May 2017 – The Ontario Government is proposing significant changes to the way land use planning decisions are made in Ontario. The Government will introduce legislation that, if passed, will establish a new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal to replace the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
The proposed changes include some significant changes for members who may be involved in land use planning appeals. These changes include:
- Amending the Planning Act to eliminate “de novo” hearings. OMB hearings are currently based on “de novo” hearings – meaning that OMB hearings currently start as if no decision has been made by a Local Municipal Council; this would change under the new legislation.
- The new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal would only have the authority to “overturn a municipal decision if it does not follow provincial policies or municipal plans.” Currently the OMB is permitted to overturn a municipal decision if it finds the municipality did not reach the “best” planning decision.
- The new tribunal would be required to return an overturned decision to the Municipality with written reasons for the decision, with the Municipality having 90 days to make a new decision. The Tribunal’s decision would only be a final decision if the Municipality again fails to follow provincial policies or municipal plans. Currently decisions of the OMB replace decisions made by Municipalities.
- The new legislation hopes to reduce the cost of hearings by providing “modern” case management powers to encourage case management. New rules around hearings and evidence will also be introduced.
- Creation of a free legal and planning support center to provide guidance to citizens on the tribunal process and provide free and independent advice to Ontarians on land use planning appeals.
- The new legislation will also include larger exemptions from appeal to municipal plans including provincial approvals of official plans and official plan updates.
What this means to you
FOCA members should understand how local planning decisions are made as these decisions have significance for our lakes and our properties.
Decisions made at the local municipal level will now have greater impact than under the current system as decisions are not going to be as easily appealed (although appealing under the OMB does take resources that are not always available, the option to appeal currently does exist). Under the proposed changes the option to appeal planning decisions will be reduced. This could be both positive and negative for our members depending on the local decision made. We do know that it will become increasingly important for our members to ensure that they participate in the local planning decision making process, including providing input into the Official Planning process, and most importantly, becoming involved in the municipal election process.
FOCA provides our members with information on how to get involved in their local municipalities, here:
Additional Links & Other Voices:
More information from the Ontario government about the proposed OMB changes can be found here:
For opinion on how the changes may impact land use planning decisions the following articles may be of interest:
Environmental Defence – http://environmentaldefence.ca/2017/02/22/omb-review-hearings-de-novo/