Bill 66 – Expanded Municipal Zoning Power Would Make Some Environmental Land Use Policies Optional

Written by on December 12, 2018. Posted in Environmental laws, Planning / environmental assessment

On December 6th, 2018, Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018, passed first reading in the Ontario legislature.

The government’s Proposal Summary on the Environmental Registry indicates that the Bill is intended to “stimulate business investment, create good jobs, and make Ontario more competitive by cutting unnecessary regulations that are inefficient, inflexible or out of date”

Among the Bill’s many proposed legislative changes are amendments to the municipal zoning by-law powers under section 34 of the Planning Act (Schedule 10 of the Bill). Currently, a municipal council’s zoning discretion is significantly circumscribed by a complex suite of policies and protections, including environmental policies, to which zoning decisions must comply.

“Open-for-business planning by-law”

This Bill proposes to create a new category of municipal zoning powers, called an “open-for-business planning by-law” (OFB By-law), which would give municipal councils significant discretion to determine which, if any, of the complex suite of policies and protections they wish to implement.

Key aspects of the OFB zoning by-law power will depend on forthcoming regulations, but the government’s Proposal Summary makes it clear that this new municipal discretion will only apply to zoning for employment uses (e.g. manufacturing, warehousing, offices etc.) that meet a minimum job creation threshold.

Use of the new power will also require approval of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the Minister can impose conditions to protect matters like public health and safety.

If the criteria can be met, and the Minister approves, this new OFB By-law power would allow a municipal council to decide whether or not they wish to implement any of the environmental policies found in the following instruments in their OFB By-law

  • The Provincial Policy Statement (2014) and municipal Official Plans made pursuant to the Planning Act;
  • Drinking Water Source Protection Plans prepared under the Clean Water Act, 2006;
  • Great Lakes Protection Initiatives made pursuant to the Great Lakes Protection Act, 2015;
  • The Green Belt Plan promulgated under the Greenbelt Act, 2005;
  • The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan promulgated under the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, 2008;
  • The Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan pursuant to the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001.
  • A Policy Statement made pursuant to the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016. [1]

The proposed changes would also permit a municipality to pass an OFB zoning By-law through a streamlined process, and the OFB zoning By-law cannot be appealed to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

[1] An OFB By-law would also be exempt from other non-environmental policies not included in this list.