The Development Application Process Review (DAPR) was launched in 2018 and remains a top-level priority in the annual business plan and supports the City’s strategic goal of Excellence in City Governance. With the aim of enhancing all aspects of the application process, the work has entailed a detailed review and update of workflows, steps, timelines, tools, standards and associated guidelines and policies.
The process review efforts build on in-house expertise with best practices and industry feedback. This has included quarterly meetings between the City and Urban Development Institute, along with a Developer Forum workshop series.
Coquitlam also helped form Municipal Innovators Community – West, a network of public servants across Metro Vancouver that meets to share innovative process improvements, best practices and lessons learned.
Improvements Bring More Efficiency, Flexibility
Coquitlam’s DAPR program has worked to ensure the development process is as efficient and effective as possible through operational efficiencies, the use of automation, enhanced customer service, and strong partnerships with the development industry.
Key achievements over the past five years of the program include:
New Development Application Portal: The City launched a new online portal for development applications, funded by a $465,000 grant from B.C.’s Local Government Development Approvals Program, administered by the Union of B.C. Municipalities. The portal will enable online applications, payments and document submission, allow applicants to track submissions, and improve communication between applicants and City staff.
Through software upgrades, new online functions for managing application information are helping improve consistency, tracking, transparency and record-keeping for application files. These improvements will be particularly helpful for large-scale multi-year projects when City or applicant staff assigned to a project may change over time.
Digital Plan Review : Continued focus on expanding the electronic plan (ePlan) program for ePlan submissions, and using Bluebeam to review digital plans, saving time, paper, and improving communication with applicants.
Development Information Portal: A public-facing portal, launched in 2022, has an interactive map showing properties with current or recent development applications and provides details, such as linked reports and feedback opportunities.
Enhanced Support for Development Applicants: Applicants now have the option of scheduling an enquiry meeting with staff prior to completing an application. The pre-application process has been refocused to provide development applicants feedback tailored to the different stages of the development process.
Better Use of Technology and Automation: Upgrades to technology and automation have moved significant portions of the development approvals process online including referrals, financial calculations, plans review and file management. This earned the City a 2022 Granicus Digital Government Award as a Tech Trailblazer.
Proposed Initiatives for 2023 and Beyond
In addition to the work completed to date, the City’s continues to look at further opportunities to improve service levels with a focus on enabling the construction of new housing. The following initiatives are being explored or implemented in the coming years:
Real-time Digital Building Inspection Reports: Using technology to send digital inspection reports directly to applicants from the field without having to print paper reports or return to City Hall to input information.
Building Permit Project Number and Tracking: Enabling better tracking of the building permit process through a new project number Building Project Folder, mirroring the new system for development applications.
Zoning Bylaw Refresh: Initiate a major housekeeping clean-up of the Zoning Bylaw to increase clarity and reduce ambiguity.
Official Community Plan (OCP) Refresh: Review and streamline the OCP to create a more clear and functional document that supports Council's vision and minimizes future amendments.
Improve data collection and reporting of Key Performance Indicators (KPls): Review existing data needs and establish guidelines for improved data quality across P&D, automate data collection and use data driven decision making.
Improve website material: Clearly communicate the process stages and what the expectations and submission requirements are at different stages in the review process. Create checklists for submissions, review stages, clarify requirements, and expectations at each stage.
Improve Applicant Communication: Expand the use of Amanda 7 Batch Scheduler to send automated emails to applicants at key points in the review process.
Implement Bill 26 Provisions: Explore expanding the delegation of authority for variances to staff, preparing a Public Notice Bylaw to improve methods to give notice that are more effective and less resource intensive, and exploring waiver of public hearings for OCP compliant projects.
Further Automation and use of Technology: Expand the use of the Amanda 7 information database, automation and workflows into other segments of the development and building review process. Explore emerging artificial intelligence tools to further automate and streamline the review process.