We’ve all had a lot on our minds during this pandemic, staying at home, living our lives “virtually,” and being socially distant. So much about COVID-19 is unpredictable and unknown. It almost seems as if our lives are on hold.
But property development is NOT on hold. While our attention has been otherwise engaged, the provincial government has been actively fast-tracking development.
Special actions known as Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) have allowed Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark to decide how a piece of property can be used or zoned, with no public hearings. Or appeals.
The province’s official justification is that MZOs are needed to speed up the economy. Public scrutiny and the “red tape” involved in the normal municipal planning process, which could slow projects, are eliminated.
This is happening throughout Ontario, including the city of Toronto. One MZO close to Leaside allowed for the expansion of Sunnybrook Hospital. MZOs elsewhere have sped up the process for more infrastructure and construction. Still others have permitted large housing developments, building on protected wetlands, and constructing a new retirement community on farmland. One recent newspaper report stated that some of these even contradict the province’s own existing policies.
Although many MZOs permit projects that the affected local municipalities’ councils support, the point is that the normal planning process, with its built-in safeguards permitting public involvement and comment, is being circumvented.
Meanwhile, our attention has been focused on, and deflected by, the pandemic. We do not think that developers should be provided with ways to fast-track their applications. Especially when there is no right of appeal against an MZO.
As readers will know, developers find Leaside a highly desirable area. The Leaside Residents Association is frequently called upon to become involved in examining and commenting on development proposals. We ask questions of both planners and developers, and encourage residents to become involved. We attend hearings, and if necessary appeal decisions at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). It all takes time to protect and enhance our community, but it’s time well spent.
Holding our monthly board meetings in public is an important commitment of the LRA. We hope that we will soon be able to hold in-person meetings again. Thanks to technology, we can at least maintain accessibility to our meetings via Zoom. During this period of social distancing we want to continue to be as accessible as possible.
If you wish to depute or be part of a deputation to the LRA’s next online meeting, on July 8th at 7:30 p.m., please contact us by that date at our website, lpoa.ca, and we will supply you with the link information. Please do not hesitate to contact us.