In My Opinion: OMB review must create a level field for local planning

Given the rapid pace of development taking place in our community, there is good reason to care about the current provincial review of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

The OMB is a provincial tribunal that hears appeals of land use planning decisions (such as changes to zoning by-laws), and has a huge influence on the rules guiding development in Ontario as, in an appeal, the OMB may override decisions made by municipal councils.

Moreover, developers may commence an appeal to the OMB before a municipality has even made a decision on a development application (where the municipality has not made a decision on the application within time frames specified under the provincial Planning Act).

Regrettably, local residents and community groups are, in most cases, shut out from effective participation in OMB appeals because of the significant expenses involved in doing so. These expenses arise from the necessity of engaging legal counsel and expert witnesses to provide opinion evidence. Participation becomes an impossibility when multiple developments are being proposed at the same time or in close proximity.

Developers, by contrast, rarely lack the resources to participate effectively in OMB hearings, and this creates a decidedly uneven playing field.

The mere presence of the OMB can encourage developers to seek exemptions from existing rules — even if those rules were recently established via extensive, inclusive planning processes conducted by professional planners and urban designers; met provincial policies; and were approved by a council that is accountable to local residents.

It is not only my opinion, but also that of the member associations of the Greater Beach Neighbourhood Association (GBNA), that this does not constitute good planning, and needs to be addressed in this review.

GBNA has, since its formation in 2012, made the issue of OMB reform one of its key priorities, and is actively participating in the current provincial OMB review.

GBNA attended two town hall meetings during the public consultations, and also

made a written submission to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

GBNA’s submission highlighted the following issues:

  • The OMB’s power to override decisions of municipal councils (or in some cases, to rule on development proposals before a council has even made a decision) can make the OMB, rather than Toronto City Council, the ultimate decision maker in the City’s land development approval process. This, in turn, removes the accountability of our elected City Councillors for its decisions.
  • Financial obstacles in most cases preclude local residents and resident associations from effectively participating in OMB appeals.
  • The experience in other Canadian jurisdictions demonstrates that land use planning systems can function well without the need for supervisory jurisdiction as extensive as that exercised in Ontario by the OMB.
  • In order to restore accountability for decisions on land use planning matters to Toronto city council, the city’s elected representatives must have the ultimate authority to make these decisions, and to determine the appropriate scope of review or appeal of these decisions.

Readers are invited to visit GBNA’s website at www.gbna-toronto.com to view GBNA’s complete submission.

The issue of OMB reform is an important one for our community, as it affects the manner in which our community will be developed over time, and whether it will be our city council, or the OMB, that is the ultimate decision maker in land use planning decisions which will shape our community.

While the public consultation period for the OMB review has ended, we would encourage residents to make their views on OMB reform known to their local MPP and, specifically, to Arthur Potts, MPP for Beaches-East York, who has shown a particular interest in this issue. His office can be contacted by email: apotts.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org or phone: 416-690-1032.


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1 comments

our government are ridiculous to deal with regards to anything, the taxpayer hands are handcuffed and city of Toronto allows the big builders to dictate the policy time and time again if the city of Toronto want to do something that will fix most of their problems. It is called property taxing to the full amount like this surrounding areas of GTA whether you are senior or not you are going to pay your taxes, we have wimpy, Councillors you are afraid to open their mouths about property tax (do a grandfather clause for the senior citizen of Toronto, and when they move along to stay with family, retirement homes, or nursing homes and the house and property are sold, then that’s when the property taxes go up to full tilt (we have many young families living in Toronto and they are here for the reason that the property taxes are lower than anywhere else, if John Tory and his crew cannot see reality, then John Tory and his crew need a reality check. And our city government. I think they are afraid to abandon the OMB, which is another group that is causing major, major, major problems. I guess all they can see it has how much money they can get in their pocket book the wrong way.

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