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OMB Reform

jje1000

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I'm largely concerned about NIMBY groups gaining additional power, especially in the suburbs.

NIMBY-ism these days has really shed its traditional grassroots origins (Greenwich Village, Spadina Expressway) and has really become about a largely white, land-owning cohort concerned more about the value of their properties than anything else.

To them anything will always be too tall, too dense, too large, adds too much shade, not enough parking, too much traffic, etc.
 
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AlvinofDiaspar

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Provincial news release:

https://news.ontario.ca/mma/en/2017/05/giving-communities-a-stronger-voice-in-development.html

Backgrounder: https://news.ontario.ca/mma/en/2017/05/ontarios-proposed-changes-to-the-land-use-planning-appeal-system.html

Backgrounder
Ontario's Proposed Changes to the Land Use Planning Appeal System
May 16, 2017 9:15 A.M.

Ministry of Municipal Affairs

Ontario will introduce new legislation that would, if passed, overhaul the province's land use planning appeals system, giving communities a stronger voice and ensuring people have access to faster, fairer and more affordable hearings.

Giving Communities a Stronger Voice
The new law would establish the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, which would replace the Ontario Municipal Board. The Planning Act would be amended to eliminate "de novo" hearings for the majority of land use planning appeals. Instead, the tribunal would function as a true appeals body for major land use planning decisions.

The proposed law will include the following reforms aimed at giving communities a stronger voice in local land use planning decisions:

  • For complex land use planning appeals, the tribunal would only be able to overturn a municipal decision if it does not follow provincial policies or municipal plans. This would depart 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 would 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 would be provided with 90 days to make a new decision on an application under the proposed new law.
  • The tribunal would 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.
Under this new model, the tribunal would be required to give greater weight to the decisions of local communities, while ensuring that development occurs in a way that is good for Ontario and its future.

Faster, Fairer and More Affordable Planning Appeals
The proposed new law would 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. Proposed reforms will include:

  • 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 would 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.
Free Legal and Planning Support
The province proposes to create the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre, a new provincial agency mandated to provide free and independent advice and representation to Ontarians on land use planning appeals. The centre would be modeled after the Human Rights Legal Support Centre and would provide planning and legal advice to people who want to participate in tribunal appeals. The centre would deliver the following services:

  • Providing Ontarians with general information on land use planning.
  • Offering guidance to citizens on the tribunal appeal and hearing process.
  • Providing legal and planning advice at different stages of the tribunal process, including representation in certain cases at case conferences and hearings.
Sheltering Major Planning Decisions from Appeal
The proposed new legislation would also include measures to exempt a broader range of major municipal land use planning decisions from appeal, which would provide municipalities with greater certainty and timely implementation of major decisions. The following matters would 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.
Local Appeal Bodies would also be given more authority. They would be able to hear appeals on site plans, in addition to their current scope of minor variances and consents.

The legislation would also restrict applications to amend new secondary (i.e. neighbourhood) plans for two years, unless permitted by municipal council, and limit the ability to appeal an interim control by-law when first passed for a period of up to one year. The legislation would also protect municipal policies that support appropriate development around protected major transit station areas, such as GO Train stations and subway stops.

AoD
 

Waterloo_Guy

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The one bright side to this is that it might make the approvals process much quicker since developers will probably be filing fewer appeals in the future. Faster approvals are a very good thing.
 

jje1000

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Same here. But it sounds like they will be required to make decisions based on existing laws and regulations, and appeals bodies have no reason to cave to public pressure.
But then you end up with organized "community" groups putting pressure on city politicians to adjust the city plans/regulations. And then planning starts becoming attached to the election cycle, which it should not.

See John Tory gladhanding the bunch of midtowners who are happy to put their children in front of a camera in order to decry development beside John Fisher public school.

And of course:
The reform package comes after a lengthy review process, years of criticism of the OMB and recent headlines about a 35-storey condo on a site next to a Toronto public school in Ms. Wynne’s own midtown riding.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/omb-challenges-to-be-barred-within-500-metres-of-transit-stations/article34979676/
 
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Waterloo_Guy

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But then you end up with organized "community" groups putting pressure on city politicians to adjust the city plans/regulations. And then planning starts becoming attached to the election cycle, which it should not.

See John Tory gladhanding the bunch of midtowners who are happy to put their children in front of a camera in order to decry development beside John Fisher public school.

And of course:


http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/omb-challenges-to-be-barred-within-500-metres-of-transit-stations/article34979676/
All true. Unfortunate, but true.
 

