Contractor says city is slowing his business

Jeff Hiscock
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Controversy

A contractor who's been building and renovating homes for 25 years says he's fed up with the slow pace of getting permits from St. John's City Hall.

"The same house we can build in Paradise, Pouch Cove or Torbay in three months, takes six months inside the city," contends John Roberts, who owns The Trimmer Inc.

Contractor John Roberts is troubled by the fact he finds it hard to obtain work permits from the City of St. John's, but has no problems getting permits from the towns in Conception Bay South, such as the one he got for this home being built in the Topsai

A contractor who's been building and renovating homes for 25 years says he's fed up with the slow pace of getting permits from St. John's City Hall.

"The same house we can build in Paradise, Pouch Cove or Torbay in three months, takes six months inside the city," contends John Roberts, who owns The Trimmer Inc.

"It's bureaucratic B.S."

Roberts said he can't understand why he can take the same plan for a renovation in Paradise and get a permit with no questions asked, while in St. John's it's not good enough.

"They just make you jump through hoops," he said. "When you do a cosmetic renovation, with no structural change, why can't you just pay your (fee) and get your permit? With Paradise you can. With Mount Pearl you can. With C.B.S. you can. With St. John's? Nope."

Dave Blackmore, director of buildings for the City of St. John's, said all work is to be carried out under permit and must be up to standard building codes, but he wouldn't comment on the time it takes to obtain a permit in the capital city as compared to other jurisdictions.

According to the City of Mount Pearl's building inspection and permit office, for renovation permits, applications are processed the same day and the permit will be in the mail within a few days. For home construction it takes a little longer, because plans have to be reviewed more thoroughly.

The Town of Conception Bay South said its renovation permits generally take a week or two to be issued, and home-building permits can take two weeks or more.

The Town of Paradise says a renovation application will take a day or so to process, while a permit for home construction will take a week to 10 days.

St. John's says its process for approval may take anywhere from one week to three weeks, depending on the job, but some permits can be issued over the counter, including those needed for siding, window and shingle projects.

Any building in a heritage area, new home construction or structural work will take the longest to be evaluated.

Roberts has been waiting on a minor renovation permit for three weeks and counting. He said the city is telling him that there isn't enough information, but he has used the same plan for other projects outside the city and didn't have a problem getting a permit.

He's been back and forth to city hall and has even gotten his client to write a letter.

Roberts said St. John's inspectors are great to deal with onsite, but he can't figure out why it takes so long to get the initial permit. He said the time he spends waiting adds to his building costs, and he feels he's being forced to work outside the city.

"Everybody is having this problem. Why do you think the season starts off so slow?" Roberts asked.

"It's like pulling teeth," he says. "The city is just pushing people away."

However, not everyone is reporting the same delays.

The Telegram spoke to a number of contractors in the St. John's area, many of whom said they haven't found obtaining permits to be a major issue.

One contractor did say he finds it takes far too long, however. The man didn't want to give his name but said he's had to wait up to a month for applications to be processed, and says when you're waiting to begin work that's just too much time.

Roberts says there's no good reason that the same person can build the same style house in two different locations, and have one project go smoothly and the other be such a headache.

"That's why there's such a strain on building practices (in the city) right now. It takes too long," said Roberts, who has nine different projects underway.

He says he's got houses going up outside the city without a hitch, but meanwhile has a customer who wants to build a place in St. John's that he's still waiting on a permit for.

"He's moving in from Corner Brook," Rogers said.

"What's he going to move into? I can't get started."

jhiscock@thetelegram.com

Organizations: St. John's City

Geographic location: St. John's, Mount Pearl, Pouch Cove Torbay Corner Brook

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  • Tonya
    October 25, 2011 - 18:45

    As someone who is a business person themselves and holds several business courses under their belt, I'd just like to point out the issue of supply/demand and competition. If I were to build a home I would call certain companies who are household names. Larger companies tend to come to mind. The volume of business they do in the run of a year is enormous. You also have to then take into consideration the fact that it is only recently that the above mentioned towns/cities are growing at such a quick rate and lastly, yes, St. John's has regulations and red tape, but it's put in place to protect us all, as contractors should be well aware of especially if they've been in business for as long as Mr. Roberts states he has been.