Developers Dialogue: Understanding the drivers that are pushing local governments to refine the front-end of the development application process

Note to Readers:

At the Developers Dialogue hosted by the City of Courtenay on behalf of the ”CAVI – Comox Valley Regional Team, Derek Richmond set the scene for the townhall sharing session by describing the elements of a successful project outcome. He drew attention to the importance of doing things right at the front-end – that is, before a development application package is submitted

Role of Local Government

Nancy Hofer, Environmental Planner with the City of Courtenay, expanded on Derek’s remarks with the ‘big picture’ of why the scene in urban land development is changing, and Nancy hofer (120p) - city of courtenaywhere the players in the development process can leverage their abilities to promote lower impact development.

“Understanding the drivers that are pushing local governments to refine the development application process, and the relationship with the development community, will help in informing the front-end process,” stated Nancy Hofer.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction

“Local government will always have the role of regulating land development so that it reflects the values of the community,” she began. “Conventional North American patterns of urban development are increasingly getting a bad reputation for creating excessive strain on the natural environment through the conversion of land, and the reliance on expensive energy inputs to maintain that pattern. There are legitimate concerns of whether sprawling automobile-dependent forms of development will sustain communities, and the ecologies they depend on, over the long term as global macro-challenges such as resource scarcity (fossil energy) and climatic changes become the norm.”

“In B.C. the provincial government has enacted legislation that requires all local governments to create policies and strategies to reduce greenhouse gas remissions in their Official Community Plans. Reducing greenhouse gases is a powerful motivator as the actions taken to achieve this goal will lessen development impact on the local environment, lessen collective impact on the global atmospheric commons and lessen a community’s dependence on finite fossil fuels. This will become increasingly important over the long term. Local governments, whether they are ready for this reality or not, are now being mandated to address it in their regulation of development.”

Alignment of Public and Private Sectors

“Communities rely on the capital investment from the private sector to help achieve most community infrastructure needs: (most of) the housing and commercial stock, neighbourhood streets, parks and other some public amenities. It is therefore essential that local governments and the private sector be on the same page and speak the same language when it comes to developing our communities. We are all part of the same team.”

“Local governments recognize that we must work with the development community to understand the opportunities and barriers to operationalizing this thinking. Too strong a hammer may drive development away. Yet, it is also important for the development community to recognize that land development practices are changing everywhere. There is a new business as usual that extends beyond the Comox Valley.”

‘Front-End Loading’ Explained

“A key message we are communicating to the development sector if they want to build anywhere is to get the principles right from the beginning; we refer to this as “front-end loading”. Through events such as the Developers Dialogue, the local governments of the Comox Valley are making a statement that we’re refining how we incorporate low environmental impact development principles into our criteria for screening development. Developers who do not acknowledge this evolution in development will have an increasingly difficult time getting their ideas and applications through staff, council and the community.”

“We also know that we have much to learn from all players in this field. The principles of good community planning are being rediscovered and refined and for many of us this it is a steep learning curve.  There is so much to consider when you view settlements as systems, and attempt to understand the living systems on which they depend; we all have something to contribute to this process. We are very encouraged to hear that many developers, consultants and builders in the Comox Valley are eager to contribute to a shared understanding and practice the new business as usual. Now we must put that into action. The CAVI platform will be a powerful venue for this next step.”

To Learn More:

Click on local government and developer perspectives to download the handout that guided the townhall sharing.

Click on front-end presentation to inform audience to download a copy of the storyline for a series of short presentations by City of Courtenay staff that informed the audience in preparation for the townhall sharing.

Click on Local Government (Green Communities) Statues Amendment Act, (Bill 27) 2008 for information on the legislation that provides local governments with some additional powers to make important changes in their communities, yet gives them the flexibility they require to adapt operations in ways that meet their unique needs and circumstances.