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Ontario to revise land use planning appeals system

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

In an effort to give Ontario communities a stronger voice and ensure citizens have access to faster, fairer and more affordable hearings, the province plans to overhaul its land use planning appeals system.

Legislation will be introduced in the coming weeks to create the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, which if passed, would replace the Ontario Municipal Board. The Local Planning Appeal Tribunal would be an independent body that makes decisions at arms’ length from the government.

If passed, the new tribunal would give greater weight to the decisions of local communities, while also ensuring development and growth is pursued in a way that benefits the province and its future. This includes eliminating lengthy and expensive “de novo” hearings for the majority of planning appeals. The phrase was coined to describe the Ontario Municipal Board’s process of handling 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.

The overhaul would also make planning appeals more accessible to citizens by creating the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre, an agency that would provide free information and support to the public. This could extend to providing representation at the tribunal for citizens who would like to participate in the appeal process.

The new legislation would include other ways to transform Ontario’s land use planning appeals system, including exempting a broader range of major land use planning decisions from appeal, including new Official Plans, major Official Plan updates and detailed plans to support growth in major transit areas; and establishing a mandatory case conference for complex hearings to encourage early settlements, which would help reduce the time and cost of appeals and create a less adversarial system.

The changes were proposed following extensive public consultations, beginning with the release of a consultation paper in October 2016. The government received over 1,100 written submissions and more than 700 people attended 12 town hall meetings across the province.

“Land use planning directly impacts Ontario families and their communities. And so, it is important that residents feel empowered and supported in the decision making process,” said Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General of Ontario, in a press release. “We want to make sure that the voices of Ontarians are heard by all levels of government and that is why we will soon introduce reforms that would put people and communities first.”

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