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City of Calgary- Important Message on Business Continuity

Planning & Development Services Update

As you are aware by now, The City of Calgary has declared a State of Local Emergency to support the Province of Alberta’s efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. The City’s top priorities are the health, safety, and well-being of the public and our employees; and maintaining essential and necessary services that Calgarians rely upon.

All service lines within Planning and Development – City Planning & Policy, Development Approvals, and Building Safety – remain open for business with services still operating.  However, our workforce has been significantly impacted, like most of our colleagues and customers across Calgary, and we appreciate your patience as we adjust to these unique circumstances. Business continuity is a high priority, and our day-to-day business continues, albeit not necessarily in the usual ways we are accustomed to. We are exploring different ways to work together while at more physical distance.

This special edition of the Dispatch Newsletter aims to be the channel to keep our industry partners and colleagues updated on a regular basis while we work through the impacts of the COVID-19 Crisis. Please appreciate that many elements of how business is proceeding is fluid and adjusting at almost an hour-by-hour basis.

As of March 18, 2020, please consider the following:

Applications and Business Continuity:
All application types as well as development agreements continue to be processed. While we may see some delays, we are not in a position to provide guidance at this time on what the exact impacts may be for any given application type.

  • Our priority files are those that will keep Calgarians employed and businesses operating right now. To ensure this happens, it would be best to put a hold on any applications that are currently in with us that are not moving towards the construction phase in the short-term. If you currently have an application in that falls into this category, please let us know via an email to approvals@calgary.ca.
  • File Managers within Community Planning have been given new authorities to move files along with support from their CPAG partners, which should help keep our work moving. Staff may reach out to applicants for additional information and plans in digital formats.
  • Given the current circumstances, the focus of our efforts are on business continuity and not process improvement. There may be opportunities to improve as we move forward but we appreciate applicants working with us on addressing issues as they arise with a focus on continuity.
  • As of today, the 3rd floor business counter is physically open and accepting submissions.  Given the latest directions from the Government of Alberta to institute measures for physical distancing, we are working on ways to reduce in-person physical interactions including exploring options for digital acceptance, review and approval. Some options that we are exploring in the immediate term may include a drop box, or requesting applicants to leave phone numbers for counter staff to contact. Information and guidance on that will be forthcoming and we will use this newsletter to keep you updated.
  • We would like to encourage you to submit online through our various platforms as much as possible during this time. If you experience any issues submitting online, our front counter staff can guide you through the process and can be contacted through this email: cas_epermit@calgary.ca
  • At present, all approval bodies continue to operate on their previously published schedules, which includes the Development Authority, Calgary Planning Commission, and Council. Options being explored for public hearing items may include requests for written submissions and/or ability to call in.

Meetings with City Staff:
To adhere to the Government of Alberta’s recommendations of physical distancing, The City is relying on Skype as the preferred remote meeting software.

  • While there is certainly other software in the marketplace, City staff are trained and enabled to use Skype which is installed on all City machines and will work with applicants to set these types of meetings up as required.
  • Please try to accommodate requests from City staff to move meetings into an online format.  If that isn’t possible, please try to reduce meeting attendance to those critical to the topic at hand.
  • With numerous people out of the office, please do not rely on voicemail to reach your file manager or CPAG team.  If you can’t get hold of a City staff member on the phone, please follow-up with a direct email.

Growth, Funding and Policy Work
The City Planning and Policy Service Line Workplan for 2020 will be reviewed to determine if the proposed timelines are still feasible and whether new priorities must be accommodated. Until then:

  • Planned public engagement events for ongoing policy initiatives will be cancelled until at least April 30, 2020 – the impact this will have on timelines is still being determined.
  • We are currently exploring our options for remote stakeholder participation in working groups, such as for the Off-Site Levy and Audit work and Established Areas Growth and Change Strategy (EAGCS) work, being mindful that our stakeholders are also experiencing the challenges of staff working remotely and/or self-isolating.
  • Policy initiatives that have: a) already been presented to committee; b) are scheduled for presentation to Council; and c) for which no further engagement had been planned will (subject to changing circumstances) proceed on schedule. This refers to:
    • Heritage Conservation Tools and Incentives Report (PUD April 1, 2020)
    • Guidebook for Great Communities (Council April 27, 2020)
    • North Hill Local Area Plan (Council April 27, 2020)
    • Establishment of a Downtown District
    • CIF Application for Downtown Accelerator Program
    • Established Area Growth and Change Strategy
  • As with applications at approval bodies, the City is exploring alternative methods of public submission as these items move toward committees and Council.

Building Safety:
Customers may notice some changes to the way we deliver our service, particularly for the front counter (as noted above) and the inspection service. We are presently working on procedures to ensure the health and safety of the public and our staff. Until then, the following is the current status of our services:

  • Permit applications for all disciplines are still being accepted and though they can still be submitted in person on the 3rd floor of the Municipal Building, we encourage use of the online portals
  • Safety Codes Officers continue to review Building Permit applications and are continuing to issue Building Permits.
  • Field inspections for all disciplines are continuing, including occupancy inspections, but we are exploring potential new ways to deliver inspection services remotely in the wake of these new circumstances.
  • When inspections are requested, additional screening questions may be asked where occupants are present (trade permits, renovations, furnace replacements, etc). The questions are being asked to understand whether the occupants have been quarantined and provide alternatives for the inspection.
  • The Technical Assistance Centre continues to operate.
  • For questions about a specific permit, please continue to contact the SCO inspector or file manager.

Thank you for your cooperation and understanding through this challenging time. Management and our staff send best wishes your way and will continue to be in touch through special editions of the Dispatch Newsletter as our processes and service adapt to the evolving situation.
We understand this communication may not answer all questions, but please direct any concerns or questions that you have to approvals@calgary.ca

Sincerely,
Josh White, M.Pl.
Director, Calgary Approvals Coordination
Planning & Development
The City of Calgary

Article by Lena Hogarth
March 19, 2020

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