Ontario to add local weight to land use appeal process

(OntLA.on.ca)

Ontario’s Municipal Board (OMB), which handles appeals of land use planning decisions across the province, is set to be replaced with a new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

The provincial government announced Tuesday it will introduce legislation “in the coming weeks” to replace the Ontario Municipal Board with the new tribunal, “mandated to give greater weight to the decisions of local communities.”

The new system, the province said, is also meant to “ensure people have access to faster, fairer and more affordable hearings.”

The new process would eliminate “de novo” hearings for most planning appeals, the province said, describing the hearing process as “lengthy and costly.”

“De novo” describes the OMB’s process of dealing with appeals of municipal land use planning decisions “by considering the same issue that was before the municipality as though no previous decision had been made.”

In “complex” land use planning appeals, the new tribunal would only be able to overturn a municipal decision if it doesn’t follow provincial policies or municipal plans, the province said.

By comparison, the OMB until now has been allowed to overturn municipal decisions whenever it finds that the municipality did not reach the “best” planning decision, the province said.

Instead, the new tribunal would be required to return the matter to the municipality with written reasons when it overturns a decision, instead of replacing the municipality’s decision with its own.

The municipality would then get 90 days to make a new decision on an application. The tribunal could then only make a final decision on such matters if the municipality’s new decision is found to fail to follow provincial policies or municipal plans on a second appeal.

The legislation would also set up the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre, a new agency to offer free information and support as well as representation at the tribunal for citizens who want to participate in the appeal process, the province said.

The legislation would also exempt a “broader range” of major land use planning decisions from appeal, including new Official Plans, major Official Plan updates and detailed plans meant to support growth in major transit areas.

It would also require a case conference for complex hearings to encourage early settlements, to help reduce the time and cost of appeals and create a “less adversarial” system.

“Our proposals would empower communities and municipalities to better determine how their neighbourhoods develop in the future,” Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro said in the province’s release. — AGCanada.com Network

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