The development application process is grinding down the staff in the planning department

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

November 30th, 2018



The paper work involved in a major development application is extensive. The volume has become more than the city’s Planning Department can reasonably handle.

Add to the volume the fact that there are a reported 30 applications in the pipe line and toy end up with a situation where the developer file an appeal to the Land Planning Administrative Tribunal for not responding in the allotted 120 days.  Some situations allow a 180 day timeline.

The public then howls claiming that the Planning department is inefficient.

Burlington’s Planning department is in one of those no one wins situations.

The paperwork for the National Homes development at 2100 Brant consisted of:

Supporting Documents

Application Form and Covering Letter (PDF)
Site Plan (PDF)
Draft Plan of Subdivision Application (PDF)
Environmental Site Screening Questionaire (PDF)
Enviromental Impact Study (PDF)
Functional Servicing Report and Storm Water Management Report (PDF)
Geotechnical Report (PDF)
Geotechnical Report – Slope Stability (PDF)
Grading Plan (PDF)
Height Survey – Adjacent Building Height Survey (PDF)
Letter of Reliance – Halton Region (PDF)
Noise Study (PDF)
Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (PDF)
Phase II Environmental Site Assessment (PDF)
Planning Justification Report (PDF)
Plan of Survey (PDF)
Planning Justification Report (PDF)
Preliminary Landscape Plan (PDF)
Sanitary Servicing and Drainage Plan (PDF)
Shadow Impacy Analysis (PDF)
Shadow Study (PDF)
Stage 1-2 Archaelogy Letter of Registration (PDF)
Storm Servicing and Drainage Plan (PDF)
Transportation Study (PDF)
Tree Inventory and Preservation Plan – East (PDF)
Tree Inventory and Preservation Plan – West (PDF)
Urban Design Brief (PDF)
Watermain Hydraulic Analysis (PDF)
Watermain Plan (PDF)

Unit layout

A development with this degree of complexity requires time and resources from different levels to prepare a staff report – all within several months. Planning department has not met the target on a number of occasions.

Various levels of expertise are required to understand and assess the contents of the document.  They also have to get sent to other departments for their input.

On smaller developments the paperwork can be manageable – but when there are more than two dozen applications the staff in the Planning department get swamped.  There are 26 planners on staff with one department asking for an additional planner to help lighten the load.

It is never as simple as it appears on the surface.


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6 comments to The development application process is grinding down the staff in the planning department

  • Eve St Clair

    I find it hard to believe that the City of Burlington has 26 Planners on staff as stated in your article . Planning dept may consist of Planners,plans examiners ,zoning staff and Building permit staff . Hopefully you meant this department has a staff of 26 and not all of them planners

  • Michael Hribljan

    I’m hoping that the cost for planning staff working on development applications is being funded by development charges or the associated fees and not general tax revenue. If that is the case, with increased development applications, and increased fees, there should be no excuse for not having sufficient staff to review and process development applications in a timely manner. Will it now cost us more to deal with these applications at the tribunal, who pays for this? Are the fees insufficient to allow the City to hire sufficient staff? Are the fees sufficient, but added to the general revenue and are being allocated elsewhere?

  • Stephen White

    If the workload is such a problem then let’s see evidence confirming the following: 1) metrics such as those usually included in a job analysis or organizational review that substantiate exactly how much the work volumes have increased; 2) dated e-mails/memos to confirm that this issue has been raised to the attention of senior management, along with evidence of what they have done to improve the situation; 3) details on how much overtime has been expended in processing all the extra work; 4) what initiatives have been undertaken internally to improve, facilitate or streamline internal operating procedures.

    From experience, employees who are handling dramatically increased work volumes typically come in early, work later, work weekends, etc. Every meeting I go to at City Hall, or Town Hall meetings at the Ward level, always seems to have legions of planning staff in attendance. Likely for appearance purposes perhaps because most of them remain mute throughout the proceedings. Also from experience, a favourite ploy of employees whose performance is under scrutiny is to raise the workload issue to deflect attention from other concerns, notably performance.

    Sorry…but colour me sceptical.

    • Hans

      I’m sceptical too, and wondering why the city manager has not intervened to alleviate the burden, as he should when one of his departments can’t meet expectations. Maybe chasing reporters from city hall is taking too much of his time?

  • Susie

    The Planning Department could have a win situation if they would set standards as to what they can handle, like receiving only so many applications in a month, or 3 months??? We all knew there was a “rush” to submit applications for reasons of, and knew they could not handle the timelines before the developers move on to the Land Planning Administrative Tribunal. The Planning Dept. knows the extensiveness of the work that is required, but has allowed, and possibly made recommendations to the developers to submit their applications sooner than later, with all the public upset that did not sit well, and possible changes going forward?? More to it than we really know, and now it will all be put to the test.

    Editor’s note: That would be nice but that’s not the way things work. The Planning department HAS to accept every development application presented to them and they have to respond within strict timelines.

  • Hans

    Maybe the city manager should be talking to council about the problem?