A new city policy by Coquitlam aims to encourage developers to be better neighbours in the community where they are building.
Andrew Merrill, the city’s manager of community planning, explained that the goal is prevent issues before enforcement becomes necessary.
The policy will summarize existing bylaws, regulations and policies and put the onus on developers to follow them. It encourages early and ongoing communication between developers and neighbourhoods. Officials said it is designed to protect and enhance the health of existing neighbourhoods and the environment.
Merrill said that while the city has had general guidance for “neighbourly” development for a while, infill construction is happening in existing neighbourhoods. Unlike larger tower or townhouse developments, these projects often are being done by smaller builders without robust construction management practices.
“We didn’t write new regulations or bylaws,” said Merrill. “We have summarized the existing ones from dozens of different places and pulled them together into one handout to provide to all developers. It’s really about that clarity of communication.”
The handouts have been designed with lots of photos and plain language to assist those who have language barriers or who may have a hard time finding and wading through city bylaws.
The policy also requires that before work can begin or for a permit to be issued, a project representative must sign a declaration that they have read and understood the policy and have met its requirements – such as notification of neighbours and site photography to ensure characteristics along the property line, such as fencing, are maintained or restored.
The city is also making a template letter available to help developers communicate with neighbours about upcoming construction activity.
“We want to be proactive and clear about communicating instead of waiting for there to be a complaint or an infraction,” Merrill said.
Merrill noted that common complaints include noise, dirt and debris tracked onto roads, excessive on-street parking, work outside of allowable hours, encroachment onto neighbouring properties and lack of communication to neighbours.
The city has also hired a construction site liaison officer.
“This individual’s whole role is to go out and liaise with sites under construction and show them how to be neighbourly,” said Merrill. “It is a way of encouraging compliance without having to go the enforcement route. They can go around and be the face of the building department and all the builders don’t have to come to City Hall all the time.”
Merrill said the materials have been passed to relevant groups like the Homebuilders Association of Vancouver and the Urban Development Institute and anecdotally, complaints and issues seem to be down. The city plans to track enforcement in the coming months to see what impact the new policy has.