David Godley comments regarding April 28, 2015 Open House regarding proposed changes to Planning Act

The following text is written by David Godley regarding April 28, 2015 Open House hosted by Etobicoke-Lakeshore MPP Peter Milczyn:

Bill 73, Public Meeting on proposed changes to Planning Act.

Presented by MPP Peter Milczyn at Royal Canadian Legion, April 28, 2015

1) PRAISE:Congratulations to our host on bringing this matter to the public and asking for discussion and comment. This shows proactive zeal, a facet missing from the Planning Act Amendments.

2) RIGHT DIRECTION: Generally speaking these proposals are on the right lines. Limiting appeals on certain official plan amendments, variances to newly minted zoning bylaw amendments and Community Planning Permit Zoning are good ideas. The latter is where studies are done to determine more exactly what can be approved. It is doubtful the City has the resources to make much impact.

3) MINOR: Regulations to define what is minor will come after the legislation is approved hopefully in the Fall Session of the Legislature. Cumulative impact is already used in the system. The only thing that will stop the OMB from approving anything it can would be a specific figure. 10% used to be the guideline, up to a 20% figure would seem minor in size.

Provision should also be made to balance with minimal impacts. Larger increases would go through the zoning amendment process. This would bring back the intent of the Planning Act where hardship was what used to be considered. The OMB has corrupted the process out of all recognition by approving major changes with severe impacts for variances.

4) OMB: As a participant said the new 3 storey twins and single houses are so out of keeping they look stupid. This also makes Toronto appear stupid. The questions showed a high level of awareness of the planning process. If the planning process now worked well these amendments would be serviceable.

However urban planning is in a shambles mainly caused by the OMB. Because they can find almost any reason to approve a project this has caused Committee of Adjustments and the Planning Department to revise upwards what is considered minor.

The Etobicoke Planners keep increasing what is acceptable and this is approaching nearly double the size now. So the Province is to blame. However a review of the OMB is to start later this year.

5) COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION: While the public meeting and direction of the Province is laudable, a whole dimension has been forgotten. A strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction was evident on the minimal affect citizens could have on applications. Citizens are suppose to be able to shape there own neighbourhood.

In the 70s this was the case and Neighbourhood Plans were the order of the day where stakeholders committees would be advisory. This is a long process which the Planning Department seems to have no resources or commitment. People who are living next to the monstrosities that the OMB are allowing (sometimes with the aid of the Committee of Adjustment and Planning Department), after fighting a losing battle are simply putting their houses up for sale and moving away.

6) ADVISORY COMMITTEES: The Planning Act allows advisory committees by geographic area to be set up but it is voluntary and costs money so is unlikely to happen unless there is strong local political commitment. So the community is currently left out on a limb and will continue to be so. Neighbourhoods are being desecrated against the Official Plan policies and there is little the community can do except fight each application. A comprehensive framework is needed for public engagement.

7) MEDIATION: Community Councils sank without trace during amalgamation. Community Boards like New York are promoted by numerous people including Lakeshore Planning Council, but do not seem to be on any official or political radar.

As one person pointed out that by far the largest issue with planning is community involvement. Mediation (which the Province encourages) rarely takes place. I support 2 units on a 50 feet lot if it is a detached house with a subordinate suite (accessory apartment). This has the advantage of intensification and provision of affordable housing.

This option could be the answer to the dilemma but no one has ever discussed it. Inclusionary zoning for developments is included in Peter’s Private Members Bill which will go through a separate process.

8) COMMUNITY INFLUENCE: The Planning Act should protect the individual by ensuring that any proposal comes to the community first; an advisory committee may be the way. The cosy relationship between planning department, local representative and developer needs to stop. Planning staff can be threatened with job loss if they do not co-operate and the cycle of influence continues without those most affected having influence.

9) LOCAL DEMOCRACY: Local democracy was lost after amalgamation. The City will have more powers in the future yet they continue to work against the community buy interpreting the Official Plan incorrectly, giving superficial reports to the Committee of Adjustment and giving weak evidence at OMB hearings.

10) TORONTO STAR LETTER: My letter to the Star published on April 28 2015 is not an exaggeration. Most people are alienated by our Federal Government which has extreme control at the top.

11) CONCLUSION: The Provincial Liberals have some of the right values and I am aware of the tremendous work that Kathleen Wynne did in opposing amalgamation. But allowing the OMB to get into this state and not recognising that the major issue in planning is community input is worrying.

David Godley

Published on Mon Apr 27 2015 Toronto Star

Re: When ‘minor variances’ become major issues, April 24

This insightful article does not mention the cause of poor planning in Ontario — the OMB. In the last 10 years this body has changed from thoughtful to an “Alice in Wonderland.”

Now financially conflicted development planners and highly paid lawyers have proved to the satisfaction of the OMB that for minor variances: minor means major; adjustment means radical change; and modest means huge.

The OMB ignores the Planning Act, the Official Plan, and Divisional Court rulings to approve even the most glaringly bad planning. The powers of the Committee of Adjustment and Planning Department are reduced if they know OMB approval is likely in the offing.

On top of this it is highly stressful for a resident to go to OMB hearings and risk being belittled and bullied. Once outlandish approvals are given, the only option is for neighbours to move away. And they do in increasing numbers.

The wildly out of control OMB is overdue for review.

David Godley, Toronto

Jane Jacobs:

Cities have the capacity of providing something for everybody only because and only when created they are by everybody.

[End of text from David Godley of Long Branch]


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