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Hansard excerpt (9): Town of Oakville presentation at Oct. 17, 2017 OMB Reform hearing

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

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 Town of Oakville.

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 Town of Oakville presentation

At 5:40 p.m., we heard Rob Burton, Mayor, City of Oakville.

Speaks of Oakville’s strong support for Bill 139. Says it’s critical for it to be enacted.

“We want decisions to rest with local Councils.”

Specifies what is growth. “We want planned growth, led by public-input policies.”

Notes that over 1,000 people contributed to the Liveable Oakville Plan. Refers to Official Plan and Zoning By-Law.

Refers to millions of dollars, over eight years. Evidence-Based, meets Provincial Requirements, and meets interests of the community.

The result? Fifty-six OMB appeals.

Notes two appeals were little more than “simple extortion.”

Notes that “bargaining” is not Planning.

Appeal process is not yet finished. Refers to spending of tax money to defend Zoning that conforms to Provincial Policies.

Adds: “Splitting the difference” is not good Planning.

Notes “de novo” cases are confusing for the public.

Speaks in favour of: Stability. Predictability, and the Rule of Law.

“The world works best when it’s not arbitrary.”

Refers to City of Oakville’s team of Certified Planner staff.

OMB has forgotten to recognize, he notes, the authority of Planners on Council.

Defines NIMBYism as “people expressing their own interests.”

Bill 139 solves the problem that Council “will be too political.”

Speaks of new legislation as a wake-up call, for politicians who are not following Provincial Policies.

Speaks of need to address the challenges. Notes developers have filed preemptive, or anticipatory, appeals. So, before the OMB Reforms come into effect, they seek to preserve the speculation that is in place.

Adds: May 30, 2017: Let it only go to that date. “No Planning applications should be allowed to bypass” the new process. If it’s, “Now you see it, now you don’t,” [with regard to the role of the OMB], you will see a loss of public confidence.

“This [OMB Reform legislation] will enable us to preserved the character of our communities.”

During the presentation, the Oakville mayor also did a role play – presented a dialogue – from a work of fiction that features a character who plays the role of a pirate. [The role-play was well-received.]

Q: Speaks of “deep respect for your wise counsel.” Refers to public cynicism. Notes a lot of Councils will have more work to do, with the new legislation. Hopefully there will be less cynicism, with regard to the matter of people being heard.

Concurs that this needs to be retroactive: “The whole Bill was about fixing the system.”

A: Credible, Predictable, Stable [don’t know if I got the wording correct, in my notes]: That’s what the citizens of Oakville want.

“You don’t want a game of Beat the Clock.” Refers to Planning as a serious matter. Refers to the “Speculation society” that Jennifer Keesmaat referred to. Says Keesmaat nailed it: “That is the problem.”

Refers to a situation: A building is approved, not built. Spoke of new legislation as providing a clear way forward: “You know what’s going to happen.”

“Citizens want to know they have a social contract with their government.”

Q: Refers to OMB’s problems. Refers to a challenge: The situation in which Citizen Groups say that that there is something in a proposal, that indicates that Council is deciding against the Citizens’ interests. Where can we go? Not suggesting, however, that the present OMB system is sustainable.

A: They will have a say. They will have the right to participate, and the right to change the Council. In Oakville, I ran a leadership group 17 years ago – group was not happy with how decisions were made; felt OMB was not the answer.

“This is a better system.”

These groups do not have a good track record at the OMB. The OMB disregards citizens, disregards Certified Planners.

Refers to imbalance in resources [related to representation of citizen compared to developer at the OMB].

Q: Question regarding London, Ontario – any new appeals, by the new rules? [Not clear, from my notes, what the question refers to.]

A: I don’t know a Mayor who disagrees that we have a crisis – it’s because we permit so much speculation in our system.

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

 

*

Below is the Hansard transcript of the same presentation along with an end-statement from the Subcommittee

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): We’ll move on to our last presentation: the town of Oakville, Rob Burton, mayor.

Good afternoon. You’ll have 10 minutes. If you could all state your names for the record, please.

Mr. Rob Burton: Thank you, Madam Chair. I’m joined by the commissioner of community development and the town solicitor. The commissioner is Jane Clohecy and the solicitor is Nadia Chandra.

Chair, members of the Standing Committee on Social Policy, thank you for your interest in Oakville’s strong support for Bill 139. We hope Bill 139 will move forward with the all-party support that we saw in the second reading vote. I believe our experience will show why it is critical that Bill 139 be enacted to ensure that decision-making that is compliant with provincial policy directions shall rest with local councils.

1740

In 2009, Oakville’s council unanimously adopted a plan to reach 255,000 by 2031. We expect to reach 285,000 by 2041. That’s the population forecast that the province’s growth plan says we are to accommodate. In my time as mayor, already Oakville has grown 20%.

