Many landowners, stakeholders and urban enthusiasts in Toronto are familiar with the Committee of Adjustment and the roll that it plays in real estate and development in the city. The quasi-judicial body, which operates panels in Etobicoke/York, North York, Scarborough and Toronto/East York, consists of citizen members who are appointed by Toronto City Council. It regularly holds public hearings to consider applications for minor zoning variances, land severances and various other permissions and consents.
Typically the most highly publicized of these variances are applications to add entire floors to proposed or under construction high-rises, a fairly common occurrence in a city seeing unprecedented development. Such variances can sometimes be controversial, particularly where the application takes place after the conclusion of a contentious approvals process wherein the developer, the City and local stakeholders had negotiated over only a handful of floors. One noteworthy example is Nicholas Residences. Initially proposed at 44-storeys, the tower was negotiated down by planning staff to 29-storeys in response to fierce opposition from local residents before being approved by City Council. Subsequently the developer made an application to the Committee of Adjustment to increase the tower to 35 storeys.
Ultimately the application to the Committee of Adjustment was denied and the developer planned to appeal the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board, however such appeals often require considerable time, effort and expense for all parties involved, and are often avoided for this reason. In this case, perhaps unsurprisingly, a last minute deal saw a fight at the Ontario Municipal Board averted when the local residents acquiesced to the additional floors in exchange for $750,000 in community benefits.
Given the imperfect nature of this system, the Province of Ontario granted the City of Toronto the power to establish a Local Appeal Body to hear appeals of Committee of Adjustment decisions on both minor variances and consent applications. The Local Appeal Body would be composed of such persons as the City considers advisable (subject to certain by-laws regarding such things as eligibility criteria and other restrictions).
At its December 4th, 2013, meeting, City Council's Planning and Growth Management Committee requested the Chief Planner and Executive Director of City Planning to initiate a public consultation process on the establishment and implementation of this Local Appeal Body. If you are interested in attending one of these consultations, they will be held at the following dates and locations:
- February 24, 2014 – York Civic Centre, Council Chamber, 2700 Eglinton Avenue West
- March 3, 2014 – North York Civic Centre, Council Chamber, 5100 Yonge Street
- March 5, 2014 – Scarborough Civic Centre, Rotunda, 150 Borough Drive
- March 17, 2014 – Metro Hall, rooms 308 and 309, 55 John Street
Though the public consultation to be held in Etobicoke has already occurred, residents are welcome to attend any of the other sessions. Each meeting will begin at 6:45 p.m. with a staff presentation taking place at 7 p.m. followed by a question-and-answer period and facilitated discussion.
A staff report on the results of the public consultation is expected to be considered in the spring. For more information visit www.toronto.ca/localappealbody and stay tuned with UrbanToronto for updates as they come!
Rami Kozman is a commercial real estate lawyer in Toronto and can be found on Twitter at twitter.com/ramikozman.
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