Will provincial review limit OMB powers?

You’ve heard the expression. “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away”.

Developers who apply to build inappropriately dense or high mega projects don’t die, nor do they just fade away. They head to the OMB.

Appearing at hearings of the Ontario Municipal Board is an expensive prospect for ratepayer groups like the LPOA and for the City. If City Council has voted against a development, or if they haven’t dealt with a development application promptly enough, developers appeal to the OMB, and the City assigns legal and planning staff to appear at the resulting hearings. Often, these hearings can go on for several weeks.

Meanwhile, the local ratepayer group has to raise a significant amount of funds to hire its own lawyer, planner, and, often, additional expert witnesses, who argue and present evidence as to why the proposed development should be denied.

The OMB is a quasi-judicial body, requiring numerous densely written consultants’ reports, at the cost of many thousands of dollars. While the developer can claim these costs as legitimate business expenses, ratepayer groups are considered ‘advocacy’ groups by CRA and cannot.

For financial reasons alone, we have to choose our OMB battles carefully. Ratepayer groups must assess chances for success on a case by case basis, sometimes hoping to win a partial success by reducing only the more egregious features of the development.

Too often, the OMB rules in favour of the developers. It often overturns local council decisions and ignores community consultations. And there is no appeal process against OMB decisions, unless the Board has made a strictly procedural error.

So I was very pleased to hear that the province has launched a review of the OMB, with a view to limiting its powers, requiring that more consideration be given to local councils’ positions. You probably saw a Toronto Star article in early October announcing this review. A consultation paper has been released, encouraging suggestions from cities and what they call “other stakeholders” (aka, citizens). Town hall meetings will be announced, with the consultation period to end just before Christmas. New legislation may be announced in the spring.

All of this is very hopeful news to communities like Leaside. We have been disadvantaged by much of the current process, and the cost in time and funds. We have also been disturbed by the number of OMB decisions which ignore community planning decisions and local concerns.

When we learn more details about the review, we will put them on the LPOA website, and in Leaside Life.

Put this into your calendars or smartphones (or put a post-it note on your refrigerator)! The Leaside Property Owners’ Association Annual General Meeting takes place this year on TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 22, beginning at 7 p.m., in the TRACE MANES building by the tennis courts next to the library.

We will be featuring an update regarding the LPOA Traffic Committee’s findings from our June consultation event, and discussing next steps. We will also present a round-table discussion about Committees of Adjustment: why they were created, how they work (or don’t), whether they reflect neighbours’ or the community’s concerns; what their mandate is, and how to address problems we perceive with the system. Committee of Adjustment decisions hit close to home, literally. Do they endorse, or ignore, neighbourhood design or heritage guidelines? Do they adequately enforce the city’s official plan?

We’ll also receive nominations at the AGM for new LPOA board members and present a current list of the board. If you are interested, or would like to work with the LPOA on specific projects or issues, please contact us at lpoa.ca.

About Carol Burtin Fripp 138 Articles
Carol Burtin Fripp is Co-President of the Leaside Residents Association, and is Chair of the LRA's Traffic Committee. Over the years, she has served on numerous East York and City task forces. Now a retired television producer (TVO and CBC), she writes Leaside Life's monthly LRA column, and has created a daily international current affairs newsletter read from Newfoundland to New Zealand.