Building consultant airs frustrations

A former senior building official took Norfolk’s planning and development department to task this week at Norfolk council.David McPherson of Simcoe, principal of the consulting firm Permittable, was a senior building inspector with the former Haldimand-Norfolk Region and Norfolk County until his retirement in 2012.On Tuesday, McPherson told council that the customer-friendly practices he remembered have gone by the wayside in Norfolk.“I am exceedingly frustrated and am at my wit’s end,” he said. “The tail is wagging the dog here. Staff are arrogant, adversarial, act as though they have no oversight, are untouchable, and believe they are immune from council.”McPherson’s presented his observations last week in Tillsonburg to the Long Point Region Conservation Authority.The four members of Norfolk council who sit on the LPRCA encouraged McPherson to share his experiences at Tuesday’s council meeting.The immediate cause of McPherson’s complaint is a client’s home-building project on New Lakeshore Road, near David’s Restaurant, in Port Dover.McPherson said that – over the past year — he has hired numerous professionals and consultants at a cost of $150,000 to satisfy the concerns of the LPRCA and Norfolk’s building department – all to no avail.He pointed out there are houses in the neighbourhood where he wants to build but that the local approval authorities will not green-light his project.“Between LPRCA and (the) Norfolk County building department, hurdle after hurdle and stumbling block after stumbling block has been placed in my path,” he told council. “The Norfolk County building department is completely and utterly dysfunctional.”McPherson is in the business of guiding clients through the permit approval and construction inspection process. His client base ranges from Oxford County in the west to Milton in the east. Most of his business is conducted in Norfolk.He cited four other projects in Norfolk where clients wanted to make basic investments in their property but have been thwarted.“This deplorable scenario is repeated time and time again,” McPherson said. “Virtually every builder in Norfolk will tell similar stories.”McPherson added he could fill the council chamber at Governor Simcoe Square with people in the construction business with similar stories to share.Ultimate responsibility for the Norfolk building department rests with Pam Duesling, Norfolk’s general manager of development and cultural services. She was given an opportunity Tuesday to respond.“Personally to Dave, apologies,” Duesling said. “My door is always open. We can have conversations about this. There are changes being made. I have been in this position five months and I have heard from Dave once.”Fritz Enzlin, Norfolk’s chief building official, was provided a copy of McPherson’s presentation Wednesday. He did not respond to an invitation to comment.At Tuesday’s meeting, Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus – a member of the LPRCA and a past chair of the authority — said he had received a message from an LPRCA senior manager that they will meet soon with Norfolk building officials to discuss McPherson’s issues. Duesling confirmed that the meeting is pending.Before he left Governor Simcoe Square, McPherson said he cannot believe how much things have changed locally in the area of permitting and inspections since he left the municipal field.“Our whole focus all those years was co-operating with the public,” he said. “Good customer service was drilled into our heads. That has since turned 180 degrees and has steadily gone downhill to the point where it is utterly deplorable.“I’ve concluded they’re not picking on me. Every builder I talk to says they are treated the same way.”Other members of Norfolk council who sit on the LPRCA include Mayor Kristal Chopp, Langton Coun. Roger Geysens, and Port Rowan Coun. Tom Masschaele.MSonnenberg@postmedia.com