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Ottawa committees move to streamline development review process

Ottawa committees move to streamline development review process

OTTAWA — The City of Ottawa is one step closer to streamlining its development review process.

At a joint meeting held May 30, the city’s planning and housing committee and agriculture and rural affairs committee recommended approving a series of changes to policies, bylaws and processes to help speed up development review, stated a city release.

The recommendations will now go to council.

The provincial government recently introduced new timelines for processing both site plan control applications and zoning bylaw amendment applications. Site plan applications must be approved within 60 days and a decision on zoning bylaw amendments is required within 90 days.

A failure to meet the mandatory timelines would require the city to refund application fees.

The recommended changes include introducing a pre-consultation process through which applicants would get feedback from city planning staff early in the development process.

To help build consensus before a complete application is submitted, three phases of pre-consultation are planned. Applicants would first be required to present a preliminary proposal for initial feedback, then present a refined idea for further comment, and then submit the completed supporting information and materials for review to ensure they meet city standards.

The schedule for both city council and planning and housing committee meetings would also change, with meetings being held bi-weekly on alternating Wednesdays to reduce the time between committee and council consideration. Special meetings would be convened as needed to consider any time-sensitive matters.

Other changes related to the planning and housing committee include that reports for committee consideration would be released for public review six calendar days prior to a meeting instead of the current 10 calendar days. 

The planning and housing committee could also consider rural zoning applications if waiting for the typical once-a-month meeting of the agriculture and rural affairs committee (ARAC) would result in a missed deadline. Effort would first be made to hold a special meeting of the ARAC.

Additionally, the city would seek council approval of a future Official Plan amendment to define zoning applications that could be deemed minor, setting the stage for delegating authority on the amendments to staff.

The city would also change its development application study policy bylaw to streamline the list of documentation that the city could request as part of a complete application, as well as its public notification and consultation policy, to recognize all legislated changes applicable to zoning bylaw amendments and site plan applications.

The committees also recommended approving funding sources to employ 37 full-time equivalent positions to support the changing workload.

Of the positions, 32 would provide the capacity needed to review development applications to meet the shorter mandated timelines and offer timely comment during the multi-tiered pre-consultation process, the release explained.

Planning services fees would be adjusted to fund the 32 positions in 2023, with the increase phased in throughout 2023 and an additional increase planned in 2024.

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