Transitioning to Post-OMB Planning in Ward 25

A new release from the Provincial government indicates that the oppressive reign of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) over development in the City of Toronto is finally drawing to a close. At the end of February, the Province announced that Bill 139, the planning reform passed by the Legislature in December, will come into effect on April 3, 2018.
As many of you are aware, I have been a vocal opponent of the OMB throughout my tenure as a City Councillor. From the townhouses on Bayview to the towers at Yonge and Eglinton, most of the development applications in Ward 25 have been appealed to and approved by this unelected, unaccountable body. On that note, I am pleased to report that any application received by the City after December 12, 2017 will be considered by the new Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT), a true appeal body with limited power to overrule municipal decisions. Development applications received before December 12 must be appealed by the April 3 proclamation date to be heard by the OMB in its current form.

Unfortunately, the Province's transition plan also includes a provision stating that all decisions appealed before December 12, 2017 will continue to be heard by the existing OMB. As of December 2017, approximately 140 applications had already been appealed to the OMB since the reforms were first announced in the Spring, while only 50 applications were appealed in the same period in 2016. This exponentially increasing volume of appeals has created a significant backlog in the current OMB system that may take years to work through. While we have made significant progress, Toronto is not yet free from the OMB's oppressive presence in our planning processes. The proclamation of Bill 139 is unfortunately too little, too late for many Ward 25 neighbourhoods.    
That being said, Bill 139--the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act--will amend the Planning Act and enact new legislation aimed at giving communities a stronger voice in the planning process. The new LPAT will only hear appeals of municipal decisions that do not follow provincial policies or Toronto's Official Plan. "De novo" hearings, or hearings started anew without reference to earlier decisions, will be virtually eliminated. Bill 139 will also prevent amendments to new Secondary Plans for two years, unless supported by City Council. These policies will allow planners to develop long-term and sustainable plans for the City without the looming threat of OMB appeal.
Under the new system, the timeline for City Council to make a decision on Official Plan amendments will be extended from 180 to 210 days after submission. Zoning by-law amendments will be similarly extended from 120 to 150 days, unless accompanied by an Official Plan amendment, in which case they will also be subject to the 210-day limit. This means that Planners will have more time to review applications and report to City Council, which will prevent developers from circumventing the planning process and appealing to the OMB before Council has an opportunity to make a decision.  
Bill 139 also includes an act to establish Local Planning Appeal Support Centres, which will provide legal and planning assistance to residents in order to level the playing field for all participants in the appeal process. The new legislation will also support clear and efficient decision-making by requiring case management conferences and encouraging mediation.
There is still a lot of uncertainty, but I am cautiously optimistic that this legislation will give residents and municipalities more power to protect the beautiful neighbourhoods of Ward 25 in the years to come. If you have any further questions or concerns about the transition from the OMB to the LPAT, you can contact the Provincial Policy Planning Branch directly

I have fought against the OMB for many years and am pleased to see the Province finally moving forward on this much-needed planning reform. 

I have fought against the OMB for many years and am pleased to see the Province finally moving forward on this much-needed planning reform. 

OMB Update - 200-214 Keewatin

Dear Friends and Neighbours,

I am writing to inform you of a disappointing outcome for our neighbourhood. 

My office recently received notification that the Ontario Municipal Board released a re-interpretation of the March 6, 2017 OMB decision on the application for 200-214 Keewatin Avenue.

The OMB initially refused the developer's proposal, but instead approved a single row of townhouses in the southern block of the site, facing Keewatin Avenue. The decision document, dated March 6, 2017, unequivocally states that the developer is permitted to construct only a single row of townhouses—not back-to-back units.

As you may be aware, the developer subsequently requested the OMB to clarify the language used in this decision document.

 Although the City of Toronto's solicitor submitted a compelling argument in support of the community, the OMB released their decision on February 15, 2018, permitting the applicant to construct two rows of townhouses, back-to-back, in the southern block of the site.

Despite the language used in the initial decision document (highlighted in attached), the OMB has now ordered that the applicants revised plans, which adjust the front and rear setbacks and eliminate one building (thereby leaving two rows of townhouses back-to-back), "…satisfy the directed revisions contained in the Order of the Board dated March 6, 2017 and found at paragraph 64 (b) (i) of that Order."

To clarify, the developer is still not permitted to construct any townhouses in the northern block—there will only be one building. Unfortunately, this building will contain double the amount of townhomes permitted by the initial 2017 OMB decision.

I am at a loss to explain this interpretation of the stipulations put forward in the March 2017 decision. It is unclear why a "clarification" of the language used in a decision took almost an entire year to complete.

As you know, the OMB is an unelected and unaccountable quasi-judicial body that makes the final decision on planning appeals for the Province of Ontario. When an application is appealed to the OMB, it’s the Province – not the City of Toronto – that decides if the application is approved. I have been fighting against the OMB since I was first elected to office. This decision confirms my long-held opinion that the OMB is neither a transparent nor fair institution.

The neighbourhood mounted an impressive effort to oppose this application at the 2016 OMB hearing, and the Board's initial decision was a reflection of their hard work. For this reason, I am disappointed that the OMB did not defend the decision outlined in the March 6, 2017 document. I don’t believe that it is fair for an unelected body to re-interpret a decision, made in clear language, behind closed doors.

The February 15, 2018 OMB document directly contradicts the position of City Planning, City Legal, and most importantly, the surrounding neighbourhood. This is a precedent-setting townhouse development on one of the most beautiful and eclectic streets in Midtown Toronto.

After learning of the OMB's recent decision, I immediately scheduled a meeting with City Legal and was informed that there is, unfortunately, no avenue for appeal or recourse. 

On December 12, 2017, the Province passed new legislation intended to reform the OMB and empower local residents. Unfortunately, the transition is progressing slowly and the Province has yet to set an official date for the bill to come into effect. If you would like to see the Province move forward on this issue, I would recommend that you contact your local Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP).

Thank you for your engagement on this file.