We are not anti-growth. We do like growth to be planned and led by publicly achieved policy. I’m very proud of the work done by our community—our residents and our businesses—and our staff and council to create our Livable Oakville official plan. Over 1,000 residents and business owners made contributions to developing the Livable Oakville Plan in many public meetings and engagements over a two-year process.

After our official plan, as we were required to do, we did a comprehensive update of our zoning bylaw to implement our Livable Oakville Plan. Over 700 residents and business owners were involved and provided input into developing our new zoning bylaw.

The result is that our official plan and zoning bylaw conform provincial requirements and reflect our community’s vision of itself.

In fact, Oakville was the first municipality to achieve the June 2009 date that the province set for growth plan conformity of official plans. This achievement cost our town millions of dollars over eight years—so far—to complete the work required to ensure that we have a plan and a zoning bylaw that are evidence-based, meet provincial and regional requirements, and fulfill the expectations of our community. We did this eagerly. We were motivated by the promise of the growth plan that we would get a more complete community, a more livable community, as a result.

We did not reckon on getting 56 appeals, all of which were either defended at Ontario Municipal Board hearings or were settled with minor modifications. Two of those appeals stand out in my memory as little more than simple extortion, although the appellants saw them as bargaining. Bargaining, in Oakville’s view, is not planning.

These appeals did not raise issues of provincial or regional conformity. This appeal process on our official plan took an additional two years and added significant additional staff time and legal costs. The appeal process of the zoning bylaw has not yet finished three years later. The approval of the zoning bylaw resulted in 80 more appeals.

We’ve spent, and are still spending, tax money defending what is essentially a provincial plan. Who can justify that? It creates extraordinary expense for the town to defend well-conceived and publicly achieved policies that conform to provincial requirements against site-specific appeals that do not conform.

There is no incentive for developers to participate in the creation of local official plans if they can appeal and effectively start all over with little regard for the extensive public consultation process undertaken by a municipality, and hope, instead, at a minimum, to split the difference at the Ontario Municipal Board. Splitting the difference is not good planning. If it is, then official plans have no good purpose.

When I attended one of my first OMB hearings, it resembled some kind of marketplace of haggling, not planning. I thought the hearing resembled the scene about the pirate code in the 2003 movie the Curse of the Black Pearl, because the official plan turned out to be no stronger than the pirate code turned out to be. With only small changes to the movie, it was like, “You must be a planner to read the official plan and you’re not a planner; and the official plan is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.”

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Arrr!

Mr. Rob Burton: Arrr!

We must end de novo hearings. De novo hearings are confusing for, and unfair to, the public. They devalue local council decision-making. They put a huge burden on planning and legal staff and the taxpayer. We need—and the public demands—stability, credibility and predictability in the local land use planning process.

I believe in the rule of law and in clear, evidence-based policy and in fair procedures. I am a businessman and entrepreneur who founded YTV. Believe me, I know the world works best when it is not arbitrary.

I have heard critics of Bill 139 say that decision-making is too political at the municipal level. I think critics of Bill 139 are forgetting that we have a team of professional, certified planning staff who provide council and the community with professional advice on provincial and regional planning requirements. Also forgotten are the stated purposes of the Planning Act, and in particular section 1.1(f), which is “to recognize the decision-making authority and accountability of municipal councils in planning.”

Renowned planners Gerald Hodge and David Gordon state in their textbook that, “NIMBYism is frequently a sign of citizens taking responsibility for their own neighbourhood when it may seem that such a voice has not been allowed for. This can also indicate that more active, inclusive participatory methods, such as consensus building, are required.” Bill 139 will make that possible.

The two-stage appeal mechanism of Bill 139 recognizes and respects the stated purpose in section 1.1(f) of the Planning Act that I just quoted, and it elegantly solves the theoretical claim that local councils will be too political or, for any other reason, be unable to make sound decisions. This is elegant because it’s both efficient and brilliant in creating a wake-up-call kind of teaching moment for any council that makes a bad decision under Bill 139.

We have no problem in Oakville with developers or the public or any stakeholder seeking a review of any council decision that does not conform to provincial policies. We welcome the policy-led planning approach of the province of Ontario, as promised in the growth plan and in the Planning Act.

I strongly encourage this committee to give very serious consideration to the challenges that are created by the transition to this new system. Since the introduction of Bill 139, municipalities across Ontario have seen developers file “protective” or pre-emptive appeals at the Ontario Municipal Board. There have been six such appeals filed in my municipality, and the same thing is happening across the province. These appeals have been filed for strategic reasons by parties seeking to enter their applications into the appeal stream before the OMB reform comes into effect. They are seeking to preserve the room for speculation that Jennifer Keesmaat so perfectly described.

