Government Releases Proposed OMB Reforms

Today the Ministry of Municipal Affairs announced its proposed reforms the province’s land use planning appeals system and the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The government will introduce new legislation within the next several weeks that would replace the OMB with a new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. The new tribunal would be structured to give greater weight to the decisions made by local communities than is currently the case under the OMB. Specific reforms would include:

  • Eliminating “de novo” hearings from the majority of planning appeals
  • Giving local appeal bodies more authority
  • Requiring the tribunal to conduct mandatory case management for the majority of cases and providing the tribunal with modern case management powers
  • Creating statutory rules regarding the conduct of hearings, including setting strict presumptive timelines for oral hearings and limiting evidence in the majority of cases to written materials
  • Providing the tribunal with modern hearing powers to promote active adjudication
  • Providing alternative hearing formats and assignment of multi-member panels
  • Giving elected officials greater control over local planning
  • Providing ordinary Ontarians with more general information about land use planning and offering guidance to citizens about the tribunal appeal and hearing process
  • Providing legal and planning advice at different stages of the tribunal process, including representation in certain cases at case conferences and hearings
  • For complex land use planning appeals, the tribunal would only be able to overturn a municipal decision if it does not follow provincial policies or municipal plans. This would depart from the current “standard of review” for land use planning appeals, where the Ontario Municipal Board is permitted to overturn a municipal decision whenever it finds that the municipality did not reach the “best” planning decision
  • In these cases, the tribunal would be required to return the matter to the municipality with written reasons when it overturns a decision, instead of replacing the municipality’s decision with its own. The municipality would be provided with 90 days to make a new decision on an application under the proposed new law
  • The tribunal would retain the authority to make a final decision on these matters only when, on a second appeal, the municipality’s subsequent decision still fails to follow provincial policies or municipal plans

The reforms would also make the following matters no longer appealable:

  • Provincial approvals of official plans and official plan updates, including approvals of conformity exercises to provincial plans
  • Minister’s Zoning Orders

The appeals process under the proposed system would proceed as follows:

OMB

For more:

Backgrounder: Ontario’s Proposed Changes to the Land Use Planning Appeal System 

 

Inclusionary Zoning Bill Passes Third Reading

Yesterday, the Promoting Affordable Housing Act passed third reading. The bill allows municipalities to implement inclusionary zoning. Other highlights of the legislation include:

  • Making secondary suites such as above-garage apartments or basement units in new homes less costly to build, by exempting them from development charges
  • Giving local service managers more choice in how they deliver and administer social housing programs and services
  • Strengthening tenant rights by preventing unnecessary evictions from social housing
  • Gathering data about homelessness in Ontario by requiring service managers to conduct local enumeration of those who are homeless in their communities

For more:

Backgrounder: Promoting Affordable Housing Act 

Government Reviewing Ontario’s Building Code

The province is reviewing Ontario’s Building Code, and looking for input from the public and industry stakeholders on the changes that are being considered. The first phase of this review, which is taking place from October 21 to December 20, includes amendments that will support the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy update, as well as changes that would form the next version of the Building Code. The second round of changes will be focused on supporting the government’s Climate Change Action Plan.

Find out more about getting involved in this consultation here.

For more:

Overview of the proposed changes to Ontario’s Building Code 

Proposed technical Building Code changes 

Long-term Affordable Housing Strategy update 

Climate Change Action Plan 

OPPI Looking for Non-Planning Volunteers

The Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI) is looking for a non-planner to join its volunteer council. Please see below for a message from OPPI:

Call for Applications- OPPI Council Public Member Position

OPPI is seeking a non-planner to become a member of its volunteer Council for a two-year term of office. This position will offer an external perspective on the deliberations of OPPI Council, enhancing transparency and ensuring the interest of the broader public is paramount. Click here for more information on the position and how to apply.

OMB Consultation Details Released

Last week the government released the details of consultations it will conduct as part of its review of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), which was announced in June. The review is one of the government’s key priorities, having been listed in the Minister of Municipal Affairs’ mandate letter following the 2014 election. According to comments made by Ministers Mauro and Naqvi, the government intends to ensure that the reformed OMB is more efficient, more respectful of local municipal decision-making and hears fewer cases.

The government’s review is organized around five themes:

  • The OMB’s jurisdiction and powers
  • Citizen participation and respective local perspectives
  • Clear and predictable decision-making
  • Modernized procedures and faster decision-making
  • Alternative dispute resolution and fewer hearings

Anyone interested in participating in the consultations can formally submit comments by email, the EBR, MMA website, or via traditional mail. The deadline for comments is December 19, 2016.

The government is also hosting a series of public town hall meetings across the province.

