The first mention of Development Officers in Nova Scotia was in the Planning Act of 1969. Traditionally in Nova Scotia development controls such as subdivision by-laws and zoning by-laws were administered by the municipal council of a town planning board. Over time this became increasingly difficult:
- Elected officials found themselves spending considerable time in reviewing and approving individual applications, and lacked time for their more important roles such as creating policies for the municipality.
- Councillors generally lacked the technical skills necessary to administer subdivision and zoning applications, and some had difficulty in making administrative decisions that might alienate some of their electorate.
- Changing requirements for municipal development control brought with them a need for full time professional administration.
The new Planning Act addressed these problems by enabling Council to delegate the administration of development control to an appointed development officer. The act requires that council appoint a Development Officer when it passes a by-law, and it delegate its subdivision administration and approval power to a Development Officer.
Proclamation of the Act in 1970 was followed immediately by a number of appointments of Development Officers who were already employed by the municipality in some other capacity, so the first Development Officers came from a variety of backgrounds....many were building inspectors, some were planners or technicians, while others were administrators.
Initially the role of Development Officer was perceived to be somewhat restricted and a simple administrative job. However as the first Development Officers encountered more complex problems and developments, it soon became apparent that the job demanded more skills than originally anticipated. This combined with the varied backgrounds caused an early need to provide training and professional development for Development Officers.