Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit August 15, 2014 - 8:25 am

After long delay, Iqaluit prepares to enforce building permits

Planning, lands department fully-staffed for first time in two years

Mélodie Simard, planning and lands director for the city of Iqaluit, says her department finally has the staff it needs to handle the city’s list of development projects, which ballooned in 2013. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
Mélodie Simard, planning and lands director for the city of Iqaluit, says her department finally has the staff it needs to handle the city’s list of development projects, which ballooned in 2013. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

The City of Iqaluit’s planning and lands department had a long list of big development projects to deal with over the past year, yet the department’s biggest achievement was not just to work through them — but to finally hire all the staff it needs to handle the job.

“Our biggest achievement of the year is starting from barely any staff, to now having an almost full house,” the department’s director, Mélodie Simard, reported to city council at a regular meeting Aug. 12.

The full house includes the addition of a new building inspector, which will allow the city to issue building permits for the first time in two years.

Simard introduced the city’s new inspector, Nichole Deck, to councillors at the meeting.

The department will announce the return of building permits “once our system is fully in place,” Simard said. All structures will require these in addition to development permits that conform to the city’s zoning bylaw.

Building permits ensure structures are up to code, which relates mostly to a building’s interior specifications — such as ceiling heights and entry points, Simard said.

The change “will involve contacting developers and making them aware that this requirement will be enforced,” Simard told council at the meeting.

The planning and lands department will refer to council’s planning and development committee of the whole to discuss “how we will proceed with this,” she said.

The city’s department of planning and lands started the year with four vacancies. Three have since been filled, starting with assistant planner Colin MacPhee, who joined the city in January.

Simard came on board as director in March, filling a position that had been vacant since former director Arif Sayani left at the end of summer last year.

Deck recently moved from Saskatchewan to take her new position, starting Aug. 11.

Reflecting on staff shortages, Simard told Nunatsiaq News that the main difficulty lies in finding employees with the right certifications.

“In our case, you need the right schooling, and be registered with a provincial association, which makes it challenging,” she said.

The city drew its three newest employees from different provinces, far from the Arctic capital. Simard made the move from Ottawa, after having done contract work for the city of Iqaluit under her previous employer, Fotenn Consultants Inc.

Simard noted that the city took on a summer intern, Gayle Kabloona, a Nunavut beneficiary who is from Iqaluit and due to finish studies in urban planning in Montreal.

The department’s workload over the past year was heavy, and promises to be just as big for the coming year, Simard said.

“What’s been very particular in the last year, is we’ve received a large number of very big files, more than usual,” she reported council at the council meeting.

Among them are the city’s largest single project ever, the aquatic centre — pegged at about $34 million.

Although it isn’t the city’s project, next up is the territorial government’s $400 million airport upgrade, which “is by far the biggest project that this department has ever been involved with,” Simard said.

The “Iqaluit International Airport Improvement Project,” as the territorial government calls it, involves a series of land transfers between the city and the federal government, which owns airport lands.

The department is also managing all permitting related to the city’s next two development areas — Inuit-owned lands just north of the city centre, and the “Area B subdivision” along the Road to Nowhere.

Simard called Area B the department’s “priority project.” The new subdivision will include 500 residential units, and possibly a new school.

“We’re hoping at one point to have a better name for it,” she said.

Residents can submit their opinions on the city’s draft development scheme for the new development area until Aug. 30.

“It’s hard to do long term projects when you don’t have full planning staff, for sure,” Simard told Nunatsiaq News. Now that they do, the department’s next priority is to enforce building permits.

“That’s going to be a big change for a lot of people in this community,” she said.

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