Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Province replacing Ontario Municipal Board with less powerful tribunal
Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro announced Tuesday that the Ontario Municipal Board will be replaced by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal with legislation that will be introduced later this month.
“If our reforms pass, there would be fewer and shorter hearings and a more efficient decision-making process, and there would be more deference to local land-use planning decisions, and there would be a more level planning field for residents wanting to participate,” Mauro said.
The Ontario Municipal Board, an independent adjudicative body, currently conducts hearings and makes decisions on planning and development matters, including issues relating to zoning by-laws, subdivision plans and ward boundaries.
Under new reforms, the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal will have less power.
It will only make decisions on whether or not a municipality has followed its official land use plans. If it hasn’t, the issue will be sent back to the municipality for reconsideration. Only if the municipality fails to come to a decision or fails to follow the planning process a second time would a full hearing be held, with the tribunal making a final decision.
That will mean fewer municipal decisions can be overturned than under the current process, in which each dispute is treated as if it were new, disregarding the decision the local government has made.
The reforms will also give municipalities the power to prohibit residents and developers from appealing local government decisions in areas immediately around major transit hubs, said Mauro.
The development industry might not welcome the change, he noted.
“They, perhaps, it’s fair to say, might have preferred status quo, but we don’t agree,” said Mauro. “We don’t think that’s the way to go.”
The status quo has long been criticized as tilted in favour of developers, who’ve been able to appeal municipalities’ decisions and ultimately build something more profitable, such as a taller condo building with more units than a local council wanted.
Toronto City Councillor Josh Matlow the new changes will make it easier for local leaders to plan their communities, without having to bargain with developers and fear being overruled by the tribunal.
“Finally, the government is taking substantive steps to tip the balance of power towards communities, locally elected bodies and local planners, rather than developers’ financial interests,” he said.
Hearings will be also quicker, relying only on written submissions without witness examinations.
The reforms also include giving legal information and support to residents who want to appeal a municipal decision. Decisions will be written in plain language and made public, said Attorney General Yasir Naqvi.
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