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More power for local decision makers

Oshawa calls on province during OMB review to give more weight to choices made at the municipal level

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

With the deadline approaching, the City of Oshawa is getting its two cents in to try and convince the province to give more weight to local decisions at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

Launched in June, the province has spent the last six months gathering information and feedback on how to reform the OMB, which has been accused of having too much power when it comes to overturning decisions made by municipal councils.

The OMB is an independent, public body that hears appeals on land use decisions, the majority of which are Planning Act decisions dealing with changes to official plans, zoning bylaws, plans of subdivision and minor variances.

For the most part, the City of Oshawa agrees with the direction the province appears to be taking with the OMB. A discussion paper from the province lists a series of proposed changes that would reduce the workload of the OMB by streamlining processes, increase public awareness and education around what the OMB does, along with providing more weight to those decisions made at the local level.

“Anything to support more weight given to local, municipal decisions and improving the process in terms of timelines and efficiencies is a good thing,” says Paul Ralph, the city’s commissioner of development services.

In particular, Ralph says there should be processes in place to protect local decisions when it comes to certain matters. For example, the Regional Official Plan Amendment 128 (ROPA 128) – which riled residents in 2009 when it first appeared, particularly in the area of Columbus when lands were threatened with further development – saw multiple appeals to the OMB, including appeals from the city itself.

“That took a big fight and extended period of time in front of the OMB. Once the OMB made that decision though, when it comes to us implementing it, it’s already been decided where they’re going, someone shouldn’t have the ability to appeal it again,” Ralph says.

And while city staff agreed with the majority of the province’s proposed changes, they criticized the clause that would see planning decisions based on the provincial planning documents and municipal legislation in place at the time. Staff suggest that in certain cases, “grandfathering must take place in order to save time and money.”

This suggestion is likely fuelled by the city’s development of the Kedron Part II plan and the new intensification targets being suggested by the province. The plan was created based on the old target of 50 people and jobs per hectare – however, it may need to be redone if it has to be based on updated documents, meaning it will have to change to 80 people and jobs per hectare.

The deadline for providing submissions as part of the review is Dec. 19.