t allow for assistance and aspects of it are redundant.
Could you please address our concerns and help us navigate the processes, so we can continue to bring high quality, affordable development to the residents of HRM?
As always, we are available should you require any additional information or assistance.
Thank you, Jacques,
Executive Director UDINS
1718 Argyle Street, Suite 530,