When the City of Selkirk launched its planning department on May 1st of this year, it had some key goals, which included providing excellent service to clients and to do so in a very timely manner.
At the end of the first four months – the peak season for issuing permits – the department is achieving those goals.
Tim Feduniw, Director of Sustainable Economic Development, said the new department brings everything under one roof and makes it easier for individuals as well as developers to get in and out quickly with what they need.
“Our staff has done an amazing job and though there’s a learning curve with every new endeavour, they’ve been up for the challenge and have provided exceptional service to our clients,” Feduniw said.
Selkirk planning department demonstrating exceptional quality of service
The city hasn’t had in-house planning services since 1977. The new department was built from the ground up and serves residents as well as builders and land developers. A full-time planner and building inspector are on staff.
Duane Nicol, CAO for the City of Selkirk, said the new department is issuing commercial and residential building permits with an average turnaround time of between six to seven business days which represents a substantial improvement experienced by developers under the previous system.
“Our planning department, in the four months it has been operational and during what is peak building time, has demonstrated an exceptional quality and level of service that we’re able to provide and a stronger alignment with our vision for sustainable development in Selkirk. Getting this service up and running has been an organization wide effort requiring collaboration across all departments. From Operations to finance and from CitizenSupport to IT,” Nicol said.
Nicol said the turnaround times are an average with some permits taking longer and others moving through the approval process quicker.
“September was a bit more challenging for us with some substantial projects in the mix, which will add a couple days to the average. The team is still building our processes. As you can imagine there are a lot of firsts for us and there are going to be some hiccups along the way. But we have a dedicated team of professionals. I’m very proud of the work they are doing,” said Nicol
“Our mindset is that our job is to support development in our community and help people. We want to minimize bureaucracy and red tape while still upholding standards.”
Streamlined process pleasing the community
By taking the reins of its own planning services, the city’s aim was to streamline the process and provide a one-stop-shop for everyone, whether they’re building in their backyard or an entire development.
Darryl Robinson falls into the former category and his permit is one of 84 residential building permits issued by the city between opening day of May 1st and Aug. 31st.
Robinson was introduced to Selkirk’s planning department when he took out a permit to build a sunroom on an existing deck. Experiences prior to May 1st had him worried that a slow process might leave him and his wife with no refuge from the summer’s burgeoning mosquito population.
But a less than one day turnaround on his permit through Selkirk planning had them outdoors and bug free in no time.
“I had an excellent experience,” Robinson said, noting he contacted the city’s planning department in mid-July and had his permit by noon the following day.
“We had a lovely experience overall. The turnaround time…with Selkirk was less than 24 hours, and when I say that, I’m not in any way, shape or form exaggerating. It was obviously a big relief too, because this is something we were hoping to get done and the mosquitoes were getting worse around that time and so it just worked out amazingly well.”
Key to Robinson’s success was that he had everything ready for the city’s planning office and turned in a complete application on his first contact with them.
For Nell Mraovic, a Director with All Weather Construction (AWC), the city’s planning department has exceeded her expectations.
“Considering that the actual switch was sudden, I think that Tim (Feduniw) and his team have done an amazing job, getting everything organized so quickly,” Mraovic said.
AWC has dealt with the city on more than 10 permits since the planning department opened its doors, and Mraovic said she’s impressed with the staff, who she called “helpful and knowledgeable”, and the level of customer service.
“What I really like is the turnaround time for communication. It’s either same day, really fast same day, or next day. I’m not sitting here waiting for days to get a response, or me doing follow up calls.
“I send them an email and I get a response. I phone them, they pick up the phone, and I’m surprised, I was expecting a voicemail but you actually answered your phone,” she laughed.
“And it’s just getting better. They’re working on their process now and their whole intent is to make a standardized process for applying for permits, and even while they’re doing their thing in the background, the application of the permits is still working very, very smoothly.
Permits in Selkirk represent substantial growth
Feduniw said the city is continuously working towards reducing building permit turnaround times, but acknowledged that some larger projects are more complex and can take a bit more time.
Commercial and residential building permits combined total 94, for a total of about $27 million estimated construction value. This does not include occupancy, sign and a variety of other permits issued by the department.
The building permits represent substantial growth over the previous year when Selkirk’s assessed value rose by $10 million. Several large builds factor into the 2022 numbers, including Seymour Pacific’s 176-unit apartments just off Manitoba Avenue. The addition to Selkirk hospital, announced earlier this month, will be an upcoming major project. In a case like this, the city can issue a progressive or partial permit, that allows building to proceed without a full permit being issued.
“Progressive permitting for large projects allows design work to be completed while foundation construction begins. It allows some processes to operate in parallel, which can save significant time and costs. In a taxpayer funded project, which the hospital is, it’s a great thing,” Nicol said.
Selkirk planning is moving towards online self-service. Some services are already available online and more will become available over time.
The planning department aligns with the city’s Strategic Plan in numerous ways, including encouraging responsible land use in line with the community’s vision, taking control of its economic destiny, having clear intentions for future development, continuing to make improvements in efficiency and convenience, more effective regional development approaches and encouraging more environmentally responsible development.
To learn more about the department or to obtain a permit, Click HERE.