In 2023, Channel Consulting will be working with municipalities in BC to improve permitting processes.
Permitting process improvement projects are complex and it will take time for applicants to experience the benefits of changes that will be implemented.
Here is some background on Tegan’s experience overseeing permitting process improvements for the port authority.
In Tegan’s role as Manager of Planning at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority from 2016 to 2018, she was responsible for the port authority’s Project and Environmental Review (PER) permitting process and development of land use plans and commodity sector strategies for port properties.
She oversaw the process improvements for the port authority’s permitting process, together with the Manager of Environment and the port’s internal project management team.
While the port’s process falls under the framework of the federal Impact Assessment Act and municipal zoning and City development permitting falls under the provincial Local Government Act or Vancouver Charter, three fundamental objectives that apply in any permitting process improvement include:
- Ensure regulations are met or exceeded
- Provide a legible process that can be documented and understood by applicants, consultants, staff, and the community alike
- Leverage technology to the extent possible to improve efficiency
Tegan worked with the internal project management, environment, and IT teams to deliver the following permitting process improvements:
- Documented all federal, provincial, regional, and municipal policies that were applicable to any land development project within the port authority’s jurisdiction.
- Engaged with applicants, consultants, and staff to understand the current permitting process and areas for improvement:
- There was an internal steering committee representing Planning, Business Strategy, Project Management and IT.
- There was an external advisory committee representing applicants with recent experience. We used a mix of focus groups as well as 1:1 interviews to gather this information.
- Developed a process map that clearly documented all steps and pain points of the port authority’s development review and approval process from initial application through occupancy. We led a series of workshops with relevant staff to map the current permitting process using sticky notes. We discussed pain points and the different ways staff approached unique situations.
- Defined gaps that needed to be addressed in the process improvements, including tools like project complexity categories (categories A to D), checklists (key application criteria through to occupancy) and guidelines (e.g. indigenous engagement, public consultation, traffic impact assessment, etc.). These ideas were documented during the series of internal process mapping workshops that Tegan led together with the project management and environmental staff. Individual teams later developed these tools.
- Listed key requirements for IT improvements, including steps that can and cannot be automated. This was developed with input from the port authority’s IT staff and this feedback was included in the design of the PER permit portal. Tegan worked with the port’s project management team and IT staff in a number of work sessions where these issues were discussed and resolved.
- Identified training needs for staff, applicants, and consultants and developed and delivered appropriate training programs. Tegan developed these presentation materials and presented them to several industry groups.
- Provided commentary on potential impacts to permitting revenues and staff resources, into business cases and budget debriefs for the Executive Committee. Tegan presented the costs/benefits of the improvements to the executive leadership team on a number of occasions.
- Obtained input from applicants, consultants, and staff as well as the public. Tegan developed and implemented the post-permit debrief process where she and the VP of Strategy and Operations heard input from applicants who had recently completed the process. That input was used in continuously improving the process following implementation.
The updates to the port authority’s PER process were well received internally by staff and externally by port tenants. Further, through a comparative analysis of similar processes across Canada (federally and provincially), the port authority’s process goes above and beyond.