City Planning

Reforming the Committee of Adjustment

For the past six years, one of my chief priorities at City Hall has been to make the Committee of Adjustment (CoA) more effective, accountable and transparent.

In 2014, I placed multiple motions intended to overhaul the Committee of Adjustment, recommending professional training for CoA members, better engagement of residents and improvements to the public notices and notification process.

This year, there are plans to hold training sessions for CoA members in all four districts. This training will focus on the Neighbourhoods policy of the City’s Official Plan to ensure that CoA members are more attune to and respectful of the needs and desires of our local neighbourhoods.

City Planning is also planning to host a roundtable discussion this year with resident groups in each district to discuss outreach strategies and how the CoA can be more accessible and user-friendly. As a result of recent meetings I’ve had with Planning staff, the notice sign is also being redesigned to make it more visible and staff are exploring other strategies to improve the public notice process altogether.

I’ve long advocated for the audio-visual recording of CoA meetings, which finally came to fruition last fall. Currently, the city is working to enable live-streaming of CoA panels on Planning’s Youtube page by the end of the summer, this will increase the accountability of the CoA and allow residents to follow the proceedings in real time..

Improvements to the Committee of Adjustment

As you may know, in my first term I moved several successful motions requesting significant improvements to the Committee of Adjustment (CoA) in order to strengthen transparency and accountability.

I’m please to let you know that City Planning is finally moving ahead with a number of these improvements.

Earlier this year, city staff implemented my recommendation to record CoA hearings. In the coming months, they’ll also be mobilizing technology in other ways to reduce costs and waste.

For example, the newly launched eServices portal requires digital submission of CoA applications – this means that information and decisions relating to active applications will be easily available online at the Application Information Centre on the city’s website.

City Planning has also prepared a CoA brochure that will help residents navigate the processes and procedures of the Committee and more effectively engage in hearings.

Moving forward, city staff will be conducting a full review of CoA processes in each district of Toronto to ensure a more consistent practice across the entire city.

Intensification in the Yonge & Eglinton Community

Toronto is experiencing unprecedented growth. While many neighbourhoods are feeling the pinch, few are experiencing levels of growth and change like the Yonge-Eglinton area. This growth has direct impacts on our built form and infrastructure – from transit to schools to stormwater management.

That’s why, in July 2015, I asked the Chief Planner to report on planning tools that can be used to help manage intensification pressure in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood.

The goal of the study, the Yonge and Eglinton Growth, Built Form and Infrastructure Review, is to develop an evidence-based planning approach that can better inform the development review process and policy-making moving forward.

From my perspective, any and all growth needs to be effectively managed to ensure the continued liveability of our community. These planning tools will guide the vision, form and fit of future developments with a focus on the context-specific character of the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood.

Building on the recently City Council-approved Midtown in Focus, a plan focusing on public realm improvements to streets, buildings and open spaces, the Yonge and Eglinton Review is really four plans in one. Using recent growth analyses, the Review examines built form, cultural heritage, community infrastructure and transportation and municipal services.

A key component of the review involves a detailed analysis of the performance and capacity of city infrastructure, including transportation networks, water, wastewater and energy. The final report will outline what infrastructural improvements would be needed based on projected growth estimates.

Expected in Spring 2016, the report will enhance the development review process by providing hard data on the multiple impacts of intensification in Yonge-Eglinton.

The bottom line is that we want to maintain the unique feel of the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood and the characteristics that make it a vibrant community.

For updates on the Yonge and Eglinton Growth, Built Form and Infrastructure Review, click here.

Improving Planning Notices

You’ve no doubt come across a sign from City Planning with information about a new development proposal.

The signs are confusing and difficult to read – you certainly don’t walk away with a clear sense of the proposal or how to get involved.

That’s why I supported a proposal at July’s City Council meeting to redesign City Planning’s public notices!

City Council directed the Chief Planner to review its public notices and look at making them more accessible by using straightforward language and informative illustrations.

Consultation will be part and parcel of the review and a report is expected in early 2015.

Planning Reform – Towards a Functional Committee of Adjustment

The city’s move towards a local appeal body is an opportunity to take a new approach to minor variance applications at the Committee of Adjustment.

That’s why I’ve put a significant motion on the Planning and Growth Management Committee’s June agenda.

My motion asks the city’s Chief Planner to bring forward a report in the first quarter of 2015 on key recommendations to improve how the Committee of Adjustment functions in the minor variance context.

The motion is based on your feedback over the past term, and it specifically requests the Chief Planner to report on:

  • Improvements to the notice process, including the manner and form of public notices as well as extending the distribution area and timeline;
  • Training and professional development for Committee of Adjustment panel members;
  • The audio-visual or audio recording of Committee of Adjustment panels; and,
  • A public participation strategy to ensure the public is well informed about the process and has the tools to effectively engage in Committee of Adjustment hearings.

You can check out the full text of my motion here. Keep an eye on my next newsletter for a report on the outcome of the Committee’s June meeting!

Planning reform updates

I ran on protecting neighbourhoods and have been crisscrossing the Ward throughout the fall attending community consultations and organizing communities.

My aim is to give neighbourhoods the strongest possible voice in the planning process, to put planning decisions in local hands.

Unfortunately, the Ontario Municipal Board more often than not blocks local decision making.

In February 2012, I voted along with City Council to ask the province to remove Toronto from the OMB’s jurisdiction. Unfortunately, this decision rests with the province and the province has not acted on the city’s request.

The good news is that we are making inroads on other planning reform issues that are within our purview.

I am eagerly awaiting a report that is expected to recommend that the city establish a local appeal board. The local appeal board would hear appeals from the Committee of Adjustment instead of the OMB – shifting power back into the city’s hands over smaller planning and zoning issues.

The report is also expected to recommend improvements to the Committee of Adjustment process that resulted from a Federation of North Toronto Ratepayers’ Association study that I helped off the ground alongside the Chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee.

Queen’s Park recently announced a review of Ontario’s land use planning and appeal system. You can read more about the review here. However, the province has made it clear that it is not considering eliminating the OMB.

In that context, if you would like the province to act on City Council’s request to remove Toronto from the OMB’s jurisdiction, I encourage you to write to your local MPP – only the province can remove Toronto from the OMB and put planning decisions back into local hands.

Please let me know if you would like to receive planning reform updates by sending me an email or calling my office at (416) 395-6408.