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Ontario Construction News staff writer
The provincial government has introduced a package of changes under what it describes as a new Housing Supply Action Plan, including sweeping Planning Act revisions to reduce development barriers.
Changes announced on May 2 by Steve Clark, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing include retiring power to review new evidence to the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT), giving it powers similar to the former Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), which often overruled municipal decisions to block new projects.
Not surprisingly associations representing Ontario home builders including the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BIlD) in Toronto, the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association and the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) have expressed support for the changes. However, some local politicians especially in Toronto have spoken out against the planned new legislation, saying the deregulation could be dangerous to the environment and communities. See reaction story here.
The changes proposed by the government include revising several pieces of legislation along with the Planning Act, including Environmental Assessment Act, the Environmental Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, the Conservation Authorities Act, Ontario Heritage Act, Development Charges Act, Education Development Charge framework and Ontario’s Building Code (OBC).
As an example, the proposed OBC changes would:
- Remove the requirement that all new homes include the infrastructure for an electric vehicle charging station – whether the purchaser owns an electric vehicle or not; and
- Harmonize the code with National Codes to open new markets for manufacturers and bring building costs down.
Other changes purportedly reduce regulatory duplication and narrow authorities of relevant agencies to their core missions.
The proposed new rules would set decision timelines at 120 days for official plans, 90 days for zoning by-laws and 120 days for plans of subdivision.
The Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT)’s authority will be broadened, reverting its powers to those of the dissolved Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), replaced by the previous government with the LPAT a little more than a year ago.
Other changes include:
- Changes are proposed that would authorize additional residential units for detached, semi-detached and row houses in both the primary dwelling and ancillary building or structure;
- Changes are proposed that would focus the use of inclusionary zoning to areas that are generally high-growth and are near higher order transit. This includes protected major transit station areas and areas where a community planning permit system has been required by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing;
- Changes are proposed that would enable the Minister to require the use of the community planning permit system in specified areas, such as major transit station areas and provincially significant employment zones, and remove appeals associated with its implementing planning documents;
- A new authority is proposed to be created under the Planning Act that would allow municipalities to charge for community benefits, like libraries and daycare facilities;
- A proposed new community benefits authority would make upfront development costs more predictable by replacing the existing density bonusing provisions in the Planning Act, development charges for discounted services (i.e., soft services), and in some cases, parkland dedication.;
- Changes are also being proposed that would limit third party appeals of plans of subdivision and approval authority non-decisions on official plans and official plan amendments. Third party appeals are generally appeals made by someone other than the person who made the application or the municipality;
- Through proposed changes to the Planning Act and the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act, 2017, the LPAT would be able to make decisions based on the best planning outcome by giving the tribunal the authority to make a final determination on appeals of major land use planning matters and removing existing restrictions on a party’s ability to introduce evidence and call and examine witnesses at hearings;
- Under the proposed amendments, subsection 2(3.1) of the Development Charges Act would provide that the creation of one second dwelling unit in prescribed classes of new residential buildings (and ancillary structures) would be exempt from development charges. The classes of residential buildings would be prescribed in regulation;
- Currently capital costs for waste diversion must be reduced by 10 per cent when determining development charges. Under the proposed amendments, paragraph 10 of subsection 2(4) of the Development Charges Act would provide for no percentage reduction in costs for waste diversion services, as defined in the legislation.;
- Today, development charge rates are generally determined at the point that the first building permit is issued. To increase certainty of development charge costs, the proposed new section 26.2 of the Development Charges Act would provide for development charge rates to be frozen at an earlier point in time (i.e. if/when an application is made for the later of site plan or zoning approvals) and would continue to be paid at the usual time (generally building permit issuance);
- Creating new mandatory standards for designation by-laws and establishing new time limits to confirm a complete application for alteration and demolition, and for designation decisions. This will help ensure that timelines are not extended inappropriately to hinder development;
- Ensuring municipal decisions on designation and alterations to heritage properties can be appealed to the LPAT, whose decisions are binding. The body that currently reviews those appeals is the Conservation Review Board, whose recommendations are non-binding.