After years of advocating alongside my colleague, Kristyn-Wong Tam and local residents’ associations, the Ontario legislature voted to move forward with major changes to the planning appeals system in Toronto yesterday. Bill 139, the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017 will replace the OMB with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. While I have serious concerns that the permissive transition regulations are leading to a rush of planning applications being appealed prior to the new Tribunal being in place, the new rules will significantly level the playing field between communities and developers.
From the provincial Bill 139 backgrounder, here are some of the significant reforms coming to the planning process under the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal:
- “de novo” (entirely new) hearings for the majority of land use planning appeals will be eliminated. Instead, the tribunal will function more like a true appeal body for major land use planning decisions.
- Under the new standard of review for land use planning appeals involving matters like official plans and zoning bylaws, the tribunal will only be able to overturn a matter if the tribunal determines that the municipal decision is inconsistent with, or does not conform to provincial policies and municipal plans.
- Establishing clear timelines for the hearing process to help ensure timely decisions
- Eliminating lengthy and often confrontational examinations and cross-examinations of witnesses by parties and their lawyers at the oral hearings of major land use planning appeals
- The act will establish the free Local Planning Appeal Support Centre, a new provincial agency, offering guidance on the Tribunal process and general planning matters as well as providing planning and/or legal representation in some cases.
- Provincial approvals of official plans and official plan updates, including approvals of conformity exercises to provincial plans will be shielded from appeal
- Secondary Plans (such as Midtown in Focus in the Yonge-Eglinton area) will be shielded from amendment applications for 2 years after approval
Council Votes against Value-for-Money Audit (the most basic and relevant facts) on Scarborough Transit
It is unfortunate that, yet again, the Mayor and Council decided to not ask for relevant and important information, regarding the future of our rapid transit system and the expenditure of billions of tax dollars, by voting against my motion to finally see a Value-for-Money comparison of the 1-stop subway extension with a 7-stop LRT in the McCowan corridor.
I will continue to advocate for honest and evidence-based transit that will serve more people, with more stations, and with every available dollar used thoughtfully. For more information on this issue, please listen to this Metro Morning interview, and read this editorial, column, and article.