After months of lobbying by residents and municipalities to put development decisions back in the hands of local communities and their elected representatives, the province has introduced plans to overhaul the Ontario Municipal Board.
The OMB as we know it will no longer exist. In its place will be the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal and the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre. The centre would provide free information and support for citizens who want to participate in the land use planning appeal process.
Developers will no longer be able to appeal a decision by city council simply because they disagree with it and hope the OMB will give them what they want. New rules will significantly limit what can be appealed. There will be no more “de novo” hearings – which start at the beginning to hear pros and cons of a development application. Developers will have to prove a council decision on an application doesn’t conform to provincial policies or municipal plans. Good news is our Official Plan and Zoning are approved by both the Region and the Province as conforming to provincial policy; if we are following our own plans, we need not worry about appeals.
If the tribunal does find a council decision doesn’t comply, they can’t replace it with a new decision but must return it to the municipality, which will have 90 days to make a new decision. Only on a second appeal would the tribunal retain the authority to overrule a municipality.
The changes will not affect current developments already at the board, including the Martha/Lakeshore proposal for 26 storeys. The OMB hearing for that will resume July 17 at City Hall, 10am in Room 247.
This is like Christmas in May – communities will regain control of our own vision for our communities. I was part of an Ontario working group seeking OMB reform, and more than 100 municipalities lobbied the government for reform – not Burlington, unfortunately. My motion to add our voices to this effort lost 6-1 at council. Thankfully the collective voice of others prevailed. The legislation is expected to be introduced when the legislature resumes sitting.
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