On May 2, 2019, the Province tabled Bill 108: More Homes, More Choice Act in the legislature. Bill 108 includes major amendments to the planning processes used to review development applications in the City of Toronto. These changes are incredibly discouraging and, if passed, will have a significant impact on the future of our neighbourhoods.
After years of hard work fighting to protect our neighbourhoods and improve the accountability of the planning process for local residents, the proposed changes are extremely disheartening.
Over the past eight years, I've moved countless motions to improve the local planning process for residents. As you know, I've been a vocal opponent of the OMB, a quasi-judicial Provincial body that makes the final decision on development applications appealed in Toronto. From the townhouses on Bayview to the high-rises along Eglinton, most of the development applications in Ward 15 have been appealed to and approved by this unelected, unaccountable body.
In spring 2017, after significant advocacy from residents across Toronto – including many groups in Ward 15 – the province announced sweeping changes to the development appeal process through Bill 139. This legislation replaced the OMB with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), a true appeal body with limited power to overrule municipal decisions, and enacted new policies to give communities a stronger voice in the planning process.
If passed, the new provincial legislation, Bill 108, will walk back many of the neighbourhood-planning based reforms we fought for as a community. Significantly, this includes a return to the former OMB rules and procedures. Instead of reviewing appeals based on the existing, rigorously researched municipal and provincial planning policies, the revised LPAT would be able to issue a decision on a development independent of the municipalities and neighbourhoods affected.
Bill 108 proposes to reinstitute “de novo” hearings, or hearings started anew without reference to the City’s decision on an application. This change will limit the City’s ability to deny development applications and instead will expand the authority of the province to make decisions that impact our local neighbourhoods, without any consultation. The proposed legislation is essentially a reversion to the format of the former OMB hearings under the new LPAT name.
Bill 108 also proposes a major reduction in planning decision timelines. The proposed legislation would reduce timelines for consideration of Zoning Bylaw Amendment (ZBA) applications from 150 to 90 days and Official Plan Amendment (OPA) applications from 210 to 120 days. Reducing the time planners have to review applications and report to City Council will ultimately allow applicants the ability to appeal to the more developer-friendly LPAT system much earlier in the process, thereby circumventing the City’s rigorous development review process.
Additionally, Bill 108 proposes significant changes to the development charge process. Currently, under Sections 37 and 42 of the Planning Act, developers are required to contribute to neighbourhoods being affected by new development through financial provisions for community benefits such as parks, streetscape improvements, and neighbourhood services. Bill 108 proposes a provincially-determined cap on all parkland and community-related development charges.
At the May meeting of City Council, I introduced a series of successful motions:
While the Province closed the official comment period on June 1, allowing less than a month for the public to respond to Bill 108, the City has requested the Province to provide more time for feedback. The City has also released a comprehensive report detailing the implications of Bill 108. You can access the full report here. In response to my Council motion, an online website and public guide is now available here.
I would encourage you to continue to share your thoughts on this concerning legislation with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing at firstname.lastname@example.org.