committee of adjustment

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..

Committee of Adjustment

Since I became your local Councillor in 2010, I’ve advocated for reforms to make the Committee of Adjustment more effective, accountable and transparent. While there is still a long way to go, I’m happy to let you know that a number of improvements have been announced recently.

One of my goals has been to make the Committee of Adjustment more accessible and user-friendly, and I’m pleased to share that detailed information about minor variance and consent applications is now available through the Application Information Centre. This means that you can easily access all variance lists, site plans and supporting documents online.

The city has also just announced the launch of the Committee of Adjustment’s Mediation Pilot Program. This free and voluntary program will allow neighbours to access professional assistance and avoid extensive – and expensive – appeals.

The mediation sessions will be conducted by a neutral third-party mediator and a neutral, experienced professional planner with knowledge of the city’s planning policies and minor variance legislation.

To learn more about the Mediation Pilot Program, click here.

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.

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.

Improving Transparency and Accountability at the Committee of Adjustment

Improvements to the Committee of Adjustment are on the way!

Back in June 2014, I moved a successful motion requesting city staff to bring forward a report with recommendations to improve the Committee of Adjustment. In particular, I asked for:

  • 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.

For the full text of my motion, click here.

I’m pleased to announce that, at this month’s Planning and Growth Management Committee, city staff brought forward a report recommending the purchase and installation of a device that would allow for the full audio-visual recording of Committee of Adjustment meetings.

Click here to read the report.

Audio-visual recordings of Committee of Adjustment panels will improve the transparency of the process by keeping a record of the meetings.

The device will be installed at City Hall in January 2016.

While there is a significant amount of work still to be done to overhaul the Committee of Adjustment, I’m heartened to see the realization of one of my long-standing recommendations. I look forward to seeing more improvements to the Committee of Adjustment in the near future.

The Planning and Growth Management Committee also requested a report on the feasibility of live-streaming Committee of Adjustment meetings – this means you could follow the meetings from the comfort of your home.

Be on the lookout for that report in 2016!

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!

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!

Update on Committee of Adjustment Reform

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In June 2014, I asked city staff to bring forward a report with recommendations to improve the Committee of Adjustment.

Among other things, I directed city staff to report back 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 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 tolls to effectively engage in Committee of Adjustment hearings.

For the full text of my motion click here

Late last month, senior city staff brought two reports to the Planning and Growth Management Committee in response to my motion.

Click here and here to read the reports.

While a significant amount of good work is now under way, the reports left significant room for improvement.

That’s why, following a full and vigorous debate, I championed a series of motions pushing city staff to do better.

My motions direct the Chief Planner to hold a roundtable with residents’ associations and other neighbourhood groups to gather feedback from those most directly impacted by and involved with the Committee of Adjustment.

I also attached hard second quarter deadlines to public notice improvements and asked senior city staff to research best practices in comparable jurisdictions outside of Ontario.

For the full text of the committee’s lengthy decision, click here.

Local Appeal Board Consultations

Public consultations are underway on creating a Local Appeal Body (LAB). The LAB would hear appeals from the Committee of Adjustment, replacing the Ontario Municipal Board in the context of minor variance and consent applications.

The North York meeting is on Monday, March 3, 7 p.m. at North York Civic Centre and the central meeting on Monday, March 17, 7 p.m. at Metro Hall.

The public consultations will feed into a long awaited and highly anticipated staff report – one that I have pushed hard for over the course of the term – that is expected to recommend that the city establish a LAB. I encourage you to come out and have your say. Check out www.toronto.ca/localappealbody for more information!