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Free Toronto from the OMB

In February 2012, City Council agreed with a motion submitted by Councillor Wong-Tam and I that it is finally time to rid Toronto of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), a quasi-judicial, anti-democratic body that has final say over local planning decisions.

 

City Council has written to the Provincial government requesting that Toronto be freed from the burden of planning under the OMB. In the meantime, we are making progress on establishing our own local appeals body to deal with Committee of Adjustment decisions, removing many smaller appeals from the OMB's jurisdiction.

 

Thank you to all the residents that answered my call to make oral and written deputations – your voice made a difference! It is time to protect the fabric and character of our local neighbourhoods and allow our elected representatives to have the final say on the future of Toronto's neighbourhoods.

Free Toronto from the OMB! Stop Inappropriate Development

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!

 

Linda Jeffrey, 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.

   

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

   

The Bulletin: City committee moves to dump OMB

November 7, 2011

 

On the agenda for the next City of Toronto Planning and Growth Management Committee meeting on Nov. 8 is a motion to abolish the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). Under the current system, developers have little incentive to negotiate in good faith with the city, a process they see simply as a formality en route to a developer-friendly OMB appeal hearing. As a result, city councillors, city staff with expertise in planning and development, and citizens have little say over planning decisions that affect the future and development of Toronto neighbourhoods.

 

Read more: The Bulletin: City committee moves to dump OMB

   
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