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Hansard excerpt (2): City of Mississauga presentation at Oct. 17, 2017 OMB Reform hearing

This post features an excerpt from the Hansard transcript of the Oct. 17, 2017 hearing at Queen’s Park regarding Bill 139.

My notes of the above-noted hearing are featured at a previous post entitled:

Oakville mayor, Mississauga deputy city solicitor, and former Toronto chief planner speak out at Oct. 17, 2017 OMB Review hearing

In the text below, I begin with my own notes, after which I conclude with the Hansard transcript, of the presentation from the City of Mississauga.

Please note: I have posted the text in adherence to the Copyright provisions regarding Hansard texts.

A previous post features the following overview of the City of Mississauga presentation

At 3:20 pm, Marcia J. Taggart, Deputy City Solicitor, City of Mississauga, spoke.

Taggart is here on behalf of Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Council. Notes City of Mississauga has participated in a broad consultation regarding Bill 139. Refers to provisions giving Municipalities more control.

Says current Bill is an improvement in a number of significant ways. There is a change with regard to the opportunity, previously evident, to second-guess. Current Bill gives more deference to the decision of the Municipality.

Says further exemptions should be considered. Refers to Section 37 and Community Improvement Plans.

Taggart notes reduced length of hearings, changes in how evidence is introduced, and more mediation. Refers to things left to Regulations.

View looking south from Queen's Park toward University Ave. Jaan Pill photo

View looking south from Queen’s Park toward University Ave. Jaan Pill photo

Refers to need to ensure smooth Transition. Matters that are at early stages would best go to the Tribunal.

Notes climate change policies need clarity.

Speaks of excitement, of a long-awaited improvement.

Please note: The Q & As at this post are paraphrases of what people said; please refer to Hansard (see below) for the word-by-word transcript

Q & A

Q: Thank you for coming in, on short notice. You like the no-more “de novo.” What’s been your experience?

A: Main concern is: There’s an extensive public consultation process. The process should be given deference. When starting all over, the public consultation process is given little deference.

Q: Do you like the Support Centre concept?

Plaque at Queen's Park. Jaan Pill photo

Plaque at Queen’s Park refers to the process whereby, over time, a city came to encircle a park. As noted in the speaking notes for a talk about Col. Samuel Smith and Parkview School in Long Branch, the concept of a city eventually engulfing an open space (such as a farm) is a recurring theme in Toronto’s early history. Jaan Pill photo

A: Absolutely.

Q: Committee member asks question regarding approach to development applications.

A: That’s a broad question. There is circulation and review to all Departments. There is rigorous testing: Is it good Planning; does it meet Policy Requirements?

Q: With Bill 139, how would the land-use process be impacted?

A: We do not know, 100 per cent, what the impact would be. Intake and processing of development applications will remain the same. But OMB is then not in a position to overturn.

The City undertakes rigorous consultation. It will be only improved by the proposed system.

Q: Consider the situation where there is some objection, to what the Municipality proposes. How do you deal with the fact, then, that there is no appeal process, any longer?

A: Any decision that is made must still comply with Provincial plans, with upper-tier plans. Many submissions support Council proposals. People feel frustration when Council decisions are overturned at the OMB.

Entrance, 426 University Ave. Jaan Pill photo

Entrance at 426 University Ave. to the Royal Canadian Military Institute. It’s one of the places that I passed, on my walk from Queen’s Park to Union Station, where I took the Lakeshore West GO train on my way home to Long Branch, after the Bill 139 hearing. Jaan Pill photo

Q: What changes do you envision, with Bill 139, aside from: Can’t go to OMB? How do you deal with the situation, where there is no alternative route but the courts? Having some authority, to hear what the public has to say, is important.

A: These things are best heard by the Municipal Council.

Q: Question concerns conflict-of-interest situations: How would these be addressed?

A: That scenario would not arrive, as regularly. An outside consultant would not be hired for a “de novo” situation.

Q: What if there is a situation where there is disagreement between a Municipal and Regional level of government?

A: Have not come across that. No submissions have been made regarding that topic.

Q: As a former Hamilton Councillor, I am aware of a concern about public cynicism about politics, about civic engagement. Will the proposed legislation reduce the cynicism?

