Planning department sets out how it should be organized going forward; it isn't going to be cheap.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 21st, 2020



Those who pay attention to what happens in the way of development in the city, most notably in the Downtown Core, have always had their concerns about the quality of the leadership of the department and the high level of staff turnover and the changes at the top.

Site Planning co-coordinator Jamie Tellier explans what is going to be built whereon the JBMH campus.

Site Planning co-coordinator Jamie Tellier at the time, explains what is going to be built where on the hospital campus.

Jamie Tellier, one of the nicest people in city hall, currently the Interim Director of Community Planning, serves as pretty close to a right hand to Director of Planning Heather MacDonald.

Tellier knows where all the bones are buried, not that he is likely to tell you exactly where they are but he knows.

Thus when it comes to taking a look at the organizational set up of the department Tellier is probably the best person to explain how it is set up and then opine on how it might be changed.

The heavy lifting on how the department evolves will come out of the mind of City Manager Tim Commisso who also knows where the bones were placed.

In a report discussed at Council last week we got a look at just where the problems lie and some of the potential changes that could be made.

Tellier set out the size of the workload and the legislative documents that planners have to comply with – he added that those documents are dynamic – they are not static.

The size of the task ahead of the Planning department is daunting.  Tellier explained that planning in an infill context is complex.

He added that there are approximately 50 Active Major Developments, about 7000 residential units, 40 Tall/Mid-rise buildings, 30 Major Development Pre-consultations.

There are 11 Appeals for Major Developments and 31 Appeals to the Interim Control ByLaw (ICBL).

Pre-building permit application volumes are up more than 50% from this time last year.

Add to the work load there is the adopted Official Plan that is undergoing a Scoped Review focused on the downtown, a comprehensive Zoning By-law Review, Housing Strategy, Region MCR, Core Commitment, Various Urban Design Guidelines and Cultural Heritage.

Here is the current organization of the department.

Current functional design

The structure is OK – it’s the staffing that ‘s the problem.

Current staff

Given the size of the workload, and to make it sustainable, more people are needed in the various positions.

Tellier explained that the department is a mess and cannot keep up with the demand. Increased staff effort in processing complex infill development applications means getting some help.

Full cost recovery for development planning fees is needed to support fiscal. The last development application fee review was completed in 2012.  An updated “Effort-Based” development application fee review is badly needed.  Council wanted to know why it wasn’t kept up to date. “We just didn’t have the time” explained Tellier.

He added that only development-related HR costs are recoverable from development applications.  Non development-related HR costs such as Policy are recovered through the tax base.

Tellier said Council should assume approximately 60-70% Community Planning HR costs are recovered by development application fees and 30-40% recovered through the tax base.

The change from what exists in the way of an organizational structure and what Tellier believes is needed looks like this:

Future staff

The department isn’t going to suddenly jump from what it is to what they believe is needed.  It  will have to be phased in.

The phasing will probably cover two budget cycles – taking this to past the end of the current council term.

The phasing and the benefits that will be experienced is set out below:


The outline of what is needed will probably get tweaked; what isn’t in doubt is the organization structure planning staff have had to work under while the city moved into a dizzying level of growth that they were not prepared to cope with.

Does the plan that Tellier presented solve the problem? He has the total support of Executive Planning Director and the City Manager. Council is going to have to chew on this one for awhile.

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2 comments to Planning department sets out how it should be organized going forward; it isn’t going to be cheap.

  • Alfred

    The Building Dept. is one of the Depts.that these applications must get approved by. The Building Dept. has a 10 day turn around time mandated by the Provincial Government. This Dept. runs like a Swiss watch and has for a long time. Congrats to them. Privatization of the other Depts. should be given serious consideration if they can’t get their acts together. Provincial Govt. might consider stepping in as well. With the delays by the City. The freezing of the Downtown. The over 34 apeals to the OMB and the pent up demand for new housing. Remember Covid has bought this Mayor some time as an excuse for doing nothing. An explosion and chaos is imminent. Cover your ears.

  • Alfred

    I have been waiting for 2 building permits for 2 single family homes for over a year. Any other City will process these permits in Max. 2 months. I have a severance application submitted almost a year ago. I have no idea what is going on as nobody will return my calls. The City is in chaos, only 51 single family homes were built in Burlington last year. Hardly record breaking numbers. People want to move into their homes and not have to pay $80,000 in carrying costs and get nothing in return. They do not want to live in motels.Local businesses and workers want badly needed jobs created by these homes being built. This is not a staff problem. This problem is created by the idiotic policies of our Mayor and some of the councilors. Many have no experience nor can they identify the problems they have created. None of the staff will suggest or correct them in fear of losing their jobs. The lunatics have taken over the asylum. All this as the Mayor poses for pictures on her knees in front of City Hall. Thanks to the Gazette for allowing us this forum to help flush this garbage out.