Development has more recently become a challenging issue for residents as increasingly large developments have begun to threaten the character of the city’s neighbourhoods. This growth in development has also brought with it an increase in minor variance applications to the committee of adjustment. In 2010, Ward 25 Don Valley West had one of the highest number of Committee of Adjustment applications in the city, further proving that Ward 25 residents need a greater role in the decision-making process.
The current process is to turn to the Ontario Municipal Board should minor variances be denied by the committee. As a provincial non-elected body, the OMB hears appeals in planning cases and makes a final decision on the variances being appealed. Many times, the OMB is criticized for making its decisions based on precedent rather than planning principles, which can undermine local planning initiatives. As a result, the OMB limits the city from controlling planning decisions that affect the city’s neighbourhoods.
Local appeal boards or review panels would allow for a greater opportunity for input and influence on local development projects by shifting power back to residents on community development and planning issues. By creating local appeal boards, we can offset the number of hearings going to the OMB and make decisions on minor variances. This would diminish the influence of the OMB in our communities. By using this model, we can help promote a more open approach, where individuals can feel confident their issues regarding development are being addressed. By enhancing municipal autonomy and local decision making, we ensure any new planning will reflect the nature and character of our neighbourhoods.
In recent months a motion was put forward at council requesting staff to re-examine the feasibility of establishing an appeals body for committee of adjustment applications, while another more recent motion requested the OMB be banned. Other municipalities are following suit, with Mississauga’s city council voting unanimously to request the province ban the OMB. In Toronto, city staff are currently addressing these recommendations and will report back to council once an assessment is made.
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