City may set up OMB bypass
City may set up OMB bypass
Toronto would gain more control over land-use development if it sets up separate appeal board under City act, planner says
January 19, 2007
CITY HALL BUREAU
Toronto is studying the possibility of setting up its own land-use appeal board to better control the development goals of the city and its residents.
If it becomes reality, it would let the city bypass the Ontario Municipal Board, an appeal agency of the provincial government that has been sharply criticized for siding too often with developers, approving their plans over the objections of city planning staff and residents.
"We can't have a local income tax or a militia but we may be able to have a local appeal board," chief planner Ted Tyndorf yesterday told planners at a breakfast speech sponsored by the Canadian Urban Institute.
The new City of Toronto Act allows the city to set up its own appeal system separate from the OMB, Tyndorf said.
The act is provincial legislation that gives the city more power and control over the way it orders its affairs.
The result of many OMB decisions, critics say, has been developments that are too big and don't fit their neighbourhood.
In a recent example, Toronto politicians expressed grave disappointment in OMB decisions to allow extensive condominium development in the Queen West Triangle, the area south and east of Queen and Dufferin Sts.
As an alternative to the OMB, the city could create its own appeal panel – whose members could not be politicians – that would act as an arm's-length, quasi-judicial tribunal, Tyndorf said.
The key to making it work would be to give developers greater flexibility up front, said Councillor Peter Milczyn, a member of council's new planning and growth management committee.
For example, the areas around King and Spadina and King and Parliament already have flexible rules that allow a range of residential and commercial buildings within the former industrial zones, reducing appeals to the OMB.
However, the heights and scale of new buildings remain tightly regulated, and appeals of those rules could be handled by a local body instead of the OMB, Milczyn said.
"We could say as long as it's an avenue (arterial road) and complies with the overall vision of the official plan, you can do pretty much what you want on your property, and only the issues of height could be appealable," he said.
"Somebody couldn't put up a slaughterhouse in the middle of a residential neighbourhood but if they wanted to do a mixed-use, office-residential building, sure."
Milczyn (Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) said city planners are expected to file a report in the next few months on the advantages and pitfalls of a local appeal board.
The planning committee's chair, Councillor Brian Ashton, cautioned that a new appeal structure would have to be carefully thought out so as not to trample on landowners' property rights.
"We'd better be prepared as a city to have a very responsible appeal process for the community," Ashton said (Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest).
"You're affecting people's property rights, so you'd have to have a very sound foundation for your vision of the community," he added.
Tyndorf added that if council set up its own appeal mechanism, it couldn't later change its mind.
"Once you're in, you're in," he said. "If the city decides it wants to go down the appeal board route, it stays there. There's no pulling back."
wow... this is really really interesting. Maybe they can also put in an Urban Design review board/panel like in Vancouver!