For more:

OMB Review Public Consultation Document 

Applications Open for the Places to Grow Implementation Fund

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs is now accepting applications for the Places to Grow Implementation Fund, which is intended to fund projects that support the goals of the province’s growth plans. Specifically, the grants are designed for projects that:

  • Increase knowledge and understanding of growth planning through research and data collection
  • Foster public knowledge, and awareness about the benefits of growth planning

Grants range in value from $5,00 to $50,000. Applications are being accepted until September 22, 2016. Find out more here.

Ontario Government Releases Proposed Regulations for Inclusionary Zoning

Last week the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) released a proposal for inclusionary zoning regulations under the Planning Act. Inclusionary zoning is a policy tool that requires affordable units be included in new residential developments. This regulatory proposal is part (Schedule 4) of Bill 204, the Promoting Affordable Housing Act, which was introduced and received first reading on May 18th, 2016. If passed, the regulations would establish a framework to allow municipalities to pass inclusionary zoning by-laws. The regulations would also provide regulatory authority on related matters to the Minister of MMAH.

Key elements of the proposed framework include:

  • allowing municipalities to determine where and how inclusionary zoning applies through official plan policies and zoning by-laws, subject to the requirements of the proposed legislation and potential regulations
  • prohibiting appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board from municipal inclusionary zoning official plan policies and zoning by-laws, except appeals made by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
  • disallowing municipalities to accept money in lieu of inclusionary zoning units or allow the units to be built on off-site lands
  • requiring municipalities to establish a procedure for ensuring that inclusionary zoning units remain affordable over time
  • requiring owners of inclusionary zoning units to enter into agreements with the municipality, which may be registered against the land and can be enforced against subsequent owners to keep the unit affordable
  • restricting municipalities from using section 37 (density bonusing) in addition to inclusionary zoning requirements, except in circumstances outlined by regulations

Interested stakeholders have until August 16, 2016 to provide comments using the MMAH Feedback Form, Environmental Bill of Rights Registry, by email to inclusionaryzoning@ontario.ca, or write to:
Provincial Planning Policy Branch
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
777 Bay Street, 13th Floor,
Toronto ON M5G 2E5

For more:
Proposed regulations under the Planning Act
Environmental Registry Regulation Proposal Notice
Inclusionary Zoning Consultation Discussion Guide
Planning Act
Bill 204 – proposed Promoting Affordable Housing Act, 2016
Backgrounder Proposed Amendments to Promote Affordable Housing

Oakville Mayor Weighs in on OMB Reform

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton published an op-ed last week in the Toronto Star setting out a series of proposals for reforming the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). His proposals include:

  1. Exclude the board from hearing appeals of applications for amendments to provincially approved official plans
  2. Require the OMB to show deference to the decisions of local councils subject only to the test of reasonableness
  3. Require the board, as an appellate body, to implement the concept of precedent in its decisions

Read the full op-ed here.

Government Releases Proposed Changes to Land Use Plans

Last week the government released a proposal for updating land use plans for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Morraine, and Niagara Escarpment. The updated plans would:

  • Add lands within 21 major urban river valleys to the Greenbelt, along with seven coastal wetlands, and establish a process for further expanding the Greenbelt to protect key water features

  • Require zoning along transit corridors to provide adequate density to support transit

  • Establish Greenbelt-level protections for natural heritage systems – such as wetlands, woodlands and rivers – beyond the Greenbelt, with the provincial government taking a lead in mapping those areas

  • Set strict requirements for the expansion of urban areas and allow more flexibility for agricultural use in the Greenbelt

  • Require municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe to integrate climate change policies into municipal official plans and conduct climate change vulnerability risk assessments when they are planning or replacing infrastructure.

Interested stakeholders have until September 30, 2016 to comment on this proposal.

For more:

Proposed Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan

Proposed amendment to the Greenbelt Area boundary regulation

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing: Coordinated Land Use Planning Review

Backgrounder: Proposed Changes to Provincial Land Use Plans 

Government Considering an Increase to OMB Fees

The Ministry of the Attorney General is seeking feedback on a new proposal to increase the fees and set a flat fee structure for the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). If approved, the fee to institute a new proceeding at the OMB will be increased from $125 to $300. The current rate has been in place for approximately 25 years, and the proposed increase would allow the OMB to recover approximately 8% of its operating costs, up from 3% under the current rate.

A reduced fee of $25 would still apply in limited circumstances, including:

  • Every additional consent appeal filed by the same appellant in relation to connected consent applications, and
  • Every additional variance appeal filed by the same appellant in relation to connected variance application

Interested parties have until May 1, 2016 to submit comments on this proposal.

Find out more here.