Staff within the building and septic division of the City of Kawartha Lakes have been overly busy, dealing with high volumes of calls and emails, which the acting director of development services attributes to the current real estate climate.
In a virtual presentation to council on Tuesday, Richard Holy said permit numbers are up over what they were a year ago and the municipality is on track for “an exceptional year.”
“There’s a lot of interest in the City of Kawartha Lakes right now. Both of those departments, as well as many other departments, are feeling that right now,” he said.
There have been more than 1,500 planning and development inquiries in the City of Kawartha Lakes this year.
For the first quarter of 2021 (Jan. 1 to March 31), there were 343 building permits issued, up from 174 during the same period in 2020.
Sewage permits have more than tripled in that same time period and sewage reviews, grading plan reviews and compliance letters are all up during the first quarter of 2021.
Holy reports new residential building permits are up in the first quarter of the year at 136 over 23 during the same period of 2020.
“You can look at the value of construction and it’s certainly at five times the amount,” Holy said.
The value of construction is up from $7.1 million in the first quarter of 2020 to more than $38 million this year.
“I think a lot of the hard work that was put in in 2020 to get a lot of projects ready will certainly pay off this year and I think the development climate will echo that as well,” Holy said.
As part of the municipality’s recovery from the pandemic, it streamlined the planning process during 2020.
“Last year, we reported directly to council with staff recommendations on development approvals prior to planning advisory committee meetings resuming. So that at least helped get some key development approvals moving for those major projects,” Holy added.
Holy also pointed to committee of adjustment agendas remaining quite large in 2021, with eight to 12 applications due to the backlog in 2020.
He told council the same pattern is continuing this year.
Holy highlighted some “shovel-ready” projects right now, including three buildings with a total of nearly 400 units in Lindsay and a 48-unit townhome project in Bobcaygeon.
There’s also a new commercial boat storage in Fenelon Falls, an agri-business lawn and landscape expansion in the former Ops Township, a nearly 1,500-square-metre expansion at Community Care in Lindsay and a number of cell towers that are ready to go.
Holy also said there were two subdivision planning applications currently in process.
Coun. Emmett Yeo brought up residential complaints that he has heard about the response times of staff.
“I tell everybody staff is working hard and is not always working in the office,” Yeo said.
Holy replied that “we’ve been short-staffed.”
“Quite frankly, we’re facing call volumes we’ve never had,” he said. “Both in the planning and building division. That has really been unprecedented for us.”
He told council the approach for the rest of the year will be to continue to expedite shovel-ready projects where possible, and prioritize and shift work to maximize resources while maintaining the health and safety of staff and residents through process changes due to the ongoing pandemic.