Ford Government to Revert to Old OMB Rules

by Ray Kar, May 16, 2019

The following changes will effect you, if you renovate, flip, or develop property, as all of these scenarios could involve variances to zoning or by-laws, or greater changes in order to receive approval to construct.  Typically in these scenarios you would have ended up at the OMB (now the LPAT) for a hearing.

The Wynne government set up the  the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (“LPAT”), as the replacement to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).   In the past, developers (essentially anyone who seeks to build something that is contrary to zoning or bylaws) who received an unfavourable decision when applying for development approval, could appeal the decision to the OMB.  The OMB is generally considered developer friendly, in that it tends to favour private property rights, over the broader public concerns and more generally public policy. The OMB had the power to over rule the decision of the body adjudicating the development under review and give the developer the permission they originally sought in their development proposal. Hence developers would typically expect to “lose” at municipal or the committee of adjustment level, and “win” on appeal at the OMB.

Under the LPAT system the LPAT adjudicator can only decide if the proposed development follows provincial policies or municipal plans. If the development decision is agreeable with the Ontario and municipal plan of development the decision will be final, if not the decision will be sent back to the adjudicating body for a secondary decision.  It’s only if the developer is successful on a second appeal will the LPAT be granted the authority to issue it’s own decisive decision on a proposed development, which in effect would override the adjudicating body’s decision, and typically grant the developer what it wanted.

All that is now changing again.  The Ford government as announced by Housing Minister Steve Clark (pictured) is set to alter the LPAT rules to revert back to the previous OMB approach.  The Ford government believes the LPAT system is overly complex, introducing redtape and delays to the process, such that larger development projects are taking several years to settle development decisions before shovels can hit the ground.

Toronto Mayor John Tory believes streamlining is a good idea, but there was a reason the OMB approach was abandoned in favour of the current LPAT rules.  “It would not necessarily be a step forward to go back to the old OMB ways,” said a statement from Tory, who was in Vancouver with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. “Those old ways needed reform precisely because the OMB-type system was not working well for cities or neighbourhoods, so we should take great care in any next set of changes.”

Others charged that reverting back to the OMB was a gift to developers.  “The reason I and others fought for OMB reforms is that that body was heavy-handed and heavily favoured developers — people with the greatest dollars — so they can force developments they want on neighbourhoods,” said Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 13, Toronto Centre).

At any rate out with the new, and in with the old? If you are a renovator, a house flipper, a big or large scale developer, you probably should be a little happier today, as you are more likely to be able to do what you want with your land.

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