In the the space of two days in June, the Doug Ford government passed a pair of measures that severely set back the City's ability to regulate development.
Bill 108 brings back OMB, enriches developers, weakens cities
On June 6, the Conservative government passed Bill 108, the More Homes, More Choice Act, which weakens 13 existing laws regulating the development industry. Notably, the new law brings back the rules of the old Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), allowing provincially-appointed panels to decide what development is allowed, often overruling decisions of local councils.
It was just a little over a year ago that the Liberal government phased out the OMB and replaced it with the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), which was to have much less power over local decision-makers. Now those reforms will be reversed.
Now that the law is passed, we can expect the old ways to continue, with towers being built that are much taller and denser than what city planners call for. But the situation for Ontario cities will be even worse, as the bill also merges — and significantly weakens — the tools used by cities to negotiate funds from developers to create new parks, schools, community centres and other infrastructure. As well, the law changes where the City can require new affordable housing and how heritage buildings are conserved.
For more information on Bill 108, see the City's web page:
Bill 108:Changes to Ontario's Planning System.
Queen's Park rewrites City's plan for downtown
The City's Official Plan Amendment for downtown, dubbed TOCore, had been in the works since 2012. A key goal was to make sure that development did not run amuck, outpacing infrastructure and crowding out open space. The City is required to have its Official Plan approved by the province, so it sent the TOCore plan to Queen's Park last fall.
On June 5, with no previous consultation, the Province sent TOCore back to the City -- with 224 changes. The amendments weaken language setting out the principle that development should not outpace available infrastructure like community centres, parks and sewer capacity, and allows much taller and denser development than previously considered. The changes also loosen rules around sunlight, shadowing and building setbacks from streets and other rules meant to create more livable neighbourhoods.
The City has little recourse; under the Canadian Constitution municipalities are entirely creatures of the province.
Click here for the In-Force Downtown Plan which incorporates the modifications, as well as a redline version which illustrates the Minister’s changes. City planning staff have prepared a report which summarizes the Minister's modifications to the Downtown Plan as well as the impact associated with Bill 108.
Downtown Councillors Push Back
On July 18, City Councillors Mike Layton, Joe Cressy and Kristyn Wong-Tam announced that they are creating a "green light / red light" system to evaluate development proposals in their wards and determine how helpful they will be in moving those proposals forward. Those deemed unreasonable could be delayed by tactics such as de-prioritizing the projects, holding provisions on development permits and even denying municipal permits during the construction phase.
The measures are designed to encourage developers to start the application process with projects that are more in keeping with the original TOCore plan, rather than the severely weakened provincial version. How effective these measures are in the long run remains to be seen. Delays will significantly increase costs to developers, but they will measure those costs against the potential for greater profits from taller and denser towers.