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Victoria hopes to make business as usual easier

May 23 2012

One-stop shopping for developers and businesses is part of a new City of Victoria customer-service action plan endorsed by city council on Tuesday.

The purpose-designed development centre - to be located on the second floor of city hall (now under renovation) - will attempt to integrate business and development services in a single point of contact.

Some municipalities, such as Langford, have been working to attract new development with the promise of quick building permit turnarounds or breaks on permit fees.

That's not as easy in Victoria, where a number of factors - including existing buildings, underground infrastructure and heritage buildings - have to be considered in approval of new developments or businesses, says a staff report.

Despite the challenge, the report says, there are opportunities to improve services to the development and business communities.

In addition to the development centre, the city's first-ever customer-service action plan includes changes to streamline the business licence application process and to the Buildings Bylaw, and would establish a formalized review process and turnaround timelines for applications.

Among the other initiatives - there are more than 40, centring around making it easier to access information and services - are a number of online additions, including a garbage pickup calendar, bylaw directory and a new phone app to allow customers to pay for parking.

Meanwhile, Katie Josephson, the city's director of communications, told councillors that response to the city's upgraded website has been positive.

The site, which was launched about three months ago, is seeing about 55,000 unique visitors every month, averaging 2,500 to 3,500 unique visitors on weekdays and 1,500 to 1,800 on the weekends.

"Mondays are consistently the most visited day of the week in the city, which I actually think is people coming to the city looking for employment," Josephson said.

"It's a really telling stat, because when we're looking for a value-added approach to web and everything we do, the website is very much transactional."

People view almost three pages per visit, spending about a minute and a half on the site, she said.

"They're there for a specific reason. So from a value-added perspective, you may come for one reason, but we hope you'll leave with additional information."

Half the visitors to the site are from Victoria, followed by Vancouver, Toronto, the South Island, Calgary and Edmonton.

The most popular pages are related to employment, parking, recreation and garbage.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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