Is the new planning tribunal the solution?

Opinion Apr 12, 2018 Stoney Creek News

When the provincial government proposed overhauling the much maligned Ontario Municipal Board there were expectations by councillors, planners and residents that it would become a true appeals entity not just one that benefited developers.

So following the demise of the board and the introduction of what is being called the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal on April 3, there is cautious optimism that a level playing field for municipal development has been created.

However, as with anything government-created, the devil will be in the details.

The cornerstone philosophy of the tribunal is the municipality will be responsible for defending and upholding its own planning principles. There will be no more of the board overruling a council’s decision and substituting its own plans.

The test for any appeal to the tribunal involving a major land proposal will be if the proposal meets the municipality’s and concurrently the province’s planning principles. If it doesn’t, then it will be up to council to make a new decision within a relatively swift 90 days.

What is also welcome is the recognition that developers have long had a stark advantage at the Ontario Municipal Board. They had the financial resources to call planners, architects and other experts to defend their proposals while a resident or neighbourhood taxpayer association was left at the mercy of the quasi-judicial body.

To assist confused residents, the government has created the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre, a free legal reference with a $1.5 million budget will offer guidance as they challenge development proposals.

But for some councillors, the tribunal is still the same government entity as its predecessor. Appeals on developments, ward boundaries, development charges and heritage matters can still be made to the tribunal with very little change.

There remain questions about whether residents will actually have a voice in the planning process. A development can still meet all the lofty provincial planning guidelines, but could impact a neighbourhood’s character, traffic and density. Councillors would be forced to accept the proposal so it could pass the tribunal test, causing planning upheaval and leaving residents without a voice at the appeals process.

A troubling concern is the tribunal could enhance the democratic deficit of taxpayers who are already feeling isolated from government decisions.

Simply changing the name of the board and added a few improvements without dealing with the core problems of the agency could leave a bitter taste for those activists who demanded the province reshape how councillors and developers decide on the future of growth in Ontario.

Is the new planning tribunal the solution?

Opinion Apr 12, 2018 Stoney Creek News

When the provincial government proposed overhauling the much maligned Ontario Municipal Board there were expectations by councillors, planners and residents that it would become a true appeals entity not just one that benefited developers.

So following the demise of the board and the introduction of what is being called the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal on April 3, there is cautious optimism that a level playing field for municipal development has been created.

However, as with anything government-created, the devil will be in the details.

The cornerstone philosophy of the tribunal is the municipality will be responsible for defending and upholding its own planning principles. There will be no more of the board overruling a council’s decision and substituting its own plans.

The test for any appeal to the tribunal involving a major land proposal will be if the proposal meets the municipality’s and concurrently the province’s planning principles. If it doesn’t, then it will be up to council to make a new decision within a relatively swift 90 days.

What is also welcome is the recognition that developers have long had a stark advantage at the Ontario Municipal Board. They had the financial resources to call planners, architects and other experts to defend their proposals while a resident or neighbourhood taxpayer association was left at the mercy of the quasi-judicial body.

To assist confused residents, the government has created the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre, a free legal reference with a $1.5 million budget will offer guidance as they challenge development proposals.

But for some councillors, the tribunal is still the same government entity as its predecessor. Appeals on developments, ward boundaries, development charges and heritage matters can still be made to the tribunal with very little change.

There remain questions about whether residents will actually have a voice in the planning process. A development can still meet all the lofty provincial planning guidelines, but could impact a neighbourhood’s character, traffic and density. Councillors would be forced to accept the proposal so it could pass the tribunal test, causing planning upheaval and leaving residents without a voice at the appeals process.

A troubling concern is the tribunal could enhance the democratic deficit of taxpayers who are already feeling isolated from government decisions.

Simply changing the name of the board and added a few improvements without dealing with the core problems of the agency could leave a bitter taste for those activists who demanded the province reshape how councillors and developers decide on the future of growth in Ontario.

Is the new planning tribunal the solution?

Opinion Apr 12, 2018 Stoney Creek News

When the provincial government proposed overhauling the much maligned Ontario Municipal Board there were expectations by councillors, planners and residents that it would become a true appeals entity not just one that benefited developers.

So following the demise of the board and the introduction of what is being called the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal on April 3, there is cautious optimism that a level playing field for municipal development has been created.

However, as with anything government-created, the devil will be in the details.

The cornerstone philosophy of the tribunal is the municipality will be responsible for defending and upholding its own planning principles. There will be no more of the board overruling a council’s decision and substituting its own plans.

The test for any appeal to the tribunal involving a major land proposal will be if the proposal meets the municipality’s and concurrently the province’s planning principles. If it doesn’t, then it will be up to council to make a new decision within a relatively swift 90 days.

What is also welcome is the recognition that developers have long had a stark advantage at the Ontario Municipal Board. They had the financial resources to call planners, architects and other experts to defend their proposals while a resident or neighbourhood taxpayer association was left at the mercy of the quasi-judicial body.

To assist confused residents, the government has created the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre, a free legal reference with a $1.5 million budget will offer guidance as they challenge development proposals.

But for some councillors, the tribunal is still the same government entity as its predecessor. Appeals on developments, ward boundaries, development charges and heritage matters can still be made to the tribunal with very little change.

There remain questions about whether residents will actually have a voice in the planning process. A development can still meet all the lofty provincial planning guidelines, but could impact a neighbourhood’s character, traffic and density. Councillors would be forced to accept the proposal so it could pass the tribunal test, causing planning upheaval and leaving residents without a voice at the appeals process.

A troubling concern is the tribunal could enhance the democratic deficit of taxpayers who are already feeling isolated from government decisions.

Simply changing the name of the board and added a few improvements without dealing with the core problems of the agency could leave a bitter taste for those activists who demanded the province reshape how councillors and developers decide on the future of growth in Ontario.