This morning at Fort York, Lindy Jeffrey, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, announced that her government would be seeking input as to how the province could improve land use planning. Over the next 80 days, consultations will be held to examine issues such as Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) appeals, development charges, and Section 37 benefits.

Linda Jeffrey, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Fort York, TorontoMinister Jeffrey announces upcoming consultations at Fort York. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

“Our government wants to allow communities in this province to reach their potential”, said Jeffrey, indicating that the government was holding these consultations in order to address concerns from both developers and municipal leaders, and to create a fairer, more transparent system, especially given the rapid growth that many parts of the province—especially Toronto—has seen.

“All of these changes create challenges, but they also create opportunities.”

The province says they will be requesting feedback on the following areas:

  • how land use planning in Ontario can be improved, and if changes should be made over what can be appealed to the OMB;
  • changing the Development Charges Act; and
  • creating more transparency and guidance over how the Planning Act's section 37 benefits are calculated and applied, including parkland dedication

Consultation will run until January 10th, 2014, with workshops to be held in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Peel Region, and Toronto. Dates and locations for these workshops have, of the writing of this article, not been released.

Jeffrey said that she is known for giving homework, and that today was no different: “Your homework is to give us your best advice”.

Perhaps more notable than what is being reviewed, is what is not being reviewed. According to the press release, the following are off the table (http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page10355.aspx):

  • eliminating or changing the OMB’s operations, practices and procedures;
  • removing or restricting the provincial government’s approval role and ability to intervene in matters;
  • removing municipal flexibility in addressing local priorities;
  • changing the “growth pays for growth” principle of development charges;
  • education development charges and the development charges appeal system; or
  • other fees and taxes and matters involving other legislation, unless housekeeping changes are needed.

Linda Jeffrey, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Fort York, TorontoMinister Jeffrey takes questions after her presser. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

In a scrum afterwards, Jeffrey noted that development charges were a sore point both developers and municipalities, with one suggesting that are too high, and the other suggesting they are too low. “What we're looking for is evidence so both sides can have confidence they're being spent wisely”. When asked about the timing of this announcement, Jeffrey said that these consultations are simply part of an ongoing review of many provincial acts and laws, including the review of the 2005 Provincial Policy Statement.

Rosario Marchese, NDP member from Trinity-Spadina, appeared afterwards to criticize the Liberal government for failing to take action. Marchese is the author of Bill 20, which is under review, and seeks to remove the City of Toronto from the OMB's purview, Marchese said that the Board was what need to be examined, saying that “they cannot be the planning authority. The government seems paralyzed over what to do, so they've set up another panel.”

What do you think about this announcement? Do you agree with Jeffrey that this consultation is due, or do you agree with Marchese and the solutions have already clearly been identified? Leave a comment below!