The province leads the land use planning system through legislation, regulation, policy and plans which are implemented by municipalities through their planning documents.
The Planning Act sets out the ground rules for land use planning in Ontario. It defines the approach to planning and assigns or provides for roles and responsibilities for decision-makers and applicants. It also sets out consultation and public engagement requirements. It is the legislative basis for processes (e.g. official plans, zoning by-laws, creation of new lots by consent and plan of subdivision) central to the exercise of land use planning. In addition, it provides municipal planning tools such as site plan control, community improvement plans, development permit system, etc.
The system permits applications to change most land use plans and provides for applications to be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board. The Board, which is an independent quasi-judicial body, is charged with the responsibility of adjudicating appeals on planning matters as it provides the main legislative avenue for dealing with planning disputes.
Ontario’s planning system has changed significantly in the last ten years. In 2004 and 2007, the Planning Act was the subject of major reforms. These reforms, combined with a new Provincial Policy Statement and the establishment of a number of provincial land use plans (e.g. Greenbelt Plan, Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, etc.) have resulted in significant change to the planning system.
The government is undertaking a consultation on the land use planning and appeal system. The consultation is intended to provide the public with an opportunity to express their views on whether the land use planning and appeal system is responsive to the changing needs of our communities. The consultation discussions will be focused around the following themes:
- Achieve more predictability, transparency and accountability in the planning/appeal process and reduce costs
- Support greater municipal leadership in resolving issues and making local land use planning decisions
- Better engage citizens in the local planning process
- Protect long-term public interests, particularly through better alignment of land use planning and infrastructure decisions, and support for job creation and economic growth
It should be noted that recommendations which would result in overhauling the Planning Act, are not being considered at this time. More specifically, discussions/comments dealing with matters such as:
- the elimination of the Ontario Municipal Board;
- the Board’s operations, practices and procedures;
- the removal of the Province’s approval role;
- the restriction of the Province’s ability to intervene in matters; and
- matters involving other legislation, unless housekeeping changes are needed
are not part of the focus of this consultation. Any comments that are outside the scope of this consultation initiative will be either shared with the ministries or agencies responsible or considered as part of other possible future initiatives.