To ensure a smooth transition and to avoid unnecessary appeals, the province should and must adopt a transition provision that would only permit appeals to be heard by the OMB if the appeals had been filed prior to first reading—May 30, 2017—of Bill 139.

All planning applications and appeals should have the benefit of the latest in good planning. No planning applications should be allowed to sneak past the new standard. To allow such a bypass will result in an even more cynical public because it will appear that the OMB will not really have been replaced. The OMB will have years of work ahead of it under the old rules. If the OMB is seen to keep going with these kinds of sneaky appeals, you will see charges of the whole exercise having been a case of a “now you see it, now you don’t” change. You will see a loss of public confidence.

I believe Bill 139 will improve the planning process by ensuring that council, staff and the public have access to all the information required to make good legislative planning decisions and by creating a more streamlined process, with less administrative burden and cost and shorter time frames.

I believe the changes proposed by Bill 139 are critical to ensuring that growth takes place in a planned and orderly manner that respects the province’s priorities and reflects each community’s priorities. This will allow us to maintain the character of our communities, ensure transit-friendly communities, and create resilient and inclusive communities that are efficient and sustainable. Further, the proposed changes provide a renewed recognition of the stated purposes of the Planning Act.

Thank you for your attention. Questions are welcome.

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): Thank you very much for your presentation. We’ll start with the government: Mr. McMeekin.

Mr. Ted McMeekin: I want to say at the outset, Your Worship, that I have come to a level of deep respect for your wise counsel over the years. I have appreciated that, even when I served as minister, you would always take my calls when I was looking for some guidance. You, sir, I respect a great deal. I particularly appreciate your presentation here.

1750

You used the word “cynicism.” My sense is, this is a long and winding road, and we’re here now. De novo is gone; right? Thank God. We’re in a situation where municipal councils—not all, because your council is pretty darn good, but a lot of municipal councils are going to have a lot more work to do now, and hopefully there will be less cynicism as citizens buy into a process that is more meaningful, with a feeling that they’re actually being heard.

I’d like you to comment on how this will affect land use planning in Oakville and how you envision future development.

Let me just footnote, before you answer that question, that I concur with you that this needs to be retroactive. I don’t think we should be allowing people to beat the system when this whole bill is about fixing the system.

Anyhow, I’ll ask you the question about future planning in Oakville.

Mr. Rob Burton: The people of Oakville long for the land use planning process in the province to be, as I said, credible, predictable and clear—

Mr. Ted McMeekin: And stable.

Mr. Rob Burton: And stable. If you’ll work with me for a second here, not having it retroactive, and allowing these sneak-through applications, is basically preserving a game of beat the clock. Right? What I’m trying to say is that the people of Oakville don’t want planning to be a game. They recognize planning as being a serious business.

I can’t tell you how much I and every member of Oakville’s community who may hear what Jennifer Keesmaat said about the speculation society, and the speculation economy part of planning—maybe that’s not a complete sentence. She nailed it: That is the problem.

Mr. Ted McMeekin: She sure did.

Mr. Rob Burton: I remind you that earlier this year, there was quite the controversy about all the housing units that Toronto has approved but that have not been built, and all the housing units that we in Oakville have approved and that have not been built. I’m infamous for saying that an industry is hoarding permissions in order to drive prices up.

I think that with Bill 139, we in Oakville are going be able to give our residents what they want, and that is a clear path forward, where you know what’s going to happen and you’ve actually participated in shaping it, so that you have what we think of as a social contract animating the planning of your community.

It’s very important in any town. I will say that in every town and city in this country, the citizens want nothing more or less than to feel like they have a social contract with their government, that they know what they’re going to get and they were fully consulted in the designing of it.

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

We’ll move on to Mr. Hardeman.

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor, for your presentation. At the start of your presentation, you made a great case of the problem that exists with the OMB as it presently is structured, where you have a new official plan all done and so forth, and you get 56 people who decide that that’s not sufficient.

Having said that, one of the challenges we face as a committee is that we’ve had a lot of presentations, and we keep talking about the inability for developers and so forth of the appeal process—and this bill will take that a long way to fix the problem.

But we’ve also had presentations from citizens’ groups and environmental groups and so forth who believe that they need something in here to make sure that when a council makes decisions—not necessarily in the official plan—contrary to the best interests of what they’re looking at, their special interests, that they need something or someplace to go and question council’s decision.

Have you got any idea how we could accommodate that? I don’t suggest that the present system is sustainable. But how would we deal with the groups that tell us this has taken their right to appeal away and they will no longer have a say in the planning in local communities?

