Development in Regional District of Nanaimo is seeing business as usual thus far during the COVID-19 pandemic, but plans are being developed for an anticipated downturn.
The coronavirus has impacted everything from travel to education and at the RDN’s committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, departments gave directors operational updates. Geoff Garbutt, RDN general manager of strategic and community development, told the committee development remains strong in the region and the RDN is providing all of its services in current planning, building inspection, bylaw enforcement and strategic initiatives.
“We’re experiencing development levels that are consistent with pre-COVID and we expect that in the near- and medium-term future this is going to be the case,” Garbutt said at the meeting. “We do recognize however that there are going to be some changes upcoming and ongoing with the development community. Recognizing this, our staff, and myself as a GM, have been in direct contact with a number of our larger developers and builders to talk with them about their needs and where they intend to go and we’ll be reporting back on that in the near future.”
Garbutt said RDN planning staff have been working with developers and residents virtually, receiving plans via e-mail, and the regional district is now able to accept credit card payments for applicable fees.
“Our building and bylaw service area launched its online, building and bylaw application portal ahead of schedule and that was absolutely critical,” said Garbutt.
During the period of COVID-19 impacts, the RDN issued 29 building permits, performed at least 189 inspections, issued nine new development permits and received 29 new building permitting applications, Garbutt said.
Staff will report back to the board on how to address the lack of public hearing capacity for rezoning, he said.
Tom Osborne, RDN GM of recreation and parks, said signage has been placed in the parks system reminding people of social distancing. He reported that 18 staff members from the recreation services division have been laid off. Maintenance work normally done during the summer at Oceanside Place and Ravensong Aquatic Centre is being done now as a provincial order from Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C. medical health officer, has closed such facilities.
In terms of busing, Daniel Pearce, RDN director of transit and emergency services, says boarding is now occurring via the rear side door of the bus as a protective measure for bus drivers, with the exception of those with mobility issues. Service from downtown to Duke Point ferry terminal has been implemented, as Departure Bay ferry service has been suspended.
Parks and trail maintenance, water treatment facilities, wastewater management, transit, emergency services, bylaw enforcement and building inspections are among the services deemed essential by the RDN.