Cannon display outside of 426 University Ave., Oct. 17, 2017. Jaan Pill photo

Cannon display outside of 426 University Ave., Oct. 17, 2017. I began my self-education about the British empire, in my readings about world history some years ago, with the working  hypothesis that the empire was essentially benign. Slowly it has dawned on me, however, that for any empire, there is also an “other than benign” aspect. Jaan Pill photo

A: We can only hope so. Advocacy by citizens will be at the Council level.

Below is the Hansard transcript of the same presentation

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): We’ll now call upon the city of Mississauga: Marcia Taggart. Welcome to committee. You’ve got 10 minutes. Please state your name for the record.

Ms. Marcia Taggart: Thank you. My name is Marcia Taggart. I am the deputy city solicitor for the city of Mississauga. Good afternoon to the Chair and members of the committee, and thank you for having us here today. I am here today on behalf of Mayor Bonnie Crombie, along with members of council for the city of Mississauga, to express the city’s support for Bill 139, the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act.

Over the past several years, the province has undertaken a broad consultation with respect to the land use planning and appeals system in Ontario. The city of Mississauga has participated in every step of this process, and has advocated for reform to the Ontario Municipal Board, in order to give municipalities more control over making local land use planning decisions.

We have submitted to the committee in writing a cover letter from our mayor, along with a report from the city solicitor that has been endorsed by council. The report expresses council’s overall support for the bill, along with some technical comments and suggestions for amendments.

It is the city of Mississauga’s position that the current bill helps to achieve the goal of improving the land use planning process in a number of significant ways. First, the city supports the bill’s proposal to change the standard of review to only allow the tribunal to overturn a municipal decision if it does not follow provincial policies or upper-tier plans. This change removes the ability of the board to second-guess council decisions that have been arrived at following extensive local review and consultation. It’s important that this work done by municipalities be given the deference it deserves and not be undermined by a de novo standard of review.

In our view, an important step in this proposed process is the requirement that the tribunal return a matter to the municipality where it is found that it does not meet the test for conformity. In the city’s view, this is entirely appropriate and allows the municipalities the opportunity to reconsider their decisions where warranted rather than giving this power to an outside appeal body.

The proposal to change the standard of review is in keeping with previous submissions put forward by Mississauga to accord more deference to the decisions of council. In our view, the current system undermines the powers that are given to municipalities under the Planning Act, and needs to be changed.

Second, the city supports the expansion of matters that are exempted from appeal, including plans to support growth in major transit areas and the limitations placed on appeals to interim control bylaws.

While the proposed changes are a positive step in the right direction, in Mississauga’s view, further exemptions should be considered for matters where decisions are more appropriately made at the local level. This includes, in our submission, municipal tools such as community improvement plans and decisions related to section 37 benefits.

We further believe that expanding the items that are exempt from appeal is in keeping with the province’s proposal to limit the tribunal’s mandate and for effective decisions to be made at the local level.

The city of Mississauga further supports the establishment of the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre. We believe the centre will provide an important and much-needed resource to the residents wishing to participate in the land use planning process.

Finally, the city supports proposed changes to the manner in which planning appeals are conducted by reducing the length of hearings and the way in which evidence is introduced, as well as the renewed emphasis on mediation. In Mississauga’s experience, board hearings are becoming increasingly complex and too expensive for municipalities and the public to participate in effectively. We believe that a move towards a less adversarial system of review is a positive change and will ultimately result in a more stable and predictable system.

In our review of the proposed bill, it appears that many of the procedural aspects of the tribunal’s operation are to be left to regulation. We would encourage the province to ensure that there is appropriate pre-screening for written hearings so that the requirement for hearings to be conducted in writing does not exclude certain parties from participating in the process by making it over-technical or a drain on resources.

Finally, the city would encourage the province to ensure that appropriate transition provisions are included in any forthcoming regulations in order to ensure a smooth transition and to avoid unnecessary appeals. This should include transitioning any matters in early stages of the appeal process to the tribunal for consideration.

In addition to these submissions, our council has endorsed a number of other technical comments that have been submitted in writing to the committee. These issues include a recommendation that the province confirm or clarify how the new test for conformity will apply to appeals for non-decisions under the Planning Act. It further includes a request that clarification be provided as to what the requirements are for climate change policies and how appeals of these policies would be dealt with.

