Development services review

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This project has ended. Thank you to everyone who took part in the consultation.

The City completed a multi-year review of its development services, implementing improvements developed in consultation with community organizations, developers, residents and businesses. Better information, new digital tools for developers and an improved public consultation process are already showing early signs of success. City staff played an important role in identifying solutions across 18 priority areas.

The review identified two immediate areas for improvement: the site plan process and public consultation. Improvements suggested by the review will continue to be implemented throughout 2021, and staff will be assessing the effectiveness of their improvements at regular intervals. The full report can be found here.

The downtown Kitchener skyline light up at night.

Kitchener is going through an extraordinary transformation that can be seen happening all around us. To ensure we are in the best position possible to respond to exciting changes to the community we serve, the city is undergoing a review of our development services.

Development services include things like: customer front counter services for engineering, planning, transportation, building and economic development, building permits, building inspections, business development, downtown development, special events, land development planning, review and approvals (e.g. site plans, subdivisions, zoning by-law amendments, official plan amendments, condominiums, demolition control, consent, committee of adjustment, community planning, environmental planning, and heritage planning), transportation services (e.g. cycling, traffic calming, parking), and parks and open space planning.

We will use this page to share important project updates and engage with you as we seek to bring a greater focus, coordination and accountability to our development functions.

Kitchener is going through an extraordinary transformation that can be seen happening all around us. To ensure we are in the best position possible to respond to exciting changes to the community we serve, the city is undergoing a review of our development services.

Development services include things like: customer front counter services for engineering, planning, transportation, building and economic development, building permits, building inspections, business development, downtown development, special events, land development planning, review and approvals (e.g. site plans, subdivisions, zoning by-law amendments, official plan amendments, condominiums, demolition control, consent, committee of adjustment, community planning, environmental planning, and heritage planning), transportation services (e.g. cycling, traffic calming, parking), and parks and open space planning.

We will use this page to share important project updates and engage with you as we seek to bring a greater focus, coordination and accountability to our development functions.

This project has ended. Thank you to everyone who took part in the consultation.

The City completed a multi-year review of its development services, implementing improvements developed in consultation with community organizations, developers, residents and businesses. Better information, new digital tools for developers and an improved public consultation process are already showing early signs of success. City staff played an important role in identifying solutions across 18 priority areas.

The review identified two immediate areas for improvement: the site plan process and public consultation. Improvements suggested by the review will continue to be implemented throughout 2021, and staff will be assessing the effectiveness of their improvements at regular intervals. The full report can be found here.

  • Development Services Review Wraps Up: Continuous Improvement in the Midst of Continuous Change

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    14 Apr 2021
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.
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    The development services review is wrapping up with a report to Committee on February 8th. In advance of this, I would like to share some highlights and next steps, and sincerely thank everyone who contributed input and feedback throughout the process!

    Highlights from the development services review: June 2019 to December 2020

    Two end-to-end Lean reviews were undertaken between June and October 2019 on public engagement processes related to development applications and site plan approvals processes. These reviews resulted in the creation of a customer-informed workplan that included 18 Kaizens (i.e. Lean improvement projects/events) that began in October 2019 and concluded in December 2020.

    The site plan review touched every stage of the site plan approval process from the pre-submission consultation stage to the certification of onsite and offsite works and the release of securities, with the goal of reducing overall process lead time through a more streamlined process. Early data shows that, on average, there has been a decrease of 60% in the time it takes to obtain an approval in principle in the site plan process. Satisfaction ratings of 85% and 90% have also been achieved for the new pre-submission process and the new onsite certification process, respectively.

    The focus of the public engagement review has been on increasing the quality of engagement so that barriers to engagement can be removed, resulting in an inclusive process. The public engagement review resulted in a variety of projects, including but not limited to: the development of a new community engagement framework for the Planning Division; a new DSD-wide post-engagement survey that includes demographic questions as well as questions on satisfaction, comfort, convenience, and areas for improvement; new ways to share complex information with the public; and, new opportunities to learn more about planning.

    For more information on outcomes from the improvement projects, please read the staff report.

    The review has helped create a framework, knowledge base, and build momentum for continuous improvement initiatives in development services. Increased stakeholder engagement in improvement projects is not only an empowering approach but a necessary one, as projects will have the highest chance of succeeding if they involve those directly impacted by the outcomes.

    New volunteer group created!

    Focus groups were used at various points throughout the review to test improvement concepts and ideas. As staff and citizens saw value in using focus groups as a way to test process improvement ideas, inform the creation of new processes, develop or amend policies, or provide feedback on city initiatives, a volunteer group, open to any City of Kitchener resident, was created through the City’s Better Impact volunteer platform. The group continues to grow in interest and registrants (80 and counting). Through this platform, staff can engage volunteers using a variety of methods including focus groups, small group discussions, one-on-one interviews, and surveys.

