February 6, 2012
Seeking to give residents more say about what gets built in their neighbourhoods, Toronto City Council has asked the province to free the city from the Ontario Municipal Board’s jurisdiction.
Council endorsed the proposal in 34-5 vote on Monday. The vote is expected to prompt talks with the province over how to revamp the quasi-judicial board, which hears appeals of zoning decisions and frequently overturns council.
“We’ve heard time and time again from our residents that there’s an inequitable playing field,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, who has been urging changes along with Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.
“Developers simply have a better chance at the OMB because they have the financial resources, the ability to get planners and lawyers, anything they need to be able to argue their case,” Matlow said.
Council was told that the city had 121 cases at the board in 2011 involving about 240 days of hearings. The city wins some and loses some, said chief planner Gary Wright.
“We do definitely lose some notable OMB decisions but it is a mixed bag of decisions,” Wright said. “Sometimes it is favourable to us.”
The development industry, represented by the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), is satisfied with the current system.
“In principle, BILD strongly supports the necessity of the Ontario Municipal Board, by providing an impartial, adjudicative tribunal, further removed from local political pressures,” the organization said in a letter to council.
Wong-Tam said Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Kathleen Wynne is aware of the city’s concerns. “I predict that in 24 months we’ll see significant changes to the planning process in Toronto,” Wong-Tam said.
As an interim step, council asked the province to have Toronto cases heard only by OMB members who live in the city.
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