Photo via futureready.brampton.ca
The media is so focused on Toronto that other major cities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) doing some pretty exciting things often get overlooked. We’re guilty of it, too, sometimes. That’s why we took the opportunity to ask Rob Elliott, Commissioner, Planning & Development Services at the City of Brampton, a few questions about their development process.
Newinhomes.com (NIH): Can you describe Brampton’s “future ready” vision?
Rob Elliott (RE): New opportunities are shaping Brampton into an urban city, a hub for jobs and innovation, and a global leader. Larry Beasley (advisor to Elliott and former co-chief planner in Vancouver) has said that Brampton has ‘the right components to make it a model for other North America cities to follow’; moving Brampton forward to be a future ready city means thinking bigger about opportunities that fuel that vibrancy.
The City is turning to people who live, work, play and learn in Brampton to help us develop a comprehensive plan for what the city will look and feel like by 2040. The most compelling aspect of Brampton’s vision is that it does not begin to take shape until significant public engagement is completed. The City undertook its largest public engagement campaign, and all the feedback we received formed the basis for the vision and the themes it will address.
This vision aims to bring about real change in how we plan, including looking at development as part of a whole, instead of in a fragmented way. But it’s about so much more than just planning. It is truly a city vision that will address many aspects that impact quality of life.
NIH: So, what kind of changes have been made since you and Larry came aboard?
RE: A new Strategic Planning Development team has been created to help raise awareness of opportunities for development in Brampton. Led by Jim Doran, this team will ensure that critical development opportunities maximize the value they bring to the city.
After receiving unanimous support from Council in December, the City is introducing an Urban Design Review Panel, to be made up of professional architects, landscape architects, planners and urban designers. This panel will serve as an independent advisory body, providing professional design recommendations on major development applications and public projects with the objective of achieving design excellence in the city.
From a process perspective, the Planning department has introduced a new four-stream approach to site plans. Applications follow different streams based on their complexity; this has reduced review time from months to weeks in some cases.
Planning is also rolling out a new development pre-consultation process that will provide developers with a checklist of issues and requirements to help them move through the approvals process more quickly and with greater transparency.
NIH: What kinds of things can developers do to make the application process as smooth as possible?
RE: As the City works to look at development as part of a whole, rather than just one development at a time, applicants need to consider how their proposal fits within the bigger picture. It’s also important for applicants to keep an open line of communication with the planner assigned to the file, and work with them as they are developing concepts. Working with skilled consultants and professionals who understand what is required to support applications, and submitting complete, detailed documentation also helps make for a smoother process.
NIH: How long does it typically take a new residential development application to go from start to finish?
RE: The City typically receives several different types of residential development applications. Depending on the scale of the application and the complexities involved, it may take anywhere from several months (e.g. for something like a plan of condominium) to a year or more (e.g. for a greenfield plan of subdivision or infill development application) to process through to approval.
NIH: How would you streamline the process?
RE: Brampton is currently implementing new processes that are better tailored to the complexity of the application for site plans. We will continue to review opportunities for further refinements that don’t compromise public engagement, or the ability to achieve the outcomes expected by Council and our residents.
NIH: Do you think the Land Planning Appeal Tribunal will help the development application process?
RE: A major benefit of the Land Planning Appeal Tribunal is that applications will be required to have detailed supporting documents as part of the complete application package. This greater detail will allow staff to come to recommendations more quickly.
NIH: We recall hearing something about ‘gentle densification’ while reading about Brampton’s plans for the future. What exactly does that mean?
RE: Gentle densification means taking a delicate approach to the transformation of suburbs through careful intensification. This includes embracing the qualities of suburban life and its positive attributes, while finding opportunities to integrate sustainability. It is an effort to carefully build up capacities in the suburbs and slowly achieve densities that make it more sustainable.
In addition to gentle densification, one of the City’s key areas of focus is identifying urban centres within Brampton – areas within the city that have the potential to facilitate strategic growth, higher densities, and a diverse range of housing and employment.
Larry Beasley talks about gentle densification in more detail here.
NIH: How can the public stay up to date on all new residential developments in Brampton?
RE: The City of Brampton takes a number of steps – more than required by legislation – to share information about development applications:
Signs are posted on the subject lands to describe the nature of the development application.
Letters are mailed to every property owner within 240 metres of the subject property. The letter informs neighbours of the nature of the application and tells them when a statutory public meeting will be held. This information is also posted in the local newspaper.
Informal public meetings are sometimes arranged to get the community’s feedback about a specific development application.
Councillors often share details with their constituents.
Residents are always encouraged to contact the Planning Department to ask about development applications that have been received. We have a planner dedicated to responding to these inquiries.
A big thank you goes out to Rob Elliott for taking the time to paint us a picture of how Brampton is planning for a bright future.