Josh Matlow and Kristin Wong-Tam
April 10th, 2014
Toronto is growing quickly. Our city’s planning staff should spend their time designing complete neighbourhoods with access to transit, vibrant business areas, green space and social supports.
The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is a quasi-judicial, unelected and unaccountable provincial body that has the final say on all planning decisions in Ontario. The tribunal’s powers to overrule decisions made by elected municipal representatives are anti-democratic and often lead to planning decisions that support the development industry over our communities and our official plan.
That’s why we went to Queen’s Park Thursday to speak about Bill 20 — the Respect for Municipalities Act (City of Toronto). The bill would remove the City of Toronto from the purview of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
The Province is mandating higher densities in areas such as Yonge-Eglinton and Yorkville but not taking into consideration the added stress on fully-enrolled schools, narrow streets and sidewalks and our crowded subway system. Developers are proposing new condominiums that are too high and dense. In many cases they run to the OMB at the first opportunity.
Though commonly referred to as an “appeals” body, the OMB treats appeals of municipal planning decisions to the OMB as “de novo”, or new, giving little deference to the rulings of elected city councils.
It is wrong that Toronto’s elected local representatives and professional planners are ignored by appointed OMB members from Windsor or Wawa who generally have only a vague understanding of our city and the fabric and character of our neighbourhoods.
The current OMB hearing process is too cumbersome, expensive, time-consuming and legalistic to facilitate wide-ranging citizen participation. Deep-pocketed developers can hire the best lawyers, planners and other experts to argue their case. A 2009 study found developers come out on top 64% of the time at the OMB.
Toronto is growing quickly. Our city’s planning staff should spend their time designing complete neighbourhoods with access to transit, vibrant business areas, green space and social supports. Unfortunately, they spend too much time defending appeals by developers at the OMB. It’s time to free Toronto from the OMB.
Josh Matlow and Kristyn Wong-Tam are Toronto city councillors.
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