Ontario to Overhaul Land Use Planning Appeals System to Give Local Communities a Stronger Voice in Land Use Planning Decisions
Issue / Background:
On May 16, 2017 the Ontario Government announced it was taking action to overhaul the province’s land use planning appeals system to give communities a stronger voice in land use planning decisions and ensure people have access to faster, fairer and more affordable hearings. As part of this process legislation will be introduced to create the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, which if passed, will replace the Ontario Municipal Board.
The proposed legislation will include various measures to transform Ontario’s land use planning appeals system, including:
- Mandating the new tribunal to give greater weight to the decisions of local communities, while ensuring that development and growth occurs in a way that is good for Ontario and its future.
- Eliminating lengthy and costly “de novo” hearings for the majority of planning appeals.
- Exempting a broader range of major land use planning decisions from appeal, including new Official Plans, major Official Plan updates and detailed plans to support growth in major transit areas.
- Establishing a mandatory case conference for complex hearings to encourage early settlements, which would help reduce the time and cost of appeals and create a less adversarial system.
It will include reforms aimed at giving communities a stronger voice in local land use planning decisions including:
- For complex land use planning appeals, the tribunal will only be able to overturn a municipal decision if it does not follow provincial policies or municipal plans. This is a departure from the current “standard of review” for land use planning appeals, where the Ontario Municipal Board is permitted to overturn a municipal decision whenever it finds that the municipality did not reach the “best” planning decision.
- In these cases, the tribunal will be required to return the matter to the municipality with written reasons when it overturns a decision, instead of replacing the municipality’s decision with its own. The municipality will be provided with 90 days to make a new decision on an application under the proposed new law.
- The tribunal will retain the authority to make a final decision on these matters only when, on a second appeal, the municipality’s subsequent decision still fails to follow provincial policies or municipal plans.
The Ontario government has identified the following Proposed Hearing Process:
The proposed legislation will also:
- Restrict applications to amend new secondary (i.e. neighbourhood) plans for two years, unless permitted by a municipal council, and limit the ability to appeal an interim control by-law when first passed for a period of up to one year.
- Give Local Appeal Bodies (LABS) more authority. If passed the legislation will allow LABS to be able to hear appeals on site plans, in addition to their current scope of minor variances and consents.
The following matters will no longer be appealable under the proposed law:
- Provincial approvals of official plans and official plan updates, including approvals of conformity exercises to provincial plans.
- Minister’s Zoning Orders.
The proposed new legislation will introduce major changes to the way land use planning appeals are conducted in order to reduce the length and cost of hearings and create a more level playing field for all participants as follows:
- Requiring the tribunal to conduct mandatory case management for the majority of cases in order to narrow the issues and encourage case settlement. The tribunal will also be provided with modern case management powers to ensure meaningful case conferences.
- Creating statutory rules regarding the conduct of hearings, including setting strict presumptive timelines for oral hearings and limiting evidence to written materials in the majority of cases.
- Providing the tribunal with modern hearing powers to promote active adjudication, provide for alternative hearing formats and permit assignment of multi-member panels.
- Giving elected officials greater control over local planning, resulting in fewer decisions being appealed, thereby making the decision-making process more efficient.
Questions & Answers:
Q1. Are the changes identified by the Province in effect?
A1. The changes identified in this briefing note are based upon a Provincial press release and background papers and have not been accompanied by a Bill to enact legislative changes. To take effect the legislation has to be introduced in Parliament and then “passed” by the Legislative Assembly. The changes will come into effect once a bill with the legislative changes is “passed” by the Legislative Assembly by receiving three readings and upon receiving Royal Assent. The “passed” bill becomes an Act and the changes contained in it come into effect.
Q2. When will the legislative changes or “Bill” to reform the OMB be introduced?
A2. It is unknown at this time when the province will introduce a bill containing the proposed changes discussed in this briefing note, although we understand it is the Government’s intention to do this shortly.
Q3. Will there be an opportunity to comment on the changes contained in the Bill?
A3. Following the release of the bill to reform the OMB, City Planning staff intend to report to Council on the proposed changes contained in the Bill. Council will have an opportunity to express their comments on the proposed changes or make recommendations for further reforms. The Province has not identified the length of the commenting period.
Prepared by: Kerri Voumvakis, Director, Strategic Initiatives, Policy & Analysis and Mario Giambattista, Project Coordinator, Strategic Initiatives, Policy & Analysis
Circulated to: Mayor Tory and Members of Council
Further information: Kerri Voumvakis, Director, SIPA, 416-392-8148
Date: May 23, 2017