The City of Abbotsford is waiving application fees for a year and speeding up the approval process for people whose homes require repair or rebuilding from the recent flooding.
City council on Monday (Dec. 20) unanimously approved three readings of a bylaw aimed at giving temporary fee relief to flood-impacted residents in areas including Sumas Prairie, Clayburn Village and Matsqui Village.
A staff report to council recommended that provisions be approved in three areas – application fees, application processes and Agriculture Land Commission (ALC) considerations.
Mark Neill, acting general manager of planning and development services, said building permit fees vary, based on the construction value of improvements.
For example, a home with a construction value of around $500,000 would equate to a building permit value of around $3,500, while a construction value of $100,000 would have a permit value of about $815.
“These fees are intended to be a cost recovery for staff’s time to review the application and issue the permit,” Neill said.
Staff proposed that council waive the application fees for one year (ending Dec. 24, 2022) for any permits related to the restoration, repair or rebuilding of any structures that existed prior to the local state of emergency, first declared on Nov. 15.
This includes ALC application fees, soil deposition, highway use permits, and service disconnect or reconnect fees.
Staff also recommended that the application approval process be sped up. Permits for buildings that have no structural damage can be obtained in person at city hall and be issued the same day.
“This gives the property owner the ability to commence the work the same day they submit their application,” Neill said.
He said it is anticipated that most homes damaged in the flooding will fall into this category.
Neill said cases where there is significant structural damage or the building needs to be demolished would go through a more in-depth review and have a permit issued within two to five days.
He said staff have submitted a $170,000 funding request to Emergency Management BC to hire a building clerk and a building official to manage all flood-related permits over a 12-month period.
The final provision is related to flood-damaged homes that will require new ALC approvals prior to rebuilding.
Neill said this process normally starts with a report to the Agriculture Advisory Committee followed by a report to council, and can take six to nine months to complete.
Staff recommended that council provide a standing resolution for any such applications received before Dec. 24, 2022 to restore, repair or replace buildings that require ALC approval. The structures must not be more than 10 square metres larger than their original size and must be in the same location as the previous building.
Neill said the adapted process means application approval will take a “few weeks” instead of months.
As well, all 55 existing in-stream agricultural development applications have been given a one-time 12-month extension.
Coun. Brenda Falk thanked staff for coming up with the recommendations.
“I believe it’s the will of this council to do whatever we can to try to reduce as much stress as possible on those that are going through some very challenging and difficult times,” she said.
Mayor Henry Braun also applauded the recommendations.
“These are extraordinary times and we can’t put people who are in the situation in Sumas Prairie, where their homes are flooded, to wait for weeks and months for approvals,” he said. “I’m certainly supportive of this, and whatever we can do to alleviate that and speed up the process we should be doing.”
Couns. Ross Siemens, Kelly Chahal and Patricia Ross recused themselves from the discussion and vote because they know people who live or work in the flood zones.