Money for Nothing and Their Tricks for Fees


Did you hear the one about the land use planning authority that operates at less than 10% efficiency that has just been awarded nearly $400,000 to figure out why it is so inefficient?

Check out this news release (in italics with my notes in red):

Islands Trust to improve development application process

Islands Trust has been awarded a $367,795 grant from the Province of B.C for a Development Application Service Delivery and Technology Improvement Program.

Through the proposed two-year Development Application Service Delivery and Technology Improvement Program, Islands Trust will hire a consultant to review its development application processing approach and identify opportunities to prioritise [sic] applications that improve equity and access to affordable housing. The Trust plans to replace the in-house property information system with a new system that provides more reporting options on applications and includes an online application portal for the public to make and track their applications.

“We are thrilled to receive grant funding from the Province of BC for our Development Application Service Delivery and Technology Improvement Program. This program will lead to a smoother, more efficient, and more transparent land use application process,” said Peter Luckham, Chair of Islands Trust Council. “I am also hopeful we will identify ways to support and fast track planning for affordable housing.”

In 2018, Islands Trust undertook an internal review of application processing and planning service delivery. The results of the review led Islands Trust to reorganize staff in the planning department so that some members of the planning team are focused on proactive long-range planning while others are focused on applications and to create a new position to manage responses to referrals from other agencies. NOTE – the results also led to the astounding revelation that the Trust was only 7.5% efficient in the processing of applications, leading to the conclusion taxpayers are picking up over $2 million a year in costs which should be covered by application fees.

In addition, Islands Trust initiated an internal process to review application processing, which is still underway. NOTE – The “internal process” was the result of my presentation to Trust Council in March 2020 when I read the riot act to them. (see That resulted in a Trustee putting forth the question to staff as to whether my allegations that staff were not following application processing policies were true.

Through the internal review [March to June 2020] Islands Trust also identified that it needed to improve electronic systems used for recording, tracking and managing applications, and to get an independent review of current application processing practices to identify opportunities to improve efficiency, transparency and processing times and systems. NOTE – What is sadly, but not unexpectedly, missing from this news release, is the fact that the Director of Regional Planning Services reported back to Trust Council, in June 2020, that my allegations were true, because, in his own terminology, it was “impossible” for staff to follow the application processing policies which were originally written by…wait for it…staff back in 1993, and thereafter approved by Trust Council. We are now led to believe that for a period of 27 years staff had neglected to mention to Trust Council that the policies could not be followed, and, that as a result it was costing taxpayers over $2,000,000/year. At least that is what staff would like Trust Council and taxpayers to believe…that its impossible to be efficient.

In the last five years Islands Trust has processed a total of 2296 applications and referrals that included 63 rezoning applications; 94 subdivision applications; 217 development variance permits, 161 development permits; 116 temporary use permits; 32 agricultural land reserve applications; 1583 building permit referrals for the regional districts; and 29 other applications and referrals. The volume is increasing, with applications to Islands Trust in the first three months of 2021 being 84 per cent higher than the five year average.” NOTE – Obscured in this paragraph’s figures, through smoke and mirrors misdirection, are the following points –

(a) The majority of 1583 building permit referrals should never have happened. At some point, circa 2018, the Chief Administrative Officer of the Islands Trust and the Capital Regional District Chief Building Inspector, UNILATERALLY, and without any political direction from either of the elected Island Trustees or CRD Regional Directors, decided that all CRD building permit applications would have to be approved by Islands Trust staff before CRD would even look at them. The result, given the reported volume of 1583 referrals, was Islands Trust taxpayers picked up the tab for the review time, since the Islands Trust doesn’t charge a building permit applicant a fee for the review of the permit. In addition, the change slowed down building permit processing times, resulting in extra costs for applicants.

(b) The total of actual applications, applied for, and paid for by the applicants, over 5 years, is 683. That works out to an average of 3 a week…for a staff of 16 planners (see organization chart –

(c) And this is where it gets worse. The following is the approximate revenue from application fees, which are, according to Islands Trust Policy, to cover the cost of processing applications. But, as the 2018 review revealed, they only cover about 7.5%.

  • 63 rezoning applications; @$4,400 =                                       $277,200
  • 94 subdivision applications; @$2,000 =                                  $188,000
  • 217 development variance permits; @$935 =                      $202,895
  • 161 development permits; @$1,320 =                                     $212,520
  • 116 temporary use permits; @$1,100 =                                  $127,600
  • 32 agricultural land reserve applications; @$1,000 =        $32,000
  • 1583 building permit referrals; @$0.00 =                               $0.00
    Total revenue over 5 years                                                     $1,040,215
  • Total cost to process applications (7.5% efficiency) $13,869,533
  • Total cost to taxpayers over 5 years $12,829,318
  • Average cost to taxpayers per year $2,565,863

So, the promise from the Chair of the Trust Council is the new review will lead to a “smoother, more efficient, and more transparent land use application process.”

I truly wonder how that promise will age…and believe me, I’ll be watching for all of the improvements to a system that has been broken for decades and costing the taxpayer millions of dollars due to inefficiency and mismanagement at the highest levels of the Trust organization.

2 Responses to Money for Nothing and Their Tricks for Fees

  1. Steve says:

    One simple recommendation I can suggest is, planners should simply do the work for which they have been hired. Make decisions. Send it to the Trust. They could process hundreds more applications easily and quickly than they are doing. SIXTEEN planners for Salt Spring?!?

    The City of Victoria, with many hundreds of millions of dollars of projects going on yearly have…….(drum roll please)….SIXTEEN PLANNERS! The same as Salt Spring.

    Downtown Victoria has 1 planner. Maybe a half a Billion dollars of projects on that planner’s books?

    Victoria is slow. But, nowhere near as slow as Salt Spring Island. Not even close. And, Victoria is slow because everything requires Council approval. You want to build a carport – you go to Council. It’s absurd. And, they’re faster.

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