Since 2010, I have been working with you to reform Ontario's land-use planning appeals system. Thanks in large part to our community’s feedback, we are finding ways to practically and meaningfully transform our land-use planning system and the OMB so that it is more reflective of the community that we serve. As you may recall, in May the Ontario government introduced Bill 139, the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017. This legislation reflects many ideas that have been raised by our community. In particular, it proposes to replace the OMB with a new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.
As your MPP and the Attorney General, I have worked closely with Minister of Municipal Affairs on Bill 139. The legislation is now being debated and I was able to speak to it on behalf of our community. I encourage you to view my remarks on this important issue here.
If passed, this legislation will strengthen communities voice in the planning process. It accomplishes four objectives:
Creating greater certainty for residents, communities, and developers
Our municipal councils put in tremendous amount of time in creating planning documents such as the Official Plan (OP). They are developed based on consultation with the community, developers, resident groups and elected officials. So it only makes sense that the appeal process shows deference to those plans, giving communities and developers more predictability. That is why the proposed measures include exempting a broader range of major land-use planning decisions from appeal, including new OP, major OP updates, and detailed plans to support growth in major transit areas.
Giving Communities a Stronger Voice in Development
Under the proposed rules, the new tribunal (that is replacing the OMB) would be mandated to give greater weight to the decisions of local communities and governments, while ensuring that development and growth occurs in a way that is good for Ontario and its future. This would be achieved by eliminating lengthy and costly "de novo" hearings for the majority of planning appeals, and ensuring that some matters could only be appealed on the grounds that they do not conform or are not consistent with the provincial and municipal planning documents. Further, the new tribunal could only make decisions on matters based on municipal council's decision, and could only overturn the municipal decision if it does not follow provincial and local plans or policies.
Ensuring Faster, Fairer and More Affordable Hearings
Our reforms will result in faster and fairer hearings - at its heart this is about a culture shift to a less adversarial system. We are proposing to establish clear timelines for pre-hearing and hearing processes so that people can get a better sense of when the tribunal would hear their case, and how long the whole process is going to take. The legislation also requires a mandatory case management process to discuss opportunities for settlement, and possibility to the narrow the scope of an appeal. Importantly, the case management process would also include an opportunity for mediation, so that people can avoid going to the tribunal altogether.
Providing Access to Free Legal and Planning Support for Ontarians
Ontario would also make planning appeals more accessible to the public by creating a new independent agency, the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre. The purpose of this support centre is to provide free legal and planning advice and representation to communities throughout the appeal process. In addition, once an appeal process process is complete, tribunal decisions would be posted for all to see, including new plain language summaries of decision on a revamped, user-friendly website.
I am committed to ensuring that the changes we are proposing to Ontario's land-use planning system put people and communities first. By truly creating a dispute resolution system instead of the current policy making body in the form of OMB, it is my hope that these changes will make residents feel like they have a real voice when it comes to land-use planning decisions, and that they feel empowered to act when a decision is made that they do not think is right. I believe that our proposed changes will create a balanced decision-making process that is more predictable, faster and less costly, and can help ensure that cities and towns reflect the best interests of the people living in them today, as well as future generation.
This website is provided for your convenience. If you'd prefer to call or email, my staff and I would be happy to hear from you.
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