Driveway Permits: Effects on the Paving Industry in Toronto

Driveway permits in Toronto, what is the purpose?  The reason for the $139.20 permit changes depending upon who you talk to within the City.  Northland Paving is an established reputable paving contractor doing business in City of Toronto since 1985 and we still can’t figure out the true benefit.  One may call it a tax grab but the reality is that it is probably costing the City more to administrate than it collects in revenue. It has a hugely negative impact on paving companies in Toronto, their employees and most homeowners alike.

The paving season in Toronto is short to begin with, approximately 7-8 months.  Any good contractor is extremely busy during that time and most employed in the industry are seasonal workers. So what does driveway permits have to do with seasonal workers?

There are many negative layers to the driveway permit dilemma.

1-      The driveway contractor works on volume to complete 12 months of work in 7-8 months.  The permit officers claim a 1-2 day turn around period to receive the permit but the reality is 2-3 to weeks to receive a permit.  No work may commence before the permit has been received. Scheduling has become a logistical nightmare as the contractor can no longer work in an efficient manner and will need to increase pricing in order to compensate. The backlog at the City means there is no steady flow of work to the contractor.  This bureaucratic red tape causes lay-offs as paving crews cannot report to work.  This issue falls on deaf ears at City Hall as City staff see no problem with these employees not reporting to work and not getting paid. Paving is a tough industry to begin with as employees already lose income to rain days but to lose income to inefficiencies at City Hall seems highly unfair and disrespectful.  How fast would policy change if a paving contractor had the ability to cause a City worker to lose pay?

2-      Homeowners have the extra burden of paying a $139.20 driveway permit fee.  In some cases this will be the only inconvenience for them in addition to a delay in the project start.  In other cases (and there are many examples) the City will place the driveway project on hold citing minor curb or sidewalk work do be done.  They cannot give a definitive date for these works to be done other than to say some time “this season”.

Homeowners are also inconvenienced and understandably upset if the permit dictates a reduction in the size of a driveway they may have had in place for over 20 years but this will be discussed on a subsequent blog.

3-      What are the steps involved in obtaining a driveway permit?  Although the City is considered to be one, the rules differ on how you obtain a driveway permit and what is deemed legal depending upon what part of the City you reside.  In Scarborough and North York an application must be made at City Hall, once received the City will dispatch a Permit Officer to go inspect the driveway.  In downtown Toronto and East York and appointment must be made to meet on-site with a Permit Officer who will then issue a directive, with the directive you may then apply for a driveway permit.  The Officer will fill out a report with their recommendations and submit it to the City who will then make the permit available for either the homeowner or contractor to sign.  Many cases minor issues are found with City curbs or sidewalks and the City will call for their replacement.  Sometimes the repairs are necessary often times it is not and it seems the City is willing to spend money unnecessarily.  The Permit Officer will again return after the work has been completed to insure compliance.

Northland Paving has been fighting for change with the City of Toronto as it pertains to driveway permits since they were introduced.  The reasons cited for permits differ depending on who you talk to and we will discuss this on a subsequent blog.

Northland Paving met with the Mayor and the head of the Department of Transportation Services (this is the department responsible for driveway permits) in 2012 in an effort to create efficiencies within the permit process.  The Mayor agreed with the downside of permits and the process to obtain them and cited that the wheels at City Hall turn very slowly.  The head of the Transportation Services vowed that processes would be made quicker and more efficient and that the customer service would be improved.  The wheels turn very slowly at City Hall indeed as it still takes up to 3 weeks to receive a permit.

It is noteworthy that none of our neighbouring Cities in the 905 area are require driveway permits and homeowners are free to upgrade and beautify their properties!