Re: Toronto Local Appeal Body (TLAB) Info Session, Oct. 18, 2017 at 7:00 pm. David Godley outlines MAJOR procedural roadblocks with TLAB!
A previous post is entitled:
Toronto Local Appeal Body (TLAB) Info Session will take place at Assembly Hall, 7:00 pm, Oct. 18, 2017
David Godley has commented, regarding the meeting:
“A unique opportunity to hear the Chair of TLAB explain the “New OMB” for Committee of Adjustment appeals.”
He adds that that TLAB process “seems to minimise community input.”
David Godley has shared the following review of the process
TLAB Participation for the Community
[Please note that I made some of the longer paragraphs, in David’s original text, into shorter ones for ease in online reading. Also for ease of online reading, I have added headings.]
A submission for ending Early Disclosure for the Public
Since May 3rd 2017 nearly all Committee of Adjustment application appeals will be heard by the Toronto Local Appeals Body. TLAB has been set up by the City to replace the OMB for such matters. The OMB has ignored the planning and legal framework and taken the word of compromised planners for the developer at face value.
TLAB seems to consider every member of the public to be a full service legal business. In order for the general public to ease into participating at a TLAB hearing they must, ideally, be at least partially retired to find enough time to deal with pre-consultation, have a brilliant legal mind, be a tech wizard, have a degree in planning and the tenacity of an Olympic competitor.
Costs can be awarded against you
What is more if you do not check the file regularly and are not organized you can have costs awarded against you! The major bugs, impossible timelines and common mistakes in the operating system add to the chaos.
For example Firefox browser does not work but Google Chrome does, pdf wordplay does not work but acrobat does. You need pdf and signing functions not normally used by the general public many of whom do not have a computer.
The big breakthrough for me was finding out that sending a fax (416- 696 4307) converts automatically to pdf. So I fill forms out by hand – a centuries old method to enable TLAB to be paperless. Long Branch residents write:
- By the way, in my 14 years as a professor I have never come across such difficult and extensive steps to make a submission. The fact that you will not provide the postal code and require a form to be filled out that cannot be done without specific software is strong evidence to me of abuse of process and of deterring community involvement.
- This process is a huge stress on me because I simply am unfamiliar with how the appeals work, I have a full time job, a family and an ailing mother I take care of. So I spent a few hours today reading through the Public guide and the Rules. Much of it I do not understand- I am not a lawyer- I kept having to flip back and forth to interpret some of the who is who. I am even more confused. (I believe my eyes glazed over around page 30)
My worst fears have come to pass on how TLAB is handling pre consultation called Early Disclosure (see original comments to TLAB attached). I have been involved with Long Branch’s first TLAB hearing, a severance and variances at 9 38th Street. TLAB aimed to streamline the process but instead it has caused mass confusion amongst the public. They have marginalized public input so that those with the highest paid lawyer have the advantage, just like the OMB with actual decisions.
TLAB is the last great hope if getting planning back in an even keel and I have confidence in its hearing officers. They too must be frustrated with the unwieldy process especially as constant errors are made by staff due to confusion.
For example a motion had to be reissued because someone was mentioned as a Participant not a Party.
At least the Chair, Ian Lord and secretary/supervisor Hsing Yi Chao are remarkably helpful, proficient and reply more promptly than any other public agency of which I am aware.
None of the various groups was able to meet the deadlines for 9 38th Street, Long Branch’s first TLAB hearing to be in Nov 13. TLAB arranged the hearing based on room availability so the City could not participate.
44 pages of legal jargon
The 44 pages of legal jargon that are the TLAB Rules are expected to be understood by the public although they actually raise more questions than the answer. I have overall had 100 exchanges of emails. Clarification is needed in all matters because they are so complicated and TLAB and staff have to make up “rules” for exceptions as they go along.
The one good thing that comes out of all this is that plans cannot be changed during the 30 days before the hearing. The well written public guide is about the same length as the TLAB Rules but still incomprehensible to the general public.
The irony is that doubling the work of a normal hearing achieves virtually nothing. It is much easier to look at the 15 Committee of Adjustment postings than the 150 TLAB postings many of which are lengthy.
OMB pre-consultation system works well
All the evidence is basically the same for every severance application and similar for variances. The OMB had the almost perfect pre-consultation system, turn up on the day and sort it. The closer you are in time to a hearing gives greater focus of all concerned. TLAB are reversing the natural process for everyone; the hardest hit is the public.
I have asked for the Rules to be abandoned for the public but apparently this can only come out of a Spring 2018 TLAB public review and changes made by Council. Abandoning the pre-consultation rules immediately, especially for the public should be one of the highest priorities for the City. Otherwise TLAB fall foul of City and Provincial policy on public engagement, an integrity issue.
Also the Ombudsan’s office will be interested.
It took me 2 weeks to go through the complex procedures and public guide and find a way through the maze. My computer still has not recovered! In praise of TLAB they have offered to come down to Lakeshore and explain the pre- consultation procedures.
When the hearing notices go out, no one in the public realm really knows if they will be available, what the issues are, or whether they want to participate; not until much closer to the hearing date. I advise anybody remotely interested to register as a participant and that has to be done within an exceptionally short time, 3 weeks.
I also note though that you can fill out the forms (Form 4 for registering as a participant and Form 13 to outline evidence and references) any time after the appeal and before a hearing date is set.
After the formal 3 weeks you can have a breather before you have to submit, again on impossibly difficult forms for some people, what you want to say and quote any material on which you will rely.
However it really takes the public about 3 months to read up, research, absorb, analyse , strategize, coordinate and finally have a plan of action. As a participant you can appear at the hearing to give evidence or make written comments.
You can also write in if you are not a participant but it has to be on pdf. The hearing officer will consider at the hearing whether the letter can be accepted as evidence. All the deviations from the rules will have to be considered making the hearing longer. On the evidence it is impossible for TLAB to think that Early Disclosure speeds up a hearing.
It goes without saying that being present is more effective than writing because you are cross examined. How much more weight ascribed is up to the hearing officers; TLAB has encouraged written submissions, probably because it will make the hearing shorter than if people attend. Naturally the opposition try to undermine your status and evidence at the hearing so the public is always in an unfamiliar and hostile environment.
Comments from Ken Greenberg and other planners
Confrontation to resolve planning issues is roundly criticised by sophisticated planners such as Ken Greenberg. TLAB recognize this by providing mediation services. However in my experience those wanting severances will not back off although it is a useful tool for variances.
Unless TLAB has greater insights into planning, especially urban design and make compromise decisions rather than “yes or no” like the OMB, Toronto will be no further forward, in fact several steps back.
I would be glad to receive any feedback.
401 Lake Promenade
Toronto M8W 1C3
30 August 2017
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