Vision Georgetown Approval Has Been Slow, but There Are Ways to Speed Up the Development Approval Process.
The Town of Halton Hills first launched the Vision Georgetown initiative in 2013. Since then, it has taken years to identify issues surrounding environmental lands and floodplain areas on the proposed building site—issues that still haven’t been resolved. Construction was due to begin this year, but we’re still facing delays. Here, we’ll recap the Vision Georgetown progress to date, why the process is taking so long, and how a new modernization plan could accelerate Ontario’s approvals.
Vision Georgetown Updates
First Vision Georgetown Update
In our first Vision Georgetown update all the way back in 2017, we noted that the Town of Halton Hills had released its Draft Preferred Land Use Plan for Vision Georgetown: a 1000-acre development between 10 and 15 Side Roads, Trafalgar Road, and Eighth Line. The Plan stated its aims to accommodate approximately 19,000 residents in 3,478 detached homes, 1,950 townhouses, and 1,207 apartments. The Plan also detailed aims to introduce around 1,700 new jobs in Georgetown and a wealth of schools.
Second Vision Georgetown Update
In 2018, the Town of Halton Hills held its fifth Vision Georgetown Public Open House. And we updated you in our Vision Georgetown Update 1.0. The Town confirmed new changes to its Plan, including a new combined Catholic elementary school/secondary school, the relocation of another elementary school, locations for stormwater management ponds and heritage resources, and new positioning for the north-south road to accommodate a stormwater management pond in the core.
Third Vision Georgetown Update
A year later, the council passed the Vision Georgetown Secondary Plan, as explained in our Vision Georgetown Update 2.0. They made final changes, including plans for a new linear north-south corridor and a stormwater conveyance corridor to replace a planned stormwater drainage area. The council then passed the Official Plan Amendments (OPA) to the Region of Halton for approval.
Current Vision Georgetown Update
Last year, the Region issued a Notice of Decision, approving the Town of Halton Hills OPA. The Town then received six letters of appeal to modify the OPA, which the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) must now investigate. However, LPAT is yet to schedule a trial date. The approval process is still a long way from reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.
Modernizing Building Approvals in Ontario
As time continues to lapse before we can get Vision Georgetown underway, there’s still a shortage of homes in Ontario. Geographic constraints continue to restrict housing supply, meaning we need new, innovative ways to speed up the approval process.
This is where the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development (CUR) comes in. CUR has released a report that offers a plan to reform Ontario’s building permit system: Modernizing Building Approvals in Ontario: Catching Up with Advanced Jurisdictions.
The report explains that Ontario’s approval process is notoriously slow. It emphasizes that most government parties favour plans to update and modernize the approval process. CUR intends to make this possible by identifying issues within the current process and making recommendations to solve these.
First, CUR undertook a literature review to understand how Ontario’s approval process differs from other jurisdictions’ processes. CUR also identified the main problems with Ontario’s current process and legislation in an electronic survey of RESCON members. They then examined a focus group of residential builders and a focus group of chief building officials from key municipalities to explore these problems in more detail.
Following these surveys and focus-group examinations, CUR highlighted the cumulative issues that stem from the delays in Ontario’s approval process. These delays lead to increased costs which, in turn, lead to increased property prices. Then, municipalities face delays when obtaining additional property tax revenues from new construction developments. What’s more, the rigid structure of the approval process prevents anyone involved from embracing innovation.
It’s vital that we overcome these issues if we are to overcome Ontario’s housing supply shortage. CUR has suggested the following recommendations to achieve this.
1) Accelerate the law approval process by providing:
- Realistic timeframes for review process completions and permits.
- Clear guidelines on the submission requirements and process.
- Better reporting transparency when applications are in the process.
- Reports on the time taken to process applications in performance reviews.
- A process for rapidly resolving inter-agency conflicts.
2) Fast-track approvals via peer review and coordination to increase reliance on engineers and architects.
These professionals could sign off on some aspects of projects to streamline the process. Many jurisdictions already use this approach, including Chicago and Vancouver.
3) Embrace electronic permitting (e-permitting) to make the approval process more efficient.
This applies to both submissions and the movement of files between agencies and offices required to confirm approval. E-permitting is already effective in Singapore. The process also aligns with Toronto’s Smart City initiative, which the Toronto Board of Trade, City of Toronto, and senior government are encouraging.
CUR recommends implementing these recommendations in a two-phase plan. The first phase would focus on creating industry-government working groups to create pilot studies for these recommendations. The second phase would focus on identifying regulatory changes required to meet the recommendations via working groups and the provincial government.
Overall, these recommendations could modernize the overall approval process, enriching new developments with the efficiency, short timeframes, and innovation required to thrive.
Buying and Selling Properties in Georgetown
Storey Collective will provide all the updates you need as the Town updates its Vision Georgetown plans. In the meantime, if you’re thinking about purchasing or selling a property in Georgetown, Storey Collective can help. Our experienced realtors specialize in the Georgetown locale and can help you close a great deal.
Book your free phone consultation to learn more.