After years of hard work and advocacy fighting to protect our local neighbourhoods and abolish the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), I’m pleased to share that reforms to this unelected and unaccountable provincial body are finally on their way.
Since I was first elected in 2010, I’ve pushed to significantly reform our local planning processes, including improving the accountability and transparency of the Committee of Adjustment and leading the charge for Toronto to establish its very own Local Appeal Body to hear Committee of Adjustment appeals.
Most importantly, I have consistently advocated that the City of Toronto should have final say over its own planning decisions and have voted four times at City Council to remove Toronto from the jurisdiction of the OMB. The OMB is a provincially appointed, quasi-judicial administrative tribunal that hears planning appeals from the municipal level. At present, when an application is appealed to the OMB, it’s the province that decides whether to approve the application, not the City of Toronto or its residents.
Yesterday, the province announced that it will be introducing legislation to dismantle the OMB and replace it with a true appeals body that will show greater respect for neighbourhoods and the city’s planning decisions.
While this legislation still needs to be passed, I am cautiously optimistic about the potential of these reforms to transform the provincial planning system and give our city and local communities a stronger voice in defining our neighbourhoods.
The proposed reforms include:
- Establishment of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, which would replace the OMB. This new Tribunal will not make planning decisions or conduct “de novo” hearings but instead will function as a true appeals body, reviewing municipal decisions and determining whether those decisions conform to municipal plans and provincial planning policies. If the Tribunal finds an inconsistency, instead of issuing its own decision (as the OMB currently does), the new body will refer the matter back to the municipality for reconsideration and give the municipality 90 days to make a new decision. The Tribunal will only have the authority to issue a final decision if the municipality’s decision continues to fail to adhere to the provincial policies and municipal plans.
- Greater support for residents through the establishment of the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre. This new agency will provide support and resources to help residents navigate the appeals process, including information on land use planning and legal and planning advice as well as representation in some cases.
- Protecting major planning decisions from appeal. Provincial approvals of official plans and official plan updates would no longer be appealable according to this proposed legislation. In addition, no appeals on secondary plans would be permitted for two years after they are passed.
- Increasing the authority of Local Appeal Bodies. The province is proposing to enable Local Appeal Bodies to hear appeals on site plans in addition to minor variances and consents, which are already within their jurisdiction. As of May 3, 2017, Toronto’s Local Appeal Body (TLAB) replaced the OMB in hearing appeals of Committee of Adjustment applications. The province’s proposed changes would further increase the scope and authority of the TLAB.
You can find a full backgrounder on the proposed reforms here.
This week we took a big step forward towards substantive planning reform. In the coming weeks and months, I look forward to learning more about the details of this proposed legislation and will be closely following its progress at Queen’s Park.