City planner gives his viewpoint on Planning Act changes; it will be a lengthy process.

backgrounder 100By Staff

March 10, 2015


The province recently announced changes it wants to make to the Planning Act and the way Development charges are to be implemented.
Everything the city does in the Planning and Building department is impacted by these changes – getting the views of the Bruce Krushelnicki, the city’s director of |Planning then are useful – what does he think this is going to mean?

“Of course this is a Provincial legislative proposal and will be the subject of wide review and debate. This will I am sure, evoke an important conversation, one that has been expected for some time following the announcement last year that the Planning Act was undergoing a scoped review.
My initial comment is that there is a lot more detail necessary before we can understand the impact of the changes that are proposed. The note identifies a “stakeholder working group” that will assist in implementing some of these changes, so the details may be some time yet in coming.

The proposed changes that would enhance public engagement are welcomed and I look forward to some additional information about the proposed “community permit planning system”. Planning Advisory Committees – which can even now include citizen membership – have been part of the Planning Act for many years and I await the details regarding the changes that are proposed. It appears that when such committees are formed, citizen membership may be required.


What will the revisions to the Planning Act mean to citizen input on what gets built?

The change to a ten-year review requirement for Official Plans is very welcomed. When the Act was revised some time ago, the previously optional five year review was made a mandatory requirement. As Official Plans have become more complex, the five year review (including OMB appeals) was often scarcely completed when a new review would commence. Some in the planning profession expressed concerns that plans were almost constantly under review. Some argue that this has resulted in a lack of stability in the policy framework. This may be intended to address this concern.

Providing more stability over planning documents addresses the concern expressed by some that it is too easy to apply for amendments and if unsuccessful, too easy to appeal an Official Plan, even one that has been recently approved. The two year moratorium on private appeals as they are called – that is appeals lodged by persons when an private application for amendment is refused or ignored – means that councils can expect their plans to remain unchallenged for a period of time.

According to the proposal as described, a council will nevertheless be able to amend their Official Plan on their own initiative.
The proposal also seeks to remove the opportunity to appeal some issues to the OMB. Removing appeal opportunities cuts both ways. That is, appeals can be made by citizens against a decision of council and appeals can also be made by developers against a decision of council. How appeal opportunities for all parties will be affected will be important to learn as details become known.

New City park - bulldozers

What will any Development Charge changes mean to the cost of housing?

It is also proposed that more clarity will be provided in determining what constitutes a minor variance to the zoning by-law. Minor variances are decided by the Committee of Adjustment, an independent body appointed by council.

Currently there are four long standing “tests” for a minor variance. Presumably the criteria for approval by the Committee will be clarified by the stakeholder working group. This is yet another is area where much more information is need before the implications can be assessed.”

This process of revising two very significant pieces of legislation has clearly just begun.

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