midtown in focus

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.

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.

Midtown in Focus - Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan

At the Planning and Growth Management Committee meeting in June, City Planning staff presented their recommended Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan. This Final Report was informed by the Midtown in Focus Planning Study which began as a public realm exercise to improve parks, open space, and streetscapes in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood. In 2015, I directed staff to expand the scope of the study to include a review of the area's infrastructure capacity, including transit, water, schools and utility services.  

While I recognize that there are many useful aspects of the draft Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan, I am concerned by the proposed permitted building heights and the parkland deficit in the north-east quadrant. I've spent many hours over the past few weeks consulting with senior City Staff, Chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee, and most importantly, concerned neighbours.
 
On my behalf, the Chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee moved a motion to defer consideration of the item until another community meeting is held. This meeting is intended to specifically address the permitted building heights in the north-east quadrant and the lack of green space in the area.
 
I have included the details below:
 
DATE: Thursday, June 21, 2018
 
TIME: 6:30-8:30pm
 
LOCATION: The Roehampton Hotel, Eglinton Room
                        808 Mount Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON
 
I worked closely with the Chair to develop the long list of motions he moved at Planning and Growth Management Committee on June 7. These motions address a number of outstanding issues, in addition to those identified above, including:

  • Permitted Heights: Lowering the permitted building heights to reduce the proposed density in the north-east quadrant and directing staff to list the heights in metres, rather than storeys.
  • Infrastructure: Requesting a report back on the appropriate use of holding provisions to ensure that there is sufficient infrastructure in the Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan Area.
  • Parks: Determining potential parkland sites in the north-east quadrant of the Secondary Plan Area.
  • Transit: Directing City Staff to conduct a further assessment of short and long term service improvements to ease crowding on Line 1 and to consider delivering the Relief Line North and South as one undertaking.
  • Schools: Requesting City Staff to meet with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Municipal Affairs to explore a funding strategy to support the timely provision of local school facilities.
  • Employment: Exploring opportunities to increase employment opportunities in the study area.

The full series of motions can be found online, here.
 
If you haven't already, please let me know your thoughts on the draft Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan. You can email me directly at councillor_robinson@toronto.ca.

Midtown in Focus - Public Open House

The proposed Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan will set in place a road map for Midtown's evolution over the next 25 years. The Plan provides detailed direction for the physical development of Midtown and sets priorities for investing in and sustaining a complete, liveable
community.

The Plan is supported by infrastructure assessments focused on parks and public realm, transportation, community services and facilities, and water – together they will ensure that infrastructure capacity keeps pace with development and supports quality of life for all
Midtown stakeholders.

 

This open house is your opportunity to see how the proposed Secondary Plan and infrastructure assessments will shape the future of Midtown. Please drop by to learn
more about the plan, attend workshops and share your thoughts!

For more information, please contact:
Paul Farish, Senior Planner
City Planning Division
416-392-3529
Paul.Farish@toronto.ca
www.toronto.ca/planning/yongeeglinton

Visit the Midtown in Focus website to read the proposed Secondary Plan and take the online survey (starting February 10, 2018).