BRIEF: City of Hamilton Planning Division Reorgs and Expands

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The City of Hamilton Planning Division Management Chart - October 2022. Gray represents new positions.

The City’s Planning Department is reorganizing with an expansion in managers as the City works to meet new strict Planning Act deadlines which come into effect on January 1, 2023.

Beginning in January, the City must make decisions on Site Plan applications within 60 days and Council must vote upon Zoning By-law Amendment applications within 90 days. Municipal Councils will have 120 days to decide on ZBAs that seek Official Plan Amendment as well.

Municipalities must refund fees if they fail to meet the deadlines.

The new Planning Division plan adds a management layer with two new Directors to oversee Planning’s two main sections. Each of the sections will add a Manager as well.

Presently, the Development Planning section – which receives, processes, and makes recommendations on all planning applications – has a single “manager” who oversees three “senior project managers”. The SPMs are actually managers, who each oversee a geographical area: Urban, Suburban, and Rural.

Turnover in planning is high. Having two managers will enable the City to pay a wage which will hopefully lead to management stability, resulting in better workflow management. The constant turnover (private sector jobs are more attractive for junior and mid-career planners), including at the SPM level, has caused delays in processing applications.

The new positions were posted earlier this fall. The hiring process is underway.

City Hall is expected to reveal its present Planning Division staffing levels at the November 29 Council Planning Committee Meeting.

Policy Changes To Reflect New Deadlines

The City revamped nearly all policies regarding planning submissions and required studies.

ZBAs and OPAs must conduct a pre-submission process before the City will deem an application complete.

Expectations for supporting documentation are more rigid, with the City indicating in recent Development Industry Liaison Committee meetings that failure to meet requirements will result in a recommendation for denial to City Council.

Before the Planning Act changes, most application processes would involve significant back-and-forth between City staff and developers to reach agreement before being sent to Council will a recommendation for approval.

The new City of Hamilton website no longer lists all the policies in a single place.

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Last edited: November 10, 2022
Author: Joey Coleman
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