Bill 139 – the proposed Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017 proposes to introduce new legislation to replace the Ontario Municipal Board with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, and make amendments to existing legislation, including the Planning Act, to give communities a stronger voice in land use planning.
If passed, the proposed changes to statutes dealing with land use planning would:
- Give more weight to local and provincial decisions by changing the standard of review – the grounds for appeal on major matters would be limited to their failure to conform or be consistent with provincial and local policies
- Give municipal elected officials greater control over local planning by exempting a broader range of municipal land use decisions from appeal.
- Support clearer and more timely decision making
- Support government priorities on climate change
OMB Reform Initiative:
The Planning Act sets out the ground rules for land use planning in Ontario. It defines the approach to planning and assigns or provides roles and responsibilities for decision-makers, applicants and the public. It also sets out opportunities for dispute resolution. Generally, matters may be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
Currently, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) serves as an independent tribunal that makes decisions at arm's length from government, and hears matters under a large number of public statutes. The Board is the main adjudicator of disputes between land owners, neighbours and municipalities. The government believes it is important that Ontario continue to have an independent appeal tribunal that can resolve some land use disputes.
Since 2004, the government has implemented a series of land use planning reforms to make Ontario’s planning system more inclusive and transparent. However, the government continued to hear concerns about the role of the OMB in the land use planning system from municipalities, stakeholders and the general public.
The Premier’s 2016 mandate letters to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Attorney General directed them to undertake a comprehensive review of the scope and effectiveness of the OMB.
The review was launched in June 2016 and continued in the fall with the release of a consultation document which proposed possible changes. There was extensive consultation which included 12 regional town hall workshops, stakeholder meetings, an online consultation featuring a web-enabled consultation document, posting on the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR Registry Number: 012-7196) and engagement with Indigenous communities and organizations.
The review resulted in over 1,100 submissions and more than 700 people attended the regional town halls.
The proposed amendments are primarily based on the suggested changes presented in a consultation paper and on the feedback received during the OMB review.
Proposed Planning Act Amendments:
Schedule 3 of the Bill proposes amendments to the Planning Act. Related amendments are also proposed to the City of Toronto Act, 2006 and the Ontario Planning and Development Act, 1994.
The proposed amendments, if passed, would among other matters:
o Give more weight to local and provincial decisions. It is proposed that major land use planning matters could only be appealed on the grounds that they don’t conform or aren’t consistent with provincial/municipal plans/policies.
o Bring fewer municipal and provincial decisions before the Tribunal, eliminating appeals of provincially approved municipal official plans and major updates. Municipal interim control by-laws, when first put in place would not be appealable, and applications to change new secondary (neighbourhood) plans would only be allowed within the first two years if the municipality supported them.
o Support transit by giving municipalities the ability to remove appeals (except by the province) of official plans and zoning by-laws that support appropriate development around higher-order transit such as trains, subways and buses.
o Make it clear that the Tribunal can only deal with official plan policies that are part of the municipal council’s decision.
o Remove the ability for anyone to require the Minister of Municipal Affairs to refer a minister’s zoning order to the Tribunal.
o Expand the authority of local appeal bodies to hear matters related to site plan control, which deals with disputes on individual properties such as things like landscaping, driveways or lighting.
o Give planning authorities more time to assess planning applications by extending the decision timelines by 30 days in relation to official plans and zoning by-laws.
o Require the Tribunal to send new material back to the municipality for re-evaluation when adjudicating subdivision appeals if the municipality requests the material be returned.
o Clarify that policy statements, like the Provincial Policy Statement, may identify matters that require specific provincial approvals for any of the matters provided for in the policy statement.
o Require that all municipalities include climate change policies in their official plans.
The proposed legislation provides more information and detail on all the proposed reforms and can be reviewed on the website identified below.