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Free Toronto from the OMB

Free Toronto from the OMB!

Photo of tower under construction.

 

The OMB is a quasi-judicial, un-elected and un-accountable provincial body that has the final say on all planning decisions in the province of Ontario. The tribunal's powers to overrule decisions made by our elected municipal representatives are anti-democratic and often lead to planning decisions that support the interests of the development industry over those of our communities and our city's official plan.

 

Since the establishment of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in 1906—initially as the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board—it has evolved from an approval authority into an appeal body in matters of land use planning. However, the term "appeal" is misleading as the OMB treats appeals of municipal planning decisions to the OMB as "de novo", or new, giving little deference to the rulings of democratically elected City Councils.

 

It is wrong that our elected local representatives and professional planners in Toronto are overruled by appointed OMB members who generally have only a vague understanding of our city and the fabric and character or our local neighbourhoods.

 

Click here to download this information as a brochure to print and share.

 

The OMB contributes to Inappropriate Development

 

Toronto's midtown neighbourhoods are facing an unprecedented number of development applications. While our community understands that a reasonable amount of intensification is appropriate, developers are proposing new condominiums that are too high and dense for the neighbourhood and, in many cases, appealing to the OMB at the first opportunity.

 

The provincial government is mandating higher densities in areas such as Yonge & Eglinton but they are not taking into consideration the added stress on fully-enrolled schools, narrow streets and sidewalks and an already over-crowded subway system.

 

The OMB Unfairly Favours Developers


The current OMB hearing process is too cumbersome, too expensive, too time-consuming and too legalistic to facilitate wide-ranging citizen participation and is therefore unfair to the local residents as well as the community at large. Deep-pocketed developers can hire the best lawyers, planners and other experts to argue their case. They don't need to worry about taking days off work and the funds needed to argue a case is miniscule in comparison to the windfalls they reap from selling condos.

 

Developers win 64% of OMB appeals.

 

It's no wonder that a 2009 study found that developers come out on top 64% of the time when facing municipalities. That number is even more advantageous for developers when facing residents' groups without support from their city government. And if the developer loses they can simply appeal again and face a local group that is likely exhausted both financially and emotionally.

 

The OMB is a Drain on City Resources

 

Toronto is a rapidly growing city as anybody that lives in midtown can attest to.

 

Our city's professional planning staff should be spending their time directing, managing growth and implementing our city's official plan. We want our planners to design complete neighbourhoods with access to transit, vibrant retails strips, green space and social supports. Unfortunately, too much of their time is spent defending appeals by developers at the OMB.

 

It takes a planner many days of preparation time for every one day of an OMB hearing. Further, they have to write long, overly technical planning reports in case they are called before the board to defend their professional opinions.

 

And it is not only planners that are taken away from serving the City's needs by the OMB. City lawyers must spend the equivalent of 1,400 days a year to prepare for, and attend, OMB hearings. City forestry, transportation, technical services staff and others are forced to waste valuable time as well.

 

The cost to Toronto in both staff time and salary is just too great to justify the OMB continuing to have jurisdiction over our city.

 

Take Action!

 

City Councillors are eager to adopt the responsibilities their constituents expect of them. Councillors have the benefit of ongoing engagement with the communities they represent, and extensive knowledge of local issues, opinions and needs on which they base decisions. City Councillors and the planning staff's ability to plan is undermined if applicants calculate that it is in their interests to treat City processes as a mere formality en route to the OMB.

 

In February of 2012 a motion moved by Toronto City Councillors Josh Matlow (Ward 22 - St. Paul's) and Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27 – Toronto Centre Rosedale) asked for the removal of provincial oversight on planning matters. This motion was overwhelmingly supported by Toronto's City Council by a 34-5 vote. Countless Residents' and Ratepayers' associations also wrote letters standing behind this initiative.

 

Please write to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing as well as your local MPP and tell them:

 

  • The OMB is allowing inappropriate growth without adequate infrastructure to support it
  • The OMB unfairly favours developers over local residents
  • The OMB is an unnecessary drain on City tax dollars
  • Toronto is the largest municipal government in Canada. Our City has the largest and most professional planning department in the country
  • It's time for the provincial government to respect Toronto
  • It's time to free Toronto from the OMB!

 

Bill Mauro, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing

777 Bay Street, 17th Floor

Toronto, ON M5G 2E5

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Contacting Your Local Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP)

 

Toronto has 22 MPPs who sit in the provincial legislature at Queen's Park. It is important to let your local MPP know that the OMB is an important issue to you.

 

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If you don't know the name of your MPP or your local electoral district, you can search by postal code here. You are also very welcome to write or call me (at 416 392 7906) for assistance contacting your local MPP.

   

Toronto Star: Province proposes limiting powers of Ontario Municipal Board

Review of powerful appeals body aims to give more consideration to local planning process.

 

 

October 5, 2016

Jennifer Pagliaro

The Toronto Star

 

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, whose department oversees the Ontario Municipal Board, said there is little agreement on how best to reform the land use planning process in the province but that it should centre on “healthy, sustainable and safe” communities.

