The Ontario Municipal Board (“OMB”) will be undergoing radical reform in the coming months. The Ontario government recently announced its long-awaiting plans to restructure the OMB.
If the changes are passed, the OMB will be replaced by a new statutory body, which will be referred to as the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (“Tribunal”). The Tribunal would be mandated to provide more weight to local concerns in appeals related to land use and development.
Perhaps most significantly, challenges to planning decisions brought before the Tribunal would, for the most part, proceed as appeals. Currently, challenges before the OMB proceed as de novo hearings. This means that the OMB essentially re-determines municipal land use planning decisions on their merits as opposed to merely reviewing, with some degree of deference, decisions that local bodies have already made, as is generally the case with appeals. For more complex appeals, the Tribunal would only be able to overturn development and land use decisions made by locally-elected councils when they did not conform with official plans or the Provincial Policy Statement. If the Tribunal did not ultimately agree with the municipality’s decision, it would have to return the matter to the municipality, as opposed to replacing the original decision with its own.
Other notable changes include:
- Exempting more land use planning decisions from appeal;
- Making the appeal process more publicly accessible, including through the creation of an agency that would provide free information and support to members of the public looking to participate;
- Reforming and incorporating into statute rules on the conduct of hearings; and
- Shielding municipal policies aimed at supporting development around major public transit stations from challenge.