The OMB’s reign is over

Stake­hold­ers of­fer their in­put on the long-crit­i­cized On­tario Mu­nic­i­pal Board and its new, less pow­er­ful re­place­ment: the Local Plan­ning Ap­peals Tri­bunal

North Toronto Post - - News -


On­tario Real­tors are con­cerned that the OMB re­form may jeop­ar­dize sus­tain­able home own­er­ship for the next gen­er­a­tion. We get that the OMB is one of the least loved gov­ern­ment bod­ies, but in re­al­ity, they are ef­fec­tively the ref­eree en­forc­ing the rules cre­ated by the provin­cial gov­ern­ment for where new hous­ing should be built. The chal­lenge with a weaker ref­eree is that local mu­nic­i­pal politi­cians will cast their votes with local NIMBY move­ments in­stead of good plan­ning and the needs of fu­ture home­own­ers des­per­ate to get into the local real es­tate mar­ket. That means fewer homes be­ing built and fewer choices in the mar­ket­place.


Sev­eral of the changes pro­posed will im­prove the process, yet some should be a cause for con­cern. The na­ture of On­tario’s mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment is that city coun­cils of­ten ap­peal to the in­ter­ests of those that are re­spon­si­ble for their re-elec­tion, which are cur­rent res­i­dents and cur­rent home­own­ers. Un­for­tu­nately, local not-inmy-back­yard pol­i­tics of­ten out­weighs sound provin­cial growth poli­cies. The OMB re­forms do not ad­dress an un­pre­dictable, opaque and un­nec­es­sar­ily com­plex plan­ning sys­tem. The OMB re­forms risk fur­ther re­strict­ing hous­ing sup­ply and re­duc­ing af­ford­abil­ity.


The new agency would pro­vide free sup­port, in­clud­ing case rep­re­sen­ta­tion for cit­i­zens who want to par­tic­i­pate in the process. So it ap­pears the gov­ern­ment has lis­tened to our con­cerns. But the “devil is in the de­tails,” and we’ll need to ex­am­ine the leg­is­la­tion when it is in­tro­duced. For ex­am­ple, there is a sug­ges­tion that ap­peals may be lim­ited on matters con­sid­ered “tran­sit sup­port­ive.” The “ring around a tran­sit hub” cov­ers all kinds of land use. In­ten­si­fi­ca­tion where pos­si­ble or where ap­pro­pri­ate? The Fed­er­a­tion of North Toronto Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tions will op­pose a blan­ket pol­icy that re­moves con­sid­er­a­tion of local im­pacts.


At some point in history, there prob­a­bly was a ra­tio­nale for a du­pli­cate plan­ning func­tion within the con­text of high­rise de­vel­op­ments, when mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties prac­tised ad hoc plan­ning and city coun­cil­lors were less sub­ject to scru­tiny. But times have changed and mu­nic­i­pal plan­ning has come of age. To­day there are com­pre­hen­sive de­vel­op­ment plans, plan­ning or­ga­ni­za­tions with ed­u­cated per­son­nel, and well-de­fined plan­ning pro­cesses ac­ces­si­ble to the com­mu­nity. The South Eglin­ton Ratepayers’ and Res­i­dents’ Association is thrilled the OMB will be con­signed to the dust­bin of history.


Re­plac­ing the OMB with the newly cre­ated Local Plan­ning Ap­peal Tri­bunal will be a change in name only, since it will still be able to over­turn city coun­cil–adopted zon­ing by­law amend­ments, sec­ondary plans and Her­itage Con­ser­va­tion Dis­tricts. De­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tions al­ready un­dergo stren­u­ous re­view by city staff and ex­ten­sive public con­sul­ta­tion. The need for a po­lit­i­cally ap­pointed, quasi-ju­di­cial provin­cial ap­peal body to de­cide “good plan­ning” for local com­mu­ni­ties re­mains un­nec­es­sary and un­demo­cratic. We must be firm with our orig­i­nal ask: Toronto does not need an OMB-like ap­peal body, re­gard­less of how it is re­branded.


The On­tario Home Builders’ Association’s main con­cern is that the Local Plan­ning Ap­peal Tri­bunal (LPAT) will make it more dif­fi­cult to bring new hous­ing sup­ply to mar­ket, which will ul­ti­mately af­fect hous­ing choice and af­ford­abil­ity through­out On­tario. When local tran­sit and in­fra­struc­ture sup­port a new hous­ing project, it should be added to the com­mu­nity. If the LPAT be­comes a rub­ber stamp for ob­struc­tion­ist coun­cils, then the prov­ince’s de­mand to op­ti­mize our hous­ing sup­ply, pro­vide di­verse hous­ing op­tions and “grow up,” will fail. If we want dy­namic, com­plete com­mu­ni­ties, we all have to grow up.

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