August 20, 2012
Systemic issues holding up permits and inspections in Winnipeg, Man.
Winnipeg contractors are frustrated and upset with delays in getting permits and inspections from the city, which is creating uncertainty and having a negative impact on their business.
“The waits are quite extensive in everything, including permits and inspections,” said Peter Grose, president and CEO of Westland Construction Ltd.
“Sometimes inspections are undertaken before permits are issued, as long as things are in order. They are reasonable at times, but sometimes they are not.”
Winnipeg city council endorsed an action plan in March 2012 that aimed to reduce wait times for permits by switching to an audit-based approach for the approval process.
The new strategy puts more onus on property owners and industry professionals to ensure their designs meet building code requirements.
Under the Optional Professional Certificate Program, permit applications for new commercial construction or additions to commercial buildings are eligible to by-pass structural, electrical, mechanical and building plan review by the City of Winnipeg upon submission of the OPCP Certificate under seal.
The OPCP is available for eligible projects and when the city, property owner and design team mutually agree to apply for and issue permits using this option.
The certificate indicates acceptance of responsibility and liability, evidence of adequate insurance and other criteria.
This means less complex projects like standard retail or industrial strip malls will be subject to less scrutiny.
There will still be a full review for large or complex projects, as well as projects involving a higher degree of life-safety issues, such as hospitals, schools and highrise buildings.
Despite the changes, contractors in Winnipeg are still experiencing serious problems.
“The process is very difficult because it disrupts timelines and increases costs,” said Grose. “A lot of stress is being put on the industry due to uncertainty, which puts a big strain on an already difficult process.”
The unusual delays in receiving permits are caused by a shortage of city inspectors.
In response, contractors in Winnipeg lobbied the city to set up a reserve fund in 2007, which would use annual surpluses from permit fees to pay for overtime or temporary workers hired in high-demand periods.
The permit reserve was also established with industry consultation to cover the cost of funding shortfalls during years when permit revenues fall short of targets.
The fund has been capped at $2 million, at which point any additional surplus to the projected revenues from permit fees flows into general revenue.
However, city council voted in November 2011 to direct funds in the reserve account, which was built up by the construction industry to facilitate the permit process.
City council approved a new operating grant of up to $300,000 per year from 2011 to 2013 for CentreVenture Development Corporation, to offset a projected operating budget shortfall identified in their 2011–2013 Business Plan.
CentreVenture Development Corporation was created by Winnipeg city council in June 1999 to stimulate economic growth and downtown revitalization by collaborating with investors, developers, businesses and residents.
However, the grant was funded by a transfer from the Permit Reserve Fund to the General Revenue Fund.
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