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GTA councillors call for halt to provincial proposal to bring back OMB

GTA councillors call for halt to provincial proposal to bring back OMB
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Council members from across the GTA came to Toronto City Hall on Monday to reject changes to the planning process proposed by Premier Doug Ford’s government.

“A year ago we led the charge together to abolish the Ontario Municipal Board, which was an unaccountable, unelected and anti-democratic body that had the last say, the final say, in planning matters not only in the City of Toronto but across our province,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, who represents a provincially-designated growth area in Ward 12 St. Paul’s.

“Premier Ford has handed over the development process to the development industry and their lobbyists.”

The provincial government announced last Thursday that along with other changes it will revive the rules of the OMB at the newly-named Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, which was created by the former government and was meant to act more like a true appeals body in simply reviewing council decisions, giving more deference to local decision-making.

Matlow said that councils like Toronto’s consider the compounding impact of developments on communities, including concerns like child-care and school capacity for current and future residents as well as hard infrastructure like water and sewer main capacity. , he said.

Those gathered at city hall Monday asked the province to put the bill on hold, with just 30 days planned for official comments.

Matlow’s neighbouring council colleague Mike Colle (Ward 8 Eglinton-Lawrence), who returned to city hall after years as the local MPP at Queen’s Park, put it this way: “Developers just won the lottery with Bill 108.”

Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas, who chaired an OMB reform working group that submitted detailed recommendations during the previous consultation period leading to the end of the more than 100-year-old tribunal, noted that shift received unanimous support at Queen’s Park.

“All parties recognized that local governments should have the authority to uphold their provincially-approved official plans and to uphold their community-driven planning,” Mrakas said. “This bill is a reversal of that hard-fought recognition.”

Matlow said Toronto’s council has shown they are already open to increasing supply, approving laneway housing and recently relaxing restrictions on secondary suites.

“We’re not anti-development,” he said, noting the government has failed to enact any policy that would actually guarantee more affordable housing, not just more housing. Earlier, the government got rid of rent control for newly-built units.

“It’s going to make Toronto and other places a playground for the rich and that people who are struggling to make ends meet are going to have no place in Toronto or the GTA.”

At Queen’s Park on Monday, Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark reiterated the government’s plan is to make “big changes in terms of housing supply.”

“We’re proposing changes to the LPAT that would make sure they have all the necessary information to make a decision. We want to ensure that they have the powers and the resources that are available to make those timely decisions,” Clark said in the legislature.
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