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, whose department oversees the Ontario Municipal Board, said there is little agreement on how best to reform the land use planning process in the province but that it should centre on “healthy, sustainable and safe” communities. (ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)

 

The province is proposing putting new limits on the controversial and powerful appeals body that oversees land use in Ontario.

 

After launching a review of the Ontario Municipal Board earlier this summer, Minister of Municipal Affairs Bill Mauro said Wednesday the review will address criticism that the board often ignores planning decisions made at the local level.

 

“We are going to try as best we’re able through the proposed changes that we’re putting forward to show more deference for local, municipal decision-making,” Mauro said at a news conference at Queen’s Park.

 

The quasi-judicial OMB — which hears disputes on everything from monster homes to developers’ proposals for tall buildings that ignore city planning guidelines — has long been the bane of communities and councils.

 

It is one of the most powerful appeal bodies of its kind in North America, with the ability to hear appeals as if they were new proposals and to overturn council decisions — allowing developers to circumvent the process of community consultation, review by city planning staff and approval by elected city councils.

 

In the 10 years since the last OMB reforms — changes that asked the board to “have regard” for local councils and communities — politicians of all leanings and residents have called those efforts insincere.

 

In Toronto, which is experiencing unprecedented growth in urban centres, councillors have long called for meaningful reform and, frequently, abolishing the board altogether.

 

Mauro made clear the province would not look at scrapping the OMB, but said the province is taking the review “very seriously.”

 

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, whose department oversees the OMB, said there is little agreement on how best to reform the land use planning process but that it should centre on “healthy, sustainable and safe” communities.

 

“Communities that provide a high quality of life don’t just happen. They’re carefully thought out and developed. They can support the needs of current and future residents,” he said. “The status quo is not working.”

 

Toronto councillors representing quickly growing neighbourhoods — in some cases areas that have already surpassed the province’s growth plan — have started ringing alarm bells about the strain on communities.

 

“It’s about quality of life,” Councillor Josh Matlow, who represents part of the Yonge-Eglinton area, told council in July. “The streetscape, the playgrounds, the parks, the recreation, the child care, the schools — the things that, no matter how big we become, how do we support our communities with the soft and the hard infrastructure that supports building a community rather than just a bunch of condos?”

 

A consultation paper released Wednesday is meant to guide discussions after initial feedback from cities and other stakeholders.

 

The province’s proposals for reform include:

  • Only allow the OMB to hear appeals on the “validity of the decision” by council, limiting the OMB’s ability to hear appeals and completely overturn decisions.
  • Preventing appeals of secondary plans, which are neighbourhood-specific plans, for two years.
  • Requiring the OMB to send “significant new information” arising from a hearing back to councils for re-evaluation before rendering a decision.
  • More actively promoting mediation to settle disputes, preventing adversarial hearings.
  • Better training OMB members, who are appointed by the province.

 

 

The province will hold town hall meetings, the dates for which have yet to be announced. Consultation will end Dec. 19. Mauro said the hope is to have new legislation by the spring.

 

To read this article in its original form, please visit: https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2016/10/05/province-proposes-limiting-powers-of-ontario-municipal-board.html

   

OMB: Good for developers, bad for cities?

Toronto Star. June 23, 2012

 

The story of the Ontario Municipal Board is a story about the future of Toronto: whether, as growth redraws the skyline, this city will be a paint-by-numbers or a work of art.

 

As a quasi-judicial tribunal that hears appeals arriving from municipal planning decisions, the OMB’s story is also one strewn with enough mind-numbing jargon to stupefy the average city resident.

 

Not so for the average city councillor.

 

OMB? Those are “the scariest three letters known to humankind,” says Mary-Margaret McMahon.

 

“It’s the kiss of death,” says Pam McConnell.

 

It could ruin your tomatoes, says Josh Matlow.

 

“This affects the very way we build our city. This affects what you see in your neighbourhood every day,” he argues.

 

“This affects whether you’re going to have a shadow over your tomato garden in your backyard,” or a ruinous commute, or any number of quality-of-life issues.

 

In February, with Matlow and Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam leading the charge, council voted 34–5 to ask the province to quash the OMB’s planning power over Toronto. Though only Queen’s Park can make that decision, Toronto isn’t the only body agitating for a change. Mississauga already voted to dismantle the OMB last year, one Markham councillor wants the same, and Wong-Tam says she’s heard rumblings from Hamilton and Ottawa.

Read more: OMB: Good for developers, bad for cities?

   

Toronto Star: Ontario Municipal Board interference in Toronto’s development needs to end

February 7, 2012

Consider it a welcome declaration of independence. Toronto’s residents, urban planners and elected councillors will have a lot more say over neighbourhood development if this city succeeds in freeing itself from a century-old oppressor.

No, the bully Toronto wants to escape isn’t some local Scut Farkus (“He had yellow eyes!”) It’s the Ontario Municipal Board — an unelected, widely despised, quasi-judicial provincial agency with the power to overrule any community’s development decisions.

The board has repeatedly done just that in Toronto, notably in 2007 when it ruled in favour of developers and approved a series of highrise residential buildings on a culturally important section of Queen St. West. The decision came over the objections of local residents, the arts community, city planners, Toronto’s mayor and city councillors.

 

Read more: Toronto Star: Ontario Municipal Board interference in Toronto’s development needs to end

   
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