By E. Tan
It’s official: Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), the independent tribunal that adjudicates planning and development disputes will be scrapped and to be replaced by Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, starting with the City of Toronto.
Under the new process, the tribunal will decide if a municipality has followed its official plans in the disputed decision. If it has failed to do so, the issue will be sent back to the municipality for reconsideration. Only if the municipality fails to come to a decision or fails to follow the planning process a second time would a full hearing be held, with the tribunal making a final decision.
In another word, the City of Toronto will have the final say over most of the cases as it will be almost impossible for the public to appeal against any planning decision of the municipality.
Urban planning is a very subjective area. Unless challenged by another planner of equal standing, view of a planner will be construed as the ultimate “truth”. The City of Toronto employs hundreds of planners, and the keyword to satisfy the (Ontario) Official Plan is basically “intensification” – isn’t this a piece of cake for the planners to justify their decision (to build whatever they want)?
Saved for developers with deep pockets, chances are no professional planner will even consider defending ordinary folks who have been negatively affected, unless it’s blessed by… Well, all I can say is the planning profession is a very small community.
While I do not disagree with Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro that the proposed reform will allow new developments to proceed more quickly, and boosting the supply of housing to ease the pressure on the overheated housing market. Which does sound like a positive plan. However, I wonder if the provincial government has considered what if there is abuse (on the part of the municipality)?
If my personal experience dealing with City bureaucracy for the past four years is anything to go by, then the City administration has been proven incapable of righting the wrong, particularly if the wrong is perpetuated by senior City staffs.
Unless there is a concrete solution to right the wrong (regardless of the position of the City staff involved and the nature of the wrong), I am not sure if the proposed reform is a boon or bane to the residents of Toronto.
As it is now, I believe the proposed reform is a disaster in the making for residents of the City of Toronto in the event there is any abuse by staffs or members of the municipality.
As long as the City administration is incapable of resolving mistake, wrongdoing, and to exercise accountability, not only residents of Toronto should expect negative, unfair, or even unlawful decisions that is detrimental to their interest (in the event of any abuse), don’t be surprised if you are handed down a decision that will even pose safety risks to your family, and leave you with no remedy at all (as in my case).
Find it hard to believe such an ugly scenario is even possible, much less for real?
Everything mentioned herein is verifiable true account of what my family has endured for the past many years – That the City will take no action to right the wrong conducted by their senior staffs. And the City will deploy phenomenal resources to defend the wrong instead.
In my case, a senior City staff knowingly allowed safety hazards to be erected in my neigbourhood, posing life and injury risks to the public as a result. The City couldn’t refute the law violations (numbered in the dozens), and provided no tenable reason at all. Yet the City chose not to do anything about it. The worse part is the City wouldn’t even give us a chance to pursue any legal recourse. As a result, my family and the public are left to face the safety risks perpetually, with no help and no hope in sight.
The senior City management is basically a “close-knit family”, they can do no wrong. Even proven wrong, regardless of the severity and instead of righting the wrong, the senior management will defend the wrong instead. The responsible staffs will neither be held accountable, nor ordered to rectify the wrong. Not even for dire issues affecting public safety (as proven in my case).
Here is another example how law is legislated for Joe Public to abide, but not the City – Toronto bylaws ignored as developer bulldozes historic school.
This classic saying was quoted for a good reason: –
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely”
– Lord Acton
Did you know there is nothing in the City looking after wrongdoing at all… things like corruption involving external fund eg. bribery? Even Ombudsman Toronto stated this fact clearly on their website: “If … a public servant did something wrong, will it make a finding of fault? The Answer is NO“.
That said, can you possibly trust the City will administer the appeal process diligently, impartially, and transparently, when it has been proven the City wouldn’t even care to resolve dire issues that are affecting public safety just because it involves a senior staff?
To be fair, most of the City staffs I have dealt with are courteous and competent professionals. Except they are not in position to rectify the situation (in the event the wrong is perpetuated by senior staffs). Those in position to right the wrong simply wouldn’t do it, and no tenable reason was ever provided.
On a related note, Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is actually the only provincial agency that I am aware will deal with City issues, planning and development in this case. It’s worrying to know even they are no longer handling City issues.
As a matter of fact, I sought advise from Ministry of Municipal Affairs because my case also involves Building Code (which is administered by them).
Guess what is their response like?
“The government views municipalities as a mature and responsible order of government, capable of making informed decisions and appropriately carrying out their responsibilities”.
No typo here. The provincial government will not look at City issues regulated by provincial law.
What does that mean? It simply means there will be no remedy for the public ie. there is nothing you can do about it at all in the event there is any abuse or wrongdoing, and the City refused to take any action right the wrong.
The crux of the matter is that … Already there is nothing in place to “check and balance” the City. The proposed change will only distance the people further from the province. As it is now, the City does not have to answer for their action or inaction, even for hideous and dangerous things. I supposed this explains why wrongs are tolerated and inaction is acceptable in the City administration.
We got a real serious problem at hand – The system is broken, the governance is flawed, and there is no remedy for ordinary folks.
Details of this scandal are voluminous and can be highly technical. I will endeavour my best to publish the story in a fashion that is comprehensive to ordinary folks right here over the next few days.
Meanwhile, here are the related news: –
- Province replacing Ontario Municipal Board with less powerful tribunalToronto Sun
- OMB changes will save community groups money, advocates say
- Plan to replace OMB upsets developers CTV News
- Sarnia’s Mayor Supports Plan To Replace OMB BlackburnNews.com
Province replacing Ontario Municipal Board with less powerful tribunal
TORONTO – Ontario municipalities will have more power over building their communities under major proposed changes to how disputes over planning and development are adjudicated in the province.
Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro announced Tuesday that the Ontario Municipal Board will be replaced by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal with legislation that will be introduced later this month.
“If our reforms pass, there would be fewer and shorter hearings and a more efficient decision-making process, and there would be more deference to local land-use planning decisions, and there would be a more level planning field for residents wanting to participate,” Mauro said.
The Ontario Municipal Board, an independent adjudicative body, currently conducts hearings and makes decisions on planning and development matters, including issues relating to zoning by-laws, subdivision plans and ward boundaries.
Under new reforms, the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal will have less power.
It will only make decisions on whether or not a municipality has followed its official land use plans. If it hasn’t, the issue will be sent back to the municipality for reconsideration. Only if the municipality fails to come to a decision or fails to follow the planning process a second time would a full hearing be held, with the tribunal making a final decision.
That will mean fewer municipal decisions can be overturned than under the current process, in which each dispute is treated as if it were new, disregarding the decision the local government has made.
The reforms will also give municipalities the power to prohibit residents and developers from appealing local government decisions in areas immediately around major transit hubs, said Mauro.
The development industry might not welcome the change, he noted.
“They, perhaps, it’s fair to say, might have preferred status quo, but we don’t agree,” said Mauro. “We don’t think that’s the way to go.”
The status quo has long been criticized as tilted in favour of developers, who’ve been able to appeal municipalities’ decisions and ultimately build something more profitable, such as a taller condo building with more units than a local council wanted.
Toronto City Councillor Josh Matlow the new changes will make it easier for local leaders to plan their communities, without having to bargain with developers and fear being overruled by the tribunal.
“Finally, the government is taking substantive steps to tip the balance of power towards communities, locally elected bodies and local planners, rather than developers’ financial interests,” he said.
Hearings will be also quicker, relying only on written submissions without witness examinations.
The reforms also include giving legal information and support to residents who want to appeal a municipal decision. Decisions will be written in plain language and made public, said Attorney General Yasir Naqvi.