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Province To Abolish the Ontario Municipal Board

On May 16th, the Ontario government announced its intention to abolish the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). On June 1st,the province plans to introduce legislation that, if passed, would replace the OMB with a new ‘Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.’

Critics of the OMB argue that its current structure heavily favors developers. The new tribunal would restrict both the issues that can be heard and the relief that can be provided. Additionally, the proposed legislation would exempt a broad range of land use planning decisions from appeal to the tribunal, including:

• New Official Plans
• Official Plan updates
• Minister’s Zoning orders

According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, the new tribunal would only be able to overturn a municipal decision if that decision “does not follow provincial policies or municipal plans.” Under its current structure, the OMB can overturn a municipal decision if it finds that the municipality did not make the “best” planning decision and submit its own decision. The new Tribunal will be required to submit the decision back to council for remediation. The Tribunal would only have the authority to make a final decision if on a second appeal, the municipality’s decision still falls short of provincial policies or the municipal plan.

The proposed changes will also establish mandatory case conferences for ‘complex’ hearings to encourage settlements, reduce the adversarial nature of the process, as well as reducing the overall time and cost of appeals.

Toronto city councilor Josh Matlow is in favour of these proposed changes, saying that the government was finally “taking substantive steps to tip the balance of power towards communities, locally elected bodies, and local planners than developer’s financial interests.”

However, the proposed changes have not been universally welcomed. CEO of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association Joe Vaccaro has expressed concerns that the new tribunal will make development more difficult. “If this new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal is simply going to be a rubber stamp for obstructionist councils, then the province’s demand to optimize housing supply and provide diverse housing options will fail,” said Vaccaro.

The provincial government claims that these changes will make the appeal process “faster, fairer, and more affordable.” They have not, as of yet, made the proposed legislation available for review and it remains to be seen how residents, councils, developers, and lawyers will ultimately be affected by these changes.

Daniel & Partners LLP has acted on behalf of municipalities, landowners, developers, financial institutions, and public interest groups in actions before the Ontario Municipal Board, the Environmental Review Tribunal, the Niagara Escarpment Commission, and in the Courts. We will be closely watching the development of this legislation so that we can continue to provide our clients with the representation that they need.

Blog post written by Karen Shedden, NCA Candidate.