Mr. Rob Burton: They will have a say, and it may be a case that they just don’t like the say that the system that Bill 139 will help create will provide. They will have the democratic say, and they will have the right to participate in the process, and they will have the ultimate democratic right to change the council if they don’t like the way the council behaves.

I know some of the folks who have made those representations. They know that in Oakville, I am in fact the leader of a group of people who were unhappy 17 years ago with the way planning was being done by our council. We had no access to the board, we felt, because it was expensive and we saw it as arbitrary and we didn’t trust it.

Actually, this procedure, where Bill 139 allows everything to be framed against provincial policy, is a better system than what it was before—or is now, before Bill 139, where these groups can go to the OMB if they want. But they don’t have a very good track record there, for all the reasons that we’ve seen in terms of the disparity of finances, the disparity of resources, the preference of the board for the opinion of registered planners and the disregard of the board for the opinion of citizens.

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): Thank you.

Mr. Hatfield—last question.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Thank you for coming in, Mayor Burton, Your Worship—always informative and, in this case, very entertaining with the Black Pearl, talking like a pirate there. I don’t know if, at the OMB, you’ve been forced to walk the plank at these de novo hearings when the developer wants a mulligan, or a do-over, and it comes with a new map to the buried treasure, and he just wants to start the exercise over.

When you talk about retroactivity—I know that when the Premier brought in rent control—was it last spring?—she put a date on it as a few days before it was even introduced in the House, when she was first musing about it and saying it was coming very soon. In this case, the city of London went through a lengthy process, and now they’re looking to the government to say, “Any new appeals, once this is in front of us, should be under the new rules, as opposed to the old rules, which limit what can be appealed.”

So, a softball question: I take it you’re on the same page as London on this?

Mr. Rob Burton: London, and many other cities. In fact, I don’t know a mayor who disagrees with this position.

Making it retroactive will go a long way towards chasing the speculation out of the system. We’ve got a crisis on our hands in terms of affordability of housing, and it’s because we permit so much speculation in our system. You cannot look at the incredible inflation in housing prices that we’ve had over the last two years—no matter what your political view, you’ve got to be astonished at what a terrible problem that is in terms of the affordability of housing for our citizens.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Those appeals—you’ve called them protective or pre-emptive appeals—that came in when we started talking about this bill. In your opinion, are they headed to, under the old system, de novo hearings?

Mr. Rob Burton: It appears to me, if I understand what the Attorney General was quoted to say in the Toronto Star today, that everything that’s in the hopper is going to be under the old rules and in front of the OMB, and not under the new rules and in front of the LPAT.

I believe that we would have a much better result for the public of every political persuasion—because there is no colour to the municipal life. The water doesn’t come out orange, blue or red. The water comes out clear, if you’re doing it right. That’s what we want. We want an affordable, livable community, no matter where we are in the province.

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): Thank you so much. The time is 6 o’clock. Thank you very much for your presentation.

The deadline to send written submissions to the Clerk of the Committee is 5 p.m. on Wednesday, October 18. The deadline for filing amendments to Bill 139 to the Clerk of the Committee is noon on Thursday, October 19.

We stand adjourned until 2 p.m., Tuesday, October 23, when we will meet for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 139. Thank you.

The committee adjourned at 1800.

STANDING COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL POLICY

Chair / Président

Mr. Peter Tabuns (Toronto–Danforth ND)

Vice-Chair / Vice-Président

Mr. Jagmeet Singh (Bramalea–Gore–Malton ND)

Mr. Lorne Coe (Whitby–Oshawa PC)

Mr. Bob Delaney (Mississauga–Streetsville L)

Mr. Vic Dhillon (Brampton West / Brampton-Ouest L)

Mr. Joe Dickson (Ajax–Pickering L)

Ms. Harinder Malhi (Brampton–Springdale L)

Mrs. Gila Martow (Thornhill PC)

Mr. Ted McMeekin (Ancaster–Dundas–Flamborough–Westdale L)

Mr. Jagmeet Singh (Bramalea–Gore–Malton ND)

Mr. Peter Tabuns (Toronto–Danforth ND)

Substitutions / Membres remplaçants

Mr. James J. Bradley (St. Catharines L)

Ms. Cindy Forster (Welland ND)

Mr. Ernie Hardeman (Oxford PC)

Mr. Percy Hatfield (Windsor–Tecumseh ND)

Mr. Norm Miller (Parry Sound–Muskoka PC)

Mr. Lou Rinaldi (Northumberland–Quinte West L)

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes

Ms. Sylvia Jones (Dufferin–Caledon PC)

Clerk / Greffière

Ms. Jocelyn McCauley

Staff / Personnel

Mr. Michael Vidoni, research officer,
Research Services

[End]

 

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