OMB

Intensification & the OMB in Yonge-Eglinton

The Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood is experiencing some of the most extreme intensification in the entire city – by 2030, between 24,000 and 28,000 new residents are expected to live in the area.

The Ontario Municipal Board has continued to approve development after development without considering whether there is the infrastructure capacity to handle such a huge increase of development and the impacts to the existing community.

The OMB-approved 35-storey building at 18-30 Erskine Avenue – right next to John Fisher Junior Public School – is the ultimate example of this irresponsible and narrow-focused provincial planning process. While I’m encouraged by the province’s recently announced reforms to the OMB, they’re unfortunately too late for already approved developments like the one at 18-30 Erskine and the overdevelopment of Yonge-Eglinton more generally.

In the meantime, the city is developing a new planning framework – called Midtown in Focus – to improve parks, open space and streetscape in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood. In 2015, I moved to expand the scope of Midtown in Focus to include a review of the performance and capacity of city infrastructure, including transit, transportation networks, community services, water and energy.

Midtown in Focus will begin to come to fruition later this year when city staff bring forward draft recommendations for the updated Yonge Eglinton Secondary Plan. The new Secondary Plan is expected to be completed in mid-2018.

Ontario Municipal Board Review

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) has had a significant impact on Ward 25 – from Yonge and Eglinton to Bayview Avenue and Don Mills, our neighbourhoods are under intense pressure because of the OMB.

The OMB is a provincially appointed, quasi-judicial administrative tribunal that hears planning appeals from the municipal level. When an application is appealed to the OMB, it’s the OMB – not the City of Toronto – that decides whether to approve the application.

The OMB Members that preside over cases are often not from Toronto and do not have the intimate knowledge and local context of our neighbourhoods that the city’s planning departments and local representatives have.

Additionally, while many jurisdictions have planning appeal bodies, none have the same power and broad rights that the OMB does. The OMB has more extensive influence over local planning-related matters than any other provincial board in Canada.

Since I became your local Councillor, nearly every major development in Ward 25 has been appealed to the OMB. This has resulted in over 3,800 residential units and 330 storeys being decided by the province, not the city.

I’ve voted four times with City Council to remove Toronto from the jurisdiction of the OMB. Although the province has not yet acted on releasing Toronto from the OMB’s grasp, they’ve launched a review of the Board’s scope and effectiveness.

You can read more about the review here.

In particular, the province is focusing on five areas:

  • The OMB’s jurisdiction and powers;
  • Citizen participation and local perspective;
  • Clear and predictable decision-making;
  • Modern procedures and faster decisions; and,
  • Alternative dispute resolution and fewer hearings.

I strongly encourage you to participate in the review and share your feedback on the OMB with the province. There are several ways to get involved:

  • Submit or upload your comments using an online web-form
  • Email OMBReview@ontario.ca
  • Call 1-855-776-8011
  • Mail a submission to: Ontario Municipal Board Review, Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Provincial Planning Policy Branch, 777 Bay Street (13th Floor), Toronto, M5G 2E5

The deadline for providing feedback is December 19, 2016.

I also encourage you to attend the province’s OMB Town Hall in Toronto on November 15 at 6:00 p.m. at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. To RSVP, please click here.

Local Appeal Body

As no doubt you’re aware, Toronto is facing incredible intensification pressure. That’s why I’m pleased to announce that the city is getting traction on real and significant planning reform!

In my first term in office, I worked with the former Chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee to get the establishment of a Local Appeal Body (LAB) off the ground. City Council approved the LAB in July 2014.

The LAB will be an independent decision-making body that will replace the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in hearing appeals of minor variance and consent applications.

The goal is to give Toronto more control over defining its own neighbourhoods. For example, the city, not the province, will appoint LAB members and set up the appointments process. The LAB will also determine its own rules of practice and procedure.

A report from City Planning about the LAB will be coming to Executive Committee in January 2016.

For more information on the LAB, check out this staff presentation from spring 2014.

Ward Boundary Review

The Toronto Ward Boundary Review released its Options Report this past summer. The report outlines five options for redrawing the city’s existing ward boundaries.

The alternatives range from increasing or decreasing the number of wards to maintaining the current number of wards but adjusting their boundaries.

The next stage of the review process is to collect public feedback on the various options.

The month of September saw three public consultation meetings in North York. Public consultations in other parts of Toronto are underway and will conclude in later this fall.

The final report on ward boundaries is due to head to City Council in spring 2016.

You can give your feedback on the five options for ward boundaries by filling out this survey!

For updates on the Ward Boundary Review, follow @drawthelinesTO on Twitter!

Moving Forward on Planning Reform

Toronto is moving ahead on real and significant planning reform!

The movement starts with City Council’s recent decision to create a Local Appeal Body (LAB). The LAB will hear appeals from the Committee of Adjustment (CoA) instead of the Ontario Municipal Board.

The LAB is expected to be in place by September 2015. I worked alongside the former Chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee to get the LAB concept off the ground, and I am pleased to see it become a reality.

As I said during the debate at City Council, this is an opportunity to take control of our city’s planning and development and shift some decision-making power to the local, neighbourhood level where it belongs.

The decision to create a LAB is a great opportunity to rethink the CoA – to rebuild the minor variance process from the ground up.

That’s why I championed a motion at the Planning and Growth Management Committee asking for fundamental improvements to the CoA.

My motion passed unanimously and directed the Chief Planner to look at everything from extending the notice area to improving the training and professional development of CoA members to having a city planner on hand during hearings to answer questions from residents.

I also asked city staff to develop a participation strategy to ensure that the public is not only well informed but has the tools and know-how to effectively engage in the process. You can see the full motion below.

The Chief Planner’s report is expected in early 2015.

PGM TLAB by jayerobinson on Scribd

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.