Jonathan Tinney, the City of Victoria’s head of planning, is the man developers face when trying to get plans approved at city hall.
He takes pride in his department’s work, but is quick to give both his staff and the developers full credit for the climate of co-operation that exists these days between the two groups in Victoria.
“What we’ve created is really a partnership with the development community,” he said. “We are all about achieving the city’s policy goals in a way that benefits everyone … the developers, citizens and neighbourhoods … the city as a whole. For us it’s not about saying ‘no’ to developers, it’s more about figuring out what we all need to do so we can say ‘yes.’”
He explained how changes in the city’s approach started a few years ago when it hosted a development summit where staff and developers shared perspectives on the challenges and opportunities for improvement. The process allowed for the nurturing of a mutual understanding and the start of a partnership approach to getting things done.
“I think both parties have a much better understanding of the needs and limitations governing the various processes involved in getting a project done,” said Tinney.
“That’s where co-operation can truly start.”
Rob Jawl of Jawl Properties is very supportive of the city’s approach. He confirmed there appears to be a good understanding on the part of city staff of challenges facing developers. He is quick to emphasize the spirit of co-operation does not translate into a capitulation of the city to the desires of the development community.
“It’s important to say that process efficiency is not synonymous with rubber stamping of plans. The city has managed to maintain the balance between nurturing growth and development, while still considering land use practices,” Jawl said.
According to Justin Filuk with Vancouver-based Townline, one of the firms behind Hudson Walk Two, that co-operation is partly behind the current construction boom in the city.
“Take the turnaround time for building permits and rezoning applications for example. When we do work inVancouver or Burnaby, that process can take two years to get our approvals. Our experience in Victoria is a turnaround time of six to eight weeks. There’s just no comparison,” he said.
“I think credit is due to both the elected officials and the staff in what they’ve managed to accomplish. There is certainly still work that can be done and improvements that could make the process still better. But the word has gotten out there and we’re seeing Vancouver-based developers taking another look at Victoria and making the decision to come here to take on projects.”