On October 5, 2016, the Ontario government announced that it is undertaking a comprehensive review of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), and released a supporting "Public Consultation Document" (PDF), which sets out proposed changes to improve the OMB's efficiency and effectiveness and raises questions for consideration. This development bears close attention as the changes proposed, if adopted, may significantly impact the public and many industry stakeholders.
The OMB is an independent, adjudicative tribunal that conducts hearings and make decisions on land use planning matters, many of which are appeals under the Planning Act for planning instruments such as official plans, zoning by-laws, subdivision plans, consents and minor variances.
Continuing Need for the OMB
As stated in the Public Consultation Document, the Ontario government "sees a continuing need for the OMB in Ontario's land use planning system", because independent appeal tribunals "can support an efficient process, they are designed to be faster and less costly than the courts, and their members are subject matter experts".
The province's proposed changes to the OMB include:
- Requiring the OMB to hear appeals on the "validity of the decision" by council on a standard of reasonableness as opposed to seeking the "best" decision (i.e. shifting away from "de novo" hearings) and limiting the ability of the OMB to hear appeals and completely overturn decisions.
- Requiring the OMB to send "significant new information" that arises in a hearing back to the municipal council for re-evaluation of the original decision before the OMB renders its decision.
- Creating a two-year prohibition for appeals of a municipality's refusal to amend a secondary plan.
- Increasing the number of OMB adjudicators, increasing additional training and reintroducing multi-member panels.
- Allowing the OMB to adopt less complex and more accessible tribunal procedures and allowing active adjudication.
- More actively promoting mediation to settle land use disputes in order to reduce the number and/or length of OMB hearings, and strengthening case management.
The Public Consultation Document was released by the Ontario government to support the review of the OMB. It provides background on the OMB and Ontario's land use planning system, sets out proposed changes to the OMB and raises questions for consideration.
The Ontario government is inviting the public to provide feedback by submitting comments online or participating in town hall meetings to be held across the province this October and November. The deadline for providing feedback is December, 19, 2016.
Should you wish to discuss these proposed changes or require assistance in providing comments, please contact Neil Smiley at (416) 865-5122 or Scott Ma at (416) 865-4534 of our Toronto office.