Ontario Government Proposes Significant Changes to Planning in Toronto

MESSAGE FROM JAYE ROBINSON


Dear Friends and Neighbours,
 
After years of hard work and advocacy fighting to protect our local neighbourhoods and abolish the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), I’m extremely disheartened to be writing with an update on the Province’s Bill 108: More Homes, More Choice Act, tabled in the legislature late yesterday afternoon.
 
Bill 108 includes major amendments to the planning processes used to review development applications in the City of Toronto. These changes are incredibly discouraging and, if passed, will have a significant impact on the future of our neighbourhoods.
 
Over the past eight years, I’ve moved countless motions to make our local planning processes more accessible and transparent for residents. As you know, I’ve been a vocal opponent of the OMB, a quasi-judicial Provincial body that makes the final decision on development applications appealed in Toronto. From the townhouses on Bayview to the towers at Yonge and Eglinton, most of the development applications in Ward 15 have been appealed to and approved by this unelected, unaccountable body.
 
In spring 2017, after significant advocacy from residents across Toronto – including many groups in Ward 15 – the Province announced sweeping changes to the development appeal process through Bill 139. This legislation replaced the OMB with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), a true appeal body with limited power to overrule municipal decisions, and enacted new policies to give communities a stronger voice in the planning process.
 
If passed, the new provincial legislation, Bill 108, will walk back many of the reforms we fought for as a community, including:
 
A return to the former OMB rules and procedures. While the LPAT would continue to function as the provincial development appeal body, the Province is proposing changes in line with the former OMB structure. This legislation would reinstitute “de novo” hearings, or hearings started anew without reference to the City’s decision on an application. The Bill would also allow parties to introduce new evidence and to call and examine witnesses. The LPAT will issue a decision independent of the municipalities and neighbourhoods affected instead of reviewing appeals in the context of existing municipal plans and provincial planning policies. 
 
This change would reduce the weight of planning decisions made by City Council and expand the authority of provincial LPAT appointees to make decisions that impact our local neighbourhoods, without any consultation. The proposed changes are essentially a reversion back to the format of the former OMB hearings under the new LPAT name.
 
Changes to development charges. Under the current structure, Section 37 of the Planning Act, known as Community Benefits, requires developers to contribute to the neighbourhoods affected by new developments through provisions for community benefits such as park and streetscape improvements.
 
This system has been used to fund community projects and services across Toronto. Bill 108 proposes to make the costs more predictable for developers at the outset of the process by instituting a new authority that would combine and cap all community-related development charges. Parkland Dedication requirements, known as Section 42 funds, and funds to enhance local infrastructure would also be included in the total capped amount. This change would severely limit the City’s ability to negotiate community benefits before approving an application.
 
Streamlining development approvals. The proposed planning decision timelines would reduce consideration of Zoning By-law Amendment (ZBA) applications from 150 to 90 days, and Official Plan Amendment (OPA) applications from 210 to 120 days.
 
Reducing the time Planners have to review applications and report to City Council will ultimately allow applicants the ability to appeal to the more developer-friendly LPAT system much earlier in the process, thereby circumventing the City’s rigorous development review process.
 
Over the coming weeks, I will be working closely with senior staff as we develop the City’s formal response to the Province’s proposed legislation.
 
If you are interested, I would encourage you to review Bill 108 and the associated Action Plan and share any concerns with your Member of Provincial Parliament.
 
You can submit your comments on Bill 108 through the Environmental Registry of Ontario, here. I’ve been advised that the Province will only be accepting comments until  June 1, 2019, so we must act quickly.

It has come to my attention that the following link, specifically targeted to the Planning Act, is the best avenue to share your concerns directly with the Provincial Government: https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-0016
 
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
 
Thank you for your continued engagement.
 
Warm regards,
 
Jaye

Toronto City Councillor Jaye Robinson
100 Queen Street West
Suite A12
Toronto, ON 
M5H 2N2

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