The city of Mississauga is very excited by the prospect of achieving long-awaited reform of the Ontario Municipal Board. Our council has advocated at every step for amendments that will place greater authority in the hands of local municipalities. We are happy to support Bill 139 and to continue to work with the province to ensure that the proposed bill becomes a reality.

Thank you again for giving us the opportunity to appear before you today. Those are my submissions.

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): Thank you so much for your presentation. We’ll start with the official opposition.

Interjection.

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): Do you want to rotate? Okay, then we’re going to rotate. Mr. Hatfield.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Thank you. I like the promotion.

Thank you for coming in on such short notice, as it turns out. The delegation in front of you, to put words in their mouths, thought de novo hearings were the greatest thing since sliced bread. They didn’t say that; I’m saying it.

Mr. Ted McMeekin: You were pretty close.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: I was close. And you obviously like that appeals are limited and a decision won’t be undermined by de novo hearings.

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What has been your experience with de novo hearings in Mississauga? How has that impacted your community?

Ms. Marcia Taggart: I think the main concern that has been raised with de novo hearings is the fact that there are extensive public consultation and planning processes undertaken for many months, and sometimes more than a year, leading up to a decision by our council. We believe that that process should be given deference. The idea of a de novo hearing essentially presses “start” all over again on the application, and the work done by the community, by our planning staff and by our council is accorded very little deference under the current system. We believe that more authority should be given to the local municipality to make these decisions.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: What has been your experience on the cost of site plan control, for example?

Ms. Marcia Taggart: Of the cost?

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Yes.

Ms. Marcia Taggart: I would have to refer back to planning staff to answer that question, but if it’s something that’s of interest, I understand. We are still given the opportunity to make written submissions until tomorrow, so that’s certainly something I can look into.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: I understand from the architects’ association that hundreds of millions of dollars a year are spent by the industry on site plan control. They were hoping for things in this bill that would resolve some of that, but they tell me they don’t see it, so I’m just wondering whether Mississauga has had a similar experience.

Ms. Marcia Taggart: Unfortunately, I can’t make any particular submissions on that issue.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: All right. Thank you. Do you like the idea of the support centre as well?

Ms. Marcia Taggart: Absolutely. We definitely support anything that would give our residents greater access to the process and make it easier for them to have their concerns heard, or their support heard, for applications.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: If I heard you correctly, the old way at the OMB was too expensive and too adversarial?

Ms. Marcia Taggart: That’s correct.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Thank you.

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): Mr. Dhillon?

Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you very much, Ms. Taggart, for your presentation. Throughout the consultation process of this bill, we heard criticism from the development stakeholders about municipal land use planning decisions. Can you outline the approach to considering development applications in the city of Mississauga?

Ms. Marcia Taggart: Our approach to considering development applications?

Mr. Vic Dhillon: Yes.

Ms. Marcia Taggart: Well, that’s a very broad question. Certainly we have a process in place whereby development applications are circulated and reviewed by all appropriate departments for comment. They’re subjected to rigorous testing in terms of whether they represent good planning and meet all of the various requirements of the municipality. At that point, a recommendation is made by our planning staff to our council with respect to the application. Then, of course, ultimately it’s the council’s decision to make.

Mr. Vic Dhillon: Okay. How do you think the changes in this bill would impact the land use planning process in your city?

Ms. Marcia Taggart: I think that’s something that we don’t necessarily 100% know the answer to yet. As I said, a lot of these matters, and the details of it, are being left to regulation, so it’s something we’re grappling with. But I believe that, to a certain extent, our intake and processing of development applications will essentially remain the same; it’s just a question at the end of the day as to whether the board or the tribunal will then have an opportunity to overturn that decision, and on what grounds.

Mr. Vic Dhillon: In your view, does the new proposed legislation support or not support consultation and compromise in the planning process?

Ms. Marcia Taggart: The city already undertakes a very rigorous process of consultation, and I certainly don’t see anything in the bill that would diminish that consultation. If anything, I think it could only improve upon the current system. But as I said, we do believe that quite extensive consultation is already undertaken under the current process.

Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you very much.

