OMB

Opposing Bill 108

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:

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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 minister.mah@ontario.ca.

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Along with my colleagues on City Council, I hosted a Planning Town Hall to discuss the impacts that Bill 108 will have on the City's development review process.  There was a fantastic turn-out at the meeting and Chief Planner Gregg Lintern kicked off the evening with a presentation on how the proposed legislation will affect Toronto's neighbourhoods.

Along with my colleagues on City Council, I hosted a Planning Town Hall to discuss the impacts that Bill 108 will have on the City's development review process.

There was a fantastic turn-out at the meeting and Chief Planner Gregg Lintern kicked off the evening with a presentation on how the proposed legislation will affect Toronto's neighbourhoods.

Update on the Province's Bill 108: More Homes, More Choices Act

After years of hard work and advocacy fighting to protect our local neighbourhoods and abolish the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), I'm extremely disheartened to be writing with an update on the Province's Bill 108: More Homes, More Choice Act, tabled in the legislature late yesterday afternoon.
 
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.
 
Over the past eight years, I've moved countless motions to make our local planning processes more accessible and transparent 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 towers at Yonge and 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 reforms we fought for as a community, including:
 
A return to the former OMB rules and procedures. While the LPAT would continue to function as the provincial development appeal body, the Province is proposing changes in line with the former OMB structure. This legislation would reinstitute "de novo" hearings, or hearings started anew without reference to the City's decision on an application. The Bill would also allow parties to introduce new evidence and to call and examine witnesses. The LPAT will issue a decision independent of the municipalities and neighbourhoods affected instead of reviewing appeals in the context of existing municipal plans and provincial planning policies. 
 
This change would reduce the weight of planning decisions made by City Council and expand the authority of provincial LPAT appointees to make decisions that impact our local neighbourhoods, without any consultation. The proposed changes are essentially a reversion back to the format of the former OMB hearings under the new LPAT name.
 
Changes to development charges. Under the current structure, Section 37 of the Planning Act, known as Community Benefits, requires developers to contribute to the neighbourhoods affected by new developments through provisions for community benefits such as park and streetscape improvements.
 
This system has been used to fund community projects and services across Toronto. Bill 108 proposes to make the costs more predictable for developers at the outset of the process by instituting a new authority that would combine and cap all community-related development charges. Parkland Dedication requirements, known as Section 42 funds, and funds to enhance local infrastructure would also be included in the total capped amount. This change would severely limit the City's ability to negotiate community benefits before approving an application.
 
Streamlining development approvals. The proposed planning decision timelines would reduce consideration of Zoning By-law 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.
 
Over the coming weeks, I will be working closely with senior staff as we develop the City's formal response to the Province's proposed legislation.
 
If you are interested, I would encourage you to review Bill 108 and the associated Action Plan and share any concerns with your Member of Provincial Parliament.
 
You can submit your comments on Bill 108 through the Environmental Registry of Ontario, here. I've been advised that the Province will only be accepting comments until June 1, 2019, so we must act quickly.
 
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

The Province’s LPASC is Closing

Last spring, the Province’s Local Planning Appeal Support Centre (LPASC) was introduced to provide expert advice and legal assistance to residents participating in the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) development appeal process. The LPASC was an integral part of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) reform passed by the Provincial Legislature in 2017.

In February, the Province suddenly announced that they would be permanently closing the LPASC. Effective immediately, the Centre will no longer be accepting new requests from the public.

Like many of you, I was shocked and disappointed by the Province’s decision. At the February meeting of City Council, I supported a motion strongly opposing the closure of the LPASC. In my remarks, I spoke at length about the lack of accessibility and transparency for residents participating in complex and expensive proceedings at the LPAT, formerly known as the OMB.

The appeal process is difficult to navigate and often leaves engaged neighbours feeling like they are in a David and Goliath battle against powerful, well-funded developers. While professional developers can assemble large teams of qualified experts, the costs of participating in LPAT mediation or hearings are often prohibitive for concerned neighbours and associations. I would encourage you to reach out to the Premier and Minister of Municipal Affairs to share your concerns about this decision.