ADRM

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Plus the city's current planning guidelines largely suck and continue to perpetuate the mess we're in.
 

Waterloo_Guy

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From the front page story:

The Ontario Home Builder's Association (OHBA) is concerned that this new Tribunal will put politics ahead of smart growth planning, making it much harder to add more housing to municipalities across the province. Additionally, these changes could very well undermine the province's own planning policies aimed at densifying cities. Regarding the local politics ordeal, Joe Vaccaro, CEO of OHBA stated, "...it will only serve to empower NIMBY councils to make planning decisions to get re-elected. The role of the OMB has always been to take the politics out of local planning and ensure that decisions are based on evidence, 'good planning', and conformity to provincial policy".

Does this really make sense? This new body will be required to uphold provincial laws and regulations. How could it undermine the province's policies if it is required to adhere to them when making a ruling?
 

HDLtd

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The new body will have to consider provincial policy, and municipal policy, and determine whether or not the decision by council was in conformity with those policies. Municipal policy is so vague that a 5 storey building and a 50 storey building could at the same time be in conformance with the official plan.

This will grind development to a halt. Very bad for growth, very bad for housing prices, trade jobs, manufacturing jobs tied to construction, architects, planners, engineers etc. Basically a significant part of our economy... All because of a few nimbys who fear change.
 

Waterloo_Guy

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This will grind development to a halt.
I think it will do the opposite. The planning department is very pro-development, even though they quibble over height. They don't want to oppose development. And if this new process is faster than the OMB, it will move developments along more quickly.

The biggest problem is that ambitious proposals will often be shot down. But I think the supply of new units will be fine.
 

HDLtd

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The planning department is very pro-development, even though they quibble over height.
We are talking about the City of Toronto, right?

Planners are required to apply local policies to new development applications. Most if not all new policies are brought forward by council and are if not overtly anti-development, drafted to put more control in local councillors hands.
 

jje1000

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Axing OMB boosts cities’ planning power – for better or for worse

The details of the reform aren’t entirely clear, but the theme certainly is: the new body will defer more to local government. Rather than the current OMB, a quasi-court that involves well-paid lawyers and planners, the new body will work based on paper submissions. And it will only overrule municipal decisions if they don’t match existing provincial policy or local plans.
In theory, this is an excellent idea. Local planners should have the freedom to plan a city, a neighbourhood or a block comprehensively. Most growth in Ontario is now “intensification,” or adding to existing built-up areas; planners should be able to apply their vision to this complex work.
But planning is political. Even if planners have all the right answers – and they don’t – they work for local elected officials, who are heavily influenced by local residents’ groups. These are the people whose voices are loudest: citizens who own property, those who have spare time and those with a strong sense of their own status. (Just scan the news for controversies about towers in affluent North Toronto.)

In other words, local planning is shaped by boomers with connections and money. It’s no accident that the proposed change will make them even more influential.
For now, the OMB provides an outlet valve, particularly in Toronto. Under the current system, the Board serves as a mediator between developers and city planners, and as a bogeyman that takes the pressure off local politicians. Councillors can throw up their hands if neighbours complain about a new building: What can they do, after all, when the OMB is sure to let the developers win?
The board has often unfairly taken the blame for municipal dysfunction, particularly in Toronto. In much of that city, there is a fundamental disconnect between the city’s Official Plan – the big-picture vision about its future – and zoning, which specifies the details of what’s allowed on a particular site.
The proposed changes would clarify all that. Cities will have to take final responsibility for the choices they make. And here is the problem: local politicians have few incentives to make the right choices. Almost nobody wants a bigger new building on their block and too many progressives still see the development industry as inherently evil, rather than as providers of necessary housing.
If municipal leaders understand that – and they will, if they listen to top planners – they’ll respond. They will use their new powers to call for clear, specific plans that accommodate growth. Toronto Mayor John Tory will ask his planning department for a new zoning map that makes room for the city’s projected 700,000 new residents between 2011 and 2041, in realistic configurations and in areas where people actually want to move. Councillors will tell their constituents that those new townhouses, or that apartment building, are necessary. They will back their staff planners and stand up to neighbours shouting too tall, too much.

Or else they’ll pander to the house-rich; real estate will become even scarcer; and those who already own real estate will own the future. Time will tell – and perhaps some nudges from the province will make sure cities use their freedom in the right way.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/scrapping-omb-boosts-cities-planning-power-for-better-or-for-worse/article35007990/
 
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