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): You have about a minute left, and we also have about five minutes left from the presenter’s presentation, so if you have any more questions—

Mr. Vic Dhillon: We’re fine, Chair. Thank you.

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): Okay. Mr. Hardeman?

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Thank you very much for your presentation. I think you were here when the previous presenter made their presentation. Not everyone is as sure that public participation is going to be improved with this bill.

I just want to put to you: Do you envision that your municipal structure will be enhanced enough to make sure that applications that presently go through the system and still have a community group objecting—it has nothing to do with the official plan; it has other issues, but they still are unhappy—no longer have an appeal beyond that? How do we address the fact that it doesn’t really increase public participation? They’ve already had all that ability to participate at the local level but they don’t believe they’re getting the proper hearing. How do we deal with that going forward if the appeal process is not there for them beyond that?

Ms. Marcia Taggart: I think at the end of the day, any decision that council makes under the new proposed system will be still subject to compliance with provincial plans and upper-tier plans as well. I don’t think the bill suggests that council can make a decision in absence of those standards.

In terms of the public consultation process, many of the submissions that we’ve heard from residents within Mississauga are in support of the proposed amendments. They feel that decisions should be made at the local level. I think many of our residents are frustrated that council decisions, made in light of consultation, are then overturned at the Ontario Municipal Board. I think there is support within the community for decisions of council.

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: If I could just go there for a minute: Many decisions that the community is involved with are presently going to the municipal board. What is going to change, except that they can no longer go to the municipal board at the front end to make sure that their concerns are still addressed?

In some of those, the municipal board makes a decision against the municipality and for the community group or the association that took them to the appeal. How do we deal—it may very well have been a legitimate appeal, but we’re just cutting that off; there’s no alternative route other than the courts, I suppose. I guess my suggestion would be that somehow that appeals board has to have some authority to hear what the public has to say as to why they believe the municipality is not following the rules.

Ms. Marcia Taggart: I think those concerns that are being raised at the local community level are more properly heard by the municipal council, and they are heard by the municipal council. I think they’re addressed through that front-end part of the process.

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Thank you.

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): Mr. Hatfield, do you have another question?

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Sure. Thank you. When I was on city council in Windsor, I know that if the planning department made a recommendation and city council went in the opposite direction, if it went to the OMB, we had to hire an outside planning consultant because of the conflict of interest we would have with our own planning department. Is there anything in this new bill that handles that type of situation? Or should there be something in there that handles that type of situation?

Ms. Marcia Taggart: I suppose that, in a roundabout way, the bill does address that situation in that that scenario would not arise as regularly, given that the type of evidence that would be before the tribunal would be different and would be limited. So you wouldn’t see the situation where an outside planning consultant would be hired to conduct a de novo hearing. In that sense, I think it is responding to that type of situation.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: I would think, being in a regional government, there could be times when your municipality may be at odds with a decision taken by the regional government. Should there be something in there that gives one a higher authority in planning matters?

Ms. Marcia Taggart: Unfortunately, I don’t think I have a submission on that. I don’t believe I personally have come across that situation, and that’s not something we’ve addressed through the consultation and our submissions that we’ve made so far.

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Mr. Percy Hatfield: It’s an unfair question, knowing that Mississauga controls the regional council anyway.

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): Thank you, Mr. Hatfield. Mr. McMeekin.

Mr. Ted McMeekin: The law is clear on that, but just for the record, the regional decision would supersede the local. But as you say, Mississauga already is in control. That’s not a problem for Mississauga.

My question is a really simple one. I’m concerned, as a former Hamilton councillor and former mayor of a small, suburban municipality, about the galloping cynicism around planning, politics and engagement. Do you think these changes will encourage people to be less cynical and, perhaps, more proactively engaged in ensuring that their councils take planning more seriously and listen to them more carefully?

Ms. Marcia Taggart: We can only hope so. I would say that if municipal council decisions are truly given the level of deference that has been suggested by this bill, citizens and everyone participating in the development process will have no choice but to focus their efforts and their advocacy towards council, rather than putting it off to an appeal level.

Mr. Ted McMeekin: So the buck is going to stop with the council now?

Ms. Marcia Taggart: Correct.

Mr. Ted McMeekin: That’s going to make a difference, isn’t it?

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): Thank you so much. Thank you for your presentation.

[End]

 

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