Update on the Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan

As many of you know, I've been a vocal opponent of the out-of-control pace of development in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood. In the absence of a comprehensive and up-to-date Secondary Plan, development in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood has gone unchecked by the Province for many years.
 
The negative consequences of this rapid intensification include overcrowded transit, constant construction, traffic congestion, lack of sunlight, significant dust, and lack of green space.
 
Last summer, City Council voted to approve the new Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan, Official Plan Amendment (OPA) 405. You can read more about our community's successful efforts to amend the Secondary Plan and reduce the permitted building heights on my website, here.
 
The Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan requires approval by the Minister of Municipal Affairs before officially coming into effect. We've been advised that the Minister has recently extended his time period to make a decision until June 6, 2019.
 
In light of this impending deadline, I met with the Minister of Municipal Affairs immediately to advise him of our collective efforts on this file over the past eight years. While I cannot predict the Minister's ultimate decision with any certainty, he listened closely to my summary of the community's concerns. Specifically, we discussed how the flood of Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) approvals in this neighbourhood has placed an immense amount of pressure on our existing infrastructure.
 
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the residents of the north-east quadrant of Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood for your support throughout this process.

A Discouraging Update – The LPASC is Closing

In my last newsletter, I provided a brief introduction to the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre (LPASC). The LPASC was introduced to level the playing field for residents participating in the development appeal process.  
 
In February, the Province announced their decision to close the LPASC permanently. Effective immediately, the Centre will no longer be accepting new requests from the public.
 
Like many of you, I was shocked and disappointed by the Province's decision. At the February meeting of City Council, I endorsed the following motion:
 
That City Council advise the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing that the City objects to the closure of the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre.
 
In my remarks to Council, I spoke at length about the lack of accessibility and transparency for residents participating in the complex and expensive development appeal process. The process is difficult to navigate and often leaves engaged neighbours feeling like they are in a David and Goliath battle against powerful, well-funded developers.
 
While professional developers can assemble large teams of qualified experts, the costs of participating in an OMB mediation or hearing are often prohibitive for concerned neighbours and residents' associations.
 
I would encourage you to reach out to the Premier and Minister of Municipal Affairs to share your concerns about this decision.

Provincial OMB Reform - Local Planning Appeal Support Centre (LPASC)

After many long years fighting against the Ontario Municipal Board, I am pleased to report that, as of April 3, 2018, all new planning appeals will be directed to the new Local Planning Appeals Tribunal.

My overriding concern with the prior OMB process was the lack of accessibility and transparency for residents. While developers can assemble large teams of qualified experts, the costs of participating in an OMB mediation or hearing were prohibitive for concerned neighbours and residents' associations. 
 
The planning reform legislation passed by the Province in December 2017 implemented new Local Planning Appeal Support Centres (LPASC) to provide free advice and support to residents on local planning matters.
 
In April, the Toronto LPASC opened its doors to the public for the first time. The LPASC is an independent agency of the Province of Ontario, accountable to a board of directors. The stated purpose of the organization is to help "people understand and navigate the land use planning and appeal process in Ontario." Chapter 4 of the LPSCA Act (2017) outlines the following support services:
 
1. Information on land use planning.
2. Guidance on Tribunal procedures.
3. Advice or representation.
4. Any other services prescribed by the regulations. 

I would encourage all residents concerned about a development application in their neighbourhood to contact the LPASC for more information about the appeal process. If applicable, the LPASC will also provide planning and legal support in certain cases.
 
Hours: Monday – Friday
            8:30am – 5:00pm
 
Address: 700 Bay Street, 12th Floor
 
Telephone: 647-499-1646 or Toll-free: 1-800-993-8410
 
Email: info@lpasc.ca
 
Web: www.lpasc.ca
 
If you are interested, you can read more about improvements to the land use planning and appeals system, here.

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 atOMBReview@ontario.ca.

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.

Sincerely,

Jaye