PGM

Unfinished Residential Construction Sites

Residential infill construction activity in Toronto has more than doubled since 2010 – and 33% of this construction is happening in Ward 25 and two neighbouring Wards.

Over the years, based on your feedback and frustrations with residential infill construction, I’ve moved multiple motions to improve the city’s response to this issue.

While the city has been making headway on addressing problem sites, one outstanding issue remains: partially completed or abandoned construction projects. These unmonitored, unfinished sites are disruptive and unsightly for local residents and pose safety hazards.

This October, I moved a motion at the Planning and Growth Management Committee directing staff to report back on a strategy to effectively deal with unfinished and abandoned residential infill construction sites. I’ve asked staff to consider a variety of options, including time limits and the addition of specific conditions to the issuance of building permits.

As residential infill construction activity continues to soar in our community, we need to better manages sites that lay incomplete or deserted – it’s key to maintaining the safety, integrity and aesthetic of our local neighbourhoods.

Recording Committee of Adjustment Meetings

Committee of Adjustment meetings are now being recorded!

In my first term, I directed staff to consider the feasibility of recording Committee of Adjustment panels to improve transparency and accountability. In November 2015, city staff brought forward a positive report recommending the purchase and installation of a storage and recording device.

The device has now been installed and tested at City Hall, and audio-visual recording of all Committee of Adjustment meetings began on May 1, 2016.

Staff also reported this month that live streaming of the panels will be possible as of July 1, 2016 – this means that you can follow the meetings right from your own home!

You can read the full report to the May meeting of the Planning & Growth Management Committee here.

Problem Residential Infill Construction Sites

Residential infill construction can be a major disruption, especially for immediate neighbours and nearby homes.Late last year, I moved a motion asking for a comprehensive report on how the city can improve its response to problem construction sites.

Among other things, I asked city staff to consider:

  • The feasibility of identifying a single city staff lead to liaise with neighbours and coordinate an interdivisional response;
  • Improved and effective enforcement measures to ensure compliance with site and safety by-laws;
  • The feasibility of posting key information on hoarding boards, like noise restrictions and parking permissions; and,
  • Developing a plan to effectively deal with buildings that are not built according to plan.

Earlier this summer, city staff brought a work plan to the Planning and Growth Management Committee. The work plan sets out an extensive review of best practices, research and issue identification as well as ratepayer and industry consultation.You can find the work plan here. A final report is expected in fall 2015.

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 – 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!

Residential Infill Construction – Improving Our Response

Residential infill construction can be a major disruption, especially for immediate neighbours and nearby homes.

In my experience, the problems can often be complex and multifaceted, from improper shoring and fencing to noise and site safety issues to impassable streets and sidewalks.

That’s why I’ve brought a motion forward to June’s Planning and Growth Management Committee meeting asking city staff to improve how the city responds to problem residential infill construction sites.

Based on Ward 25’s feedback and experience over the past term, my motion directs the city’s Chief Building Official to examine, among other things:

  • The feasibility of identifying a single city staff lead to liaise with neighbours and coordinate an interdivisional response;
  • Improved and effective enforcement measures to ensure compliance with site and safety by-laws;
  • The feasibility of posting key information on hoarding boards, like noise restrictions and parking permissions; and,
  • Develop a plan to effectively deal with buildings that are not built according to plan.

You can see my full motion here and check my next newsletter for a report on the outcome of the Committee meeting!

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.