Fernie’s building department is buried with applications.
“They haven’t seen a boom like this one on single family dwellings,” said Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano, explaining that there hasn’t been this much rapid growth of single family residential units since the building of the Airport subdivision over three decades ago.
“They have so many applications that they can hardly keep up,” said the Mayor, and as a result they have added another staff member to help with processing permits.
From May to July this summer, the building department has approved the building of 16 brand new houses, and by July this year the department processed $16,495,780.00 which is over double the value processed by that time last year.
“The turnaround is between six to eight weeks,” said Giuliano. “What holds them up is that many times the applications themselves are incomplete.”
They have to be returned to the applicants in order to be completed, which takes a couple more weeks.
“They are working as quickly as possible,” said the mayor.
Issuing permits is just one step of the process, according to City Planner Patrick Sorfleet.
Building inspections are a necessary part of the process.
The number of inspections being undertaken have been steadily growing over the past four years as well, from 2015 to 2016, the rate grew by 10 per cent.
In 2016 the department undertook 563 inspections and as of Sept. 26, they have already done 492 inspections.
The mayor says that Montane developments, the Cedars, and Chuck Shoesmith are all developers that are building in the area, contributing to this increased rate.
“And there’s a lot of infill that’s been going on within the city,” said Giuliano. Many other residential building permits being issued are for additions on houses, as well as garages and carports.
Commercial building applications Sorfleet says fluxuate, just like institutional and industrial, all of which are low on an annual basis.
The city also inherited a number of RDEK building applications this year when phase one of West Fernie was amalgamated into the city.
Sorfleet says the city is expecting to take on more apllications when phase two is amalgamated as well.
When the city’s short term rental bylaw is passed, staff will also be undertaking building inspections for short term rentals seeking licenses, however, the planner says he does not expect it to be a significant burden.
The city has created a temporary Building Official in Training position as a stop-gap measure to accommodate the growth.
Sorfleet says that staff may be coming to council one day to request a full time additional building official.
He says that they have tried to completely overhaul the program, but have chosen to wait as it would take staff time to develop. So far, they’ve implemented some changes, but plan on revising the entire internal processing procedure at a later date.