For years communities worked and fought to ensure local planning for neighborhoods remained in local hands and out of the reach of provincial oversite. Communities declared success when the previous Provincial Government finally limited the role of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), an entity that is best described as operating without compunction as to how their decisions impacted local communities. OMB decisions almost always reversed what the Municipalities determined was in the best interests of the local community and Municipal Official Plans were trod under foot.
It is disheartening to learn that our Provincial Government has tabled new legislature, Province’s Bill 108: More Homes, More Choice Act. Bill 108 includes major amendments to the planning processes used to review development applications in the City of Toronto. The title says it all. Our Provincial Government will not stop until every square inch of our city is fully developed without concern to local impact.
The OMB is a quasi-judicial Provincial body that made 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 that have severely impacted your local neighborhoods have been appealed to and approved by this unelected, unaccountable body.
In 2017, 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), an appeal body with limited power to overrule municipal decisions, and enacted new policies to give communities a stronger voice in the planning process.
Now, if passed, the new provincial legislation, Bill 108, will reverse many of these reforms including:
1. 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 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 neighborhoods, without any consultation.
2. Changes to development charges.
Under the current structure, Section 37 of the Planning Act, known as Community Benefits, requires developers to contribute to the neighborhoods 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 and this change would severely limit the City’s ability to negotiate community benefits before approving an application.