For the past few years, Toronto City Councillors including Kristyn Wong-Tam, Mary-Margaret McMahon, Pam McConnell, and Josh Matlow have been taking a stance against the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). Established in 1906 as the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board, the province’s independent, arms-length land-use appeals board has been subject to recent criticism over its apparent overreach in Toronto's municipal planning affairs, particularly controversially, its frequent overruling of development applications that many consider to be inappropriately-scaled and which have been refused by City planning staff.

Presumably in response to these recurring concerns, the province is undergoing a review of the OMB, exploring possible changes, that, if carried out, would decrease the number of appeals brought to it, open up to process for increased public participation, and put increased value on the municipal and provincial decisions being appealed.

Toronto skyline, image by Richard Pilon via Flickr

The changes aim to move away from "de novo" hearings, which handle each OMB appeal without any consideration of previous municipal council decision. Expansion of local appeal body authorities to cover appeals related to site plans would help to resolve individual property disputes regarding details like landscaping and lighting, while a new proposed requirement would have the OMB send new information from hearings back to municipal planning bodies to be re-evaluated. Other changes under consideration include the limiting of appeals for municipal decisions to developing neighbourhood plans, and the limiting of appeals on provincial land-use planning decisions.

“We know we have to take a good look at the OMB’s role in the land-use planning system", said Bill Mauro, Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs. "We want to ensure that the OMB is working as effectively and efficiently as possible. We’re seeking input in a number of areas, including what can be appealed, who may appeal and how the OMB hears matters.”

One of the first steps in the review will be consulting the public on these possible changes to the OMB. Those wishing to participate in the consultation process can share comments online or in person at one of the upcoming town hall meetings planned around the province this fall. Comments must be submitted by December 19, 2016.

We will be sure to return with updates as new details about the OMB review emerge. In the meantime, you can also share your opinion here, using the comments section provided at the bottom of this page.