City of Greater Sudbury staff need to improve in-person communication with developers to help navigate their projects to completion.
So described Bélanger Salach Architecture partner Amber Salach to the Future-Ready Development Services Ad-Hoc Committee of city council on Oct. 12.
“We’re looking at a way that development approvals can be streamlined to be more co-operative and interactive versus reactive,” she said, urging city staff to provide “real-time feedback.”
Pulling Place des Arts as an example, she said it took seven site plan submissions being handed to the city until one was finally approved.
“After the second or third submission, we should have all come together and said, ‘Something is not working out here; someone’s not getting something’,” Salach said.
“It took 12 months from the first submission of a site-plan agreement to the final submission,” fellow Bélanger Salach Architecture partner Louis Bélanger later added.
"There should have been opportunities to receive better clarity of what the plans were missing “instead of just re-submitting and waiting months to get feedback, to submit again.”
In the past, a collection of city staff called the Sudbury Planning Application Review Team would come together during a project’s early stages to make sure the applicant was on the right track.
In recent years, these face-to-face meetings have shifted online to virtual Teams meetings, which Bélanger said has taken something important away from the process.
“I’m not sure why we have to be virtual,” he said, adding that face-to-face “is much more productive, where we can have an open exchange on the issues.”
Mallette-Goring Inc. development and project manager (and former Ward 4 Coun.) Geoff McCausland told the committee that he met with two developers earlier in the day who are looking to build 129 houses in Hanmer.
They have a Sudbury Planning Application Review Team meeting scheduled for next week, and were eager to drive up from southern Ontario to attend it in-person, until they learned it was virtual.
“They were a little deflated by that,” McCausland said. “They did want to come and shake people’s hands and put a face to the name, let them know they want to invest in town ... hash things out a bit.”
The Future-Ready Development Services Ad-Hoc Committee of city council was formed by Mayor Paul Lefebvre earlier this year to seek public feedback on how to better streamline the city’s economic development efforts.
The Oct. 12 meeting saw representatives from Bélanger Salach Architecture and Mallette-Goring Inc. offer their feedback. Former North Bay mayor Al McDonald also shared insights on his municipality’s record-breaking construction numbers.
McDonald recommended setting a vision, meeting with the public, calling special meetings to speed up approvals, delegating additional power to staff, holding more pre-consultation meetings, creating tax incentives and holding regular meetings with staff.
The next Future-Ready Development Services Committee meeting of city council will take place Oct. 18, beginning at 1 p.m. The meeting can be viewed in-person at Tom Davies Square or livestreamed by clicking here.
Presenters will include representatives from Starlight Investments, WSP Canada, Tulloch Engineering, Hatch Ltd. and the Sudbury District Law Association.
Meanwhile, public feedback is being sought until Nov. 10, with the general public able to submit their insights for committee consideration. Ideas can be submitted to the city’s Over To You page, and paper copies are available at Greater Sudbury Public Library locations and upon request by phoning 311.
The committee is slated to use whatever feedback they receive to draft a series of recommendations to city council for consideration in early 2024.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.