Planning and development news corner, Spring 2006

Provincial Development Facilitator for Ontario
In August 2005 the Office of the Provincial Development Facilitator for Ontario was established. It operates almost as a development ombudsman and its job is to help municipalities, developers and community groups to resolve disputes over land growth, land planning issues, infrastructure and environmental protection issues. It is arm’s length to the government and is available to private citizens as well as the parties set out above. It is likely that its focus will be to try and resolve disputes before they end up being referred to the Ontario Municipal Board. The office is intended to be a resource, primarily acting as a mediator but its decisions are not binding. Time will tell whether parties utilize this resource or it becomes redundant.

Bill 51: Planning and Conservation Land Statue Law Amendment Act (Ontario), Spring 2006

Draft planning legislation has been introduced at Queen’s Park.

This bill is intended to reduce the power of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) which is perceived as development friendly, and it will cause significant changes in the way the development industry operates. It has passed first reading but industry groups are hoping for significant amendments.

In particular developers should note that this act prevents a developer from filing an application to amend the official plan changing the designation of an employment area to any other use. The only time that the designation can be challenged is every five years when the municipality must up-date its official plan. Moreover, the act provides that when a matter is referred to at the OMB that only information, reports, etc., provided at the time the matter was heard at the municipal council may be introduced. That means even with a positive planning report from a municipality, you will be forced to make a presentation and introduce into evidence all of your consultants reports, etc. As one industry commentator stated, you will have to prepare for council as you would prepare for the OMB and this means much more time, advanced planning, consultants reports and expense.