When the COVID pandemic began in March 2020, Hamilton City Hall closed and staff began working from home.
The weekly Development Review Team staff meetings moved to WebEx video conferencing and became staff-only discussions with developers and their various consultants no longer invited to participate.
18 months later, representatives of the development industry say the change is not working.
Prior to COVID, the DRT met every Wednesday beginning at 9:00 a.m. on the first floor of City Hall.
The purpose of the meetings is to bring together key staff involved in development application reviews to discuss concerns they have with proposals and to find solutions to those concerns.
Developers would attend with their agents and experts often including their engineers. The usual meeting was scheduled for approximately one hour.
Registered Professional Planner Matt Johnson says the meetings were productive with everyone involved brainstorming solutions and developers being able to leave the meeting knowing what amendments they needed to make to their applications.
With the meetings now excluding developers, Johnson says developers are left waiting for written comments and often have to email multiple times to receive them.
RPP Terri Johns shared Johnson’s concerns in today’s Development Industry Liaison Group meeting.
Many others in the WebEx meeting were nodding their heads in agreement during the comments.
City staff acknowledged the comments and stated they are trying to balance high workloads. They cited workloads as a reason the meetings are now scheduled at different times and staff-only.
Near the end of the meeting, Johnson challenged General Manager of Planning and Economic Development Jason Thorne on the matter.
Johnson stated he felt the industry’s concerns were “falling on deaf ears.”
Thorne responded, “we’ve heard your concerns … I am not going to commit to any changes without first discussing with my staff.”
Thorne committed to returning with a response at the next DILG meeting which is scheduled for October 18.