Under the last provincial government, municipal leaders, including myself, worked hard to finally see changes to the old Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). For years, the unelected and undemocratic OMB consistently overturned local planning decisions often in favour of developers’ interests (for more on the OMB visit https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2019/05/02/what-we-know-and-dont-know-about-ontarios-massive-new-housing-law.html
The result of the long fought battle to bring about positive changes to the old OMB was the recent creation of the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). This new appeal body was changed to be respectful of local planning decisions and the needs of the local community (for more on the history behind these changes visit http://davidwest-richmondhill.ca/the-end-or-at-least-the-beginning-of-the-end-of-the-omb/)
The Ontario government has recently announced that the new and improved LPAT will be rolled back and will revert to the old OMB rules. I think Councillor Filion from Toronto said it best as quoted in the Toronto Star, “this is clearly a set of rules designed to give the land speculators and developers everything they could possibly want in the guise of creating more affordable housing. If they did not write (the changes) themselves, they certainly could have”(visit https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/05/01/province-restores-omb-rules-for-development-disputes.html
Given these regressive changes to LPAT, our Municipal Leaders Group has been reconstituted and will continue to fight to cancel these changes that essentially take control out of the hands of locally elected officials and puts it into the hands of unelected appointed OMB Board members.
Over a period of several years Richmond Hill’s Planning staff and myself, as a local councillor, have worked with the community to design and eventually see approval of a Secondary Plan for the area around Canyon Hill Avenue/Bernard Avenue and Yonge Street. This Yonge Bernard KDA Secondary Plan provides further detail to that which is included in the Official Plan about how development will proceed in the area. The plan has been well studied by our planning and transportation staff and the community. The plan provides clear opportunities for land owners to develop these lands in a way that will create a vibrant, efficient, and functional community. The plan also imposes limits of density and heights so functionality in areas like traffic flow, and pedestrian access will be achieved.
After passing the KDA plan a number of land owners appealed this plan to the LPAT because they generally objected to some of the height and density limits as well as some transportation improvements that they would need to be completed on their lands. In mid April Councillor Muench moved a motion that was seconded by Local and Regional Councillor DiPaola giving direction to our Planning Staff to negotiate with the appealing land owners to increase the height limit to 37 storeys in parts of the area, and to increase the allowable residential density on their lands. This motion was eventually passed by a majority on Council (In favour: (5): Councillor Muench, Regional and Local Councillor DiPaola, Councillor Liu, Regional and Local Councillor Perrelli, Councillor Beros – Opposed: (4): Mayor Barrow, Councillor West, Councillor Chan, Councillor Cilevitz). The motion was introduced, discussed, and passed with virtually no opportunity for the public to comment.
I given very little advance notice and I strongly opposed this motion when it came up. There is very little evidence provided that supports that the changes are justified or functional. Furthermore, given the extensive public input that was involved in the creation of the KDA plan, I beleive the significant changes to this plan and the timeline in which it was passed are unacceptable. I will continue to work towards having this motion rescinded as I do not believe it is acceptable for our community. I also do not believe that ignoring a well researched plan such as the KDA Secondary Plan in favour of this type of unresearched plan is acceptable.
Addendum – At the Council Meeting on May 14th, a majority of Council voted to rescind the motion described above . I believe rescinding these newly proposed limits was the best thing to do for the community. However I am very disappointed that the original motion that would have allowed the increases in density and height was even passed in the first place. I believe that increasing the density of the KDA with little to no study was not at all in the best interests of the community and I also regret that this motion put the community through so much angst. While the motion to rescind makes the best of a bad situation, I do hope that it will give residents and myself a chance to discuss the next steps in this process and a chance to discuss the future of the KDA area and I welcome this opportunity. Please stay tuned for future next steps.