    What’s next?

    Processes that did not form part of the formal development services review will be considered as part of an on-going body of continuous improvement work, which will be considered and prioritized by the General Manager of Development Services two times per year as part of regular business planning.

    It is important to note that, where appropriate, opportunities to replicate the process improvements identified as a result of these reviews will be identified and assessed.

    Because the pandemic delayed the development services review by 3 months, there are two improvements projects that will carryover to the first half of 2021: the development of a public lecture series on topics related to planning and development, and a review of the feasibility of requiring a composite and functional utility plan early in the site plan review/approval process.

    Sharing our success stories with others

    There have/will be several exciting opportunities in 2021 to share our success stories from the development services review provincially, nationally and internationally:

    • In January 2021, Justin Readman presented at a Public Sector Network Canada-wide symposium on the topic of improving customer experience and customer engagement in local government through process improvements for a more efficient and effective public service, using the development services review as his case study.
    • Based on his presentation in January, Justin was invited to present at an international Public Sector Network conference – again, using the development services review as his case study.
    • The City of Kitchener Planning Division is excited to host the Ontario Professional Planners Institute annual conference in 2021. Staff will present on the process and outcomes of the development services review.
    • The development services review was recently selected by CLT for 2021 application submission for a Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) Willis Award for Innovation.

    Very best,

    Margaret

  • September 2020 Project Update

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    14 Apr 2021
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    A lot has happened since our last update in June! Staff completed three new improvement projects in July and August:

    1. An online Planning 101 workshop for public participants (currently in the pilot testing stage);
    2. Developing the framework for a video explainer series that aims to break-down barriers to public engagement (RFP closed Sept. 29); and,
    3. Creating new website content to improve the customer experience through better articulation of key processes and procedures

    In early September, staff began working on three additional improvement projects:

    1. The development of industry explainers/scorecards for site plan requirements;
    2. Leveraging AMANDA for reporting key measures of success in the site plan process; and,
    3. Improving file management practices related to the timing of feedback, issues resolution, and decision-making and accountability

    New post-engagement survey launched in DSD in September!

    Data is foundational for the creation of equity-informed engagement opportunities that are accessible to all of our citizens – this is our end goal.

    In 2019, a Lean review was completed on public engagement activities and one of the improvements identified was the creation of a standard survey across DSD to collect feedback on in-person engagement methods as well as demographic data.

    This data will help inform our engagement processes and plans by identifying where there are gaps and barriers to engagement. Answers to the survey questions will help us understand who we are engaging and who we’re not. If we don’t ask, then we won’t know if discrimination or exclusion is happening, and if we don’t know who is utilizing the services, then we cannot develop strategies to correct any existing barriers.

  • June 2020 Project Update

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    14 Apr 2021
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    Bluebeam software transforms site plan review process!

    The City’s Bluebeam pilot project was scaled up during the pandemic, resulting in more staff being trained to complete reviews using the software. Working remotely during the pandemic has resulted in a rapid transition to a digital working environment, which reduces time and costs and has eliminated the use of paper files.

    Moving digital has created a time savings by eliminating the need to sort drawings, print memos, and circulate packages to commenting divisions in hardcopy format. Having the ability to review and comment directly on a digital submission saves time and effort by eliminating the old method of printing, redlining and scanning drawings. The quality of reviews has increased and review times are significantly reduced through the use of Bluebeam. It is estimated that the time it takes to complete a red-line review has been decreased by at least 50%. With the click of a button, all changes that have been made between drawing submissions are shown. This saves times and ensures that all new changes are identified quickly.

  • Development services review update: 10 process improvements identified!

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    14 Apr 2021
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    We’ve reached the mid-point in the development services review and process improvements are underway in two Council-supported focus areas for 2019/2020: (i) site plan and (ii) public engagement processes.

    Improvements were identified through collaboration with the development community, broader community and staff in 2019.

    I’m pleased to highlight 10 success stories that were recently shared with Members of Council, the City's Corporate Leadership Team, and the Development Services Review Steering Committee:

    • Re-imagining written public notices through a more visual, readable postcard format for statutory notices;
    • A new Planning division landing webpage (launched) and story map interface (in development) for development applications through which all application materials will be posted to increase transparency;
    • Development of a new community engagement guide for development applications;
    • Quicker review for completeness for site plan applications by distributing the review from one staff member to 10 staff members and assigning the application to the same file planner from pre-submission;
    • Re-imagining the purpose and format of site plan pre-submission meetings to ensure they are more collaborative and focus on key issues;
    • Development of a two-stage submission/approval process for site plans post Approval In Principle to ensure submissions are made in the right order;
    • Preliminary pilot testing for electronic submission/review for site plan applications;
    • Establishing consistent reviewers over the life cycle of a site plan file and prioritization of re-submissions where possible;
    • New onsite certification/inspection sign-off procedures for site plans: no re-inspection for works that met requirements on previous inspection;
    • Proactively following up with site plan applicants to inform them of outstanding certification requirements and securities being held by the city in an effort to clear securities quicker.

    Staff will focus efforts on the following in 2020:

    • Continue to improve communication, collaboration and coordination in the site plan process
    • Scale-up digital plan submission/review (phase 2 of pilot)
    • Website improvements
    • Public education and engagement improvements
    • Replicate improvements in other business areas within development services

    Many thanks for your participation thus far – we look forward to your feedback on the improvements as they reach full implementation, as well as future opportunities to work together to improve our processes.


  • Development services review update: Improvement projects underway

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    14 Apr 2021
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    Changes seem to be happening all around us. The community we serve wants to be more involved in decisions that affect them. Economic Development is building a new strategy (Make it Kitchener 2.0) and refocusing events to create memorable moments. Transportation and Parks are collaborating on a new Cycling and Trails Master Plan. Engineering has been ramping up road reconstruction projects to address the infrastructure replacement back-log. Planning and Building teams are busy with the development activity going on, and sustainability initiatives are being embedded in the work we do. It does feel like our entire city is undergoing a transformation right now. All of this while the Province is changing the development process through legislative and regulatory changes related to Bill 108.

    Change creates an opportunity to rethink how we deliver service - making us more nimble, agile and creative. Our development services review is one way where we can work together to address the changes happening all around us.

    In our last update, we shared that the two priority areas for the review are the full site plan process and public engagement. These focus areas were confirmed by Committee / Council and we began working with our project teams (over 30 staff) in June / July to establish what’s in and out of scope for each project. We have also been working with the teams to understand the “current state” of our processes, which will help identify key improvement opportunities and where to focus our efforts for the duration of the review.


  • A city for everyone - City of Kitchener development services review update

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    14 Apr 2021
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    It is essential that development services stakeholders are working towards common goals and understand how their contributions support what we are trying to achieve within the city – especially since there are a number of disciplines involved in the delivery of development services who may represent functions with competing interests at times. With this in mind, the first objective of the development services review is to establish a shared vision for economic growth, city building, sustainability, and development interests.

    We realized early on that establishing a shared vision was not about re-writing our existing policies but rather articulating how we will work together within our policy framework to build a great city. We were asked to take the necessary time to “get it right”, so we created an engagement plan over a 5-month period and engaged broadly with staff, Council, the Mayor, the broader Kitchener community, and the development community in discussions around where we want the community to be as a result of our collective contributions in development services, and how we will work together to get there. We are sincerely appreciative of the rich feedback that you shared with us. The process was dynamic, iterative and informative, and we’re confident that the following vision/mission gets to the heart of the kind of community that our stakeholders want to create in Kitchener:

    A city for everyone

    Working together Growing thoughtfully Building community

    For more information on how this shared vision was established, please read the summary and recommendation report in the document library.The vision is being presented to Committee on May 13th and Council on May 27th for final approval. Beginning in June 2019, selected development services processes (site plan and public engagement) will be reviewed and future process improvement recommendations will be aligned to, and reviewed against, the shared vision.

    We are thrilled that you have been part of our journey in establishing a shared vision and we look forward to working together to grow thoughtfully, build community; ultimately; creating a city for everyone!


  • Development services review update: what we’ve heard

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    14 Apr 2021
    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    Over the past few months, we have made some great strides in our development services review. We’ve taken meaningful steps to understand stakeholder needs and prioritize areas for improvements that will help guide us down the path of achieving a greater focus, coordination and accountability to our development functions so that we can continue to build a great city.

    Currently, we are in the planning phase of the review, which has two objectives: develop a shared vision so we can work towards a common goal and select processes to dive deeper into during the next phase.

    To explore these objectives we:

    • Started by interviewing staff in October
    • Expanded our engagement by interviewing the development community in November 2018
    • Launched a public survey and interviewed residents in November 2018
    • Conducted three staff visioning workshops from November 2018 – January 2019
    • Participated in a strategy session with Council – March 2019

    If you have any questions, please contact: Margaret Love, Project Manager, margaret.love@kitchener.ca, 519-741-2200 ext. 7042.

    Sincerely,

    Justin Readman, General Manager, Development Services Department

    City of Kitchener