The Ontario Municipal Board is Replaced

Last month Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro announced the end of the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board) and introduced its replacement, the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal or LPAT. The main reasons for the change are to give more decision-making power to the municipalities and to speed up the appeal process. Both are valid reasons. The new LPAT will have less power to overturn local government decisions. Hearings will also be quicker, relying only on written submissions without witness examinations. “Decisions will be written in plain language and made public,” said Attorney General Yasir Naqvi. What effect will the end of the OMB and the introduction of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal have on rural Ontario and farm businesses?

Developers and builders have expressed their concern with this move, but looking at how development has moved over the past decades they have had their opportunities. Even though I share some of their concerns, such as making decisions for winning votes, giving more emphasis on the local planning and development should in the long term be better for cities as well as rural towns and villages. Municipalities and the provincial government will need to conform their Official Plans so that there is consistency across the province but common sense locally. This will hopefully allow municipalities to develop in a manner that fits their unique characteristics and specific needs.

During the 2017 CFFO Policy Tour, CFFO members spoke about the need for more local decision making when it comes to municipal planning and development. There is concern that some development decisions do not originate locally but are motivated by outside influences, resulting in development that local residents do not see as fitting with the characteristics of their communities. This move by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs should be a welcome change in this direction.

However, farmers should not assume that it will be easier when it comes to obtaining development permits. Through the LPAT process other local voices also have the ability to contribute to decisions. I see a need for farmers to participate in those local bodies to express agriculture’s voice and needs before issues come to the LPAT hearings.

Local conservation authorities, public and private wildlife organizations, and environmental groupsill all have the opportunity to provide written comments on applications for development. Rural Ontario needs to know how these groups view development. Being involved and having a positive relationship with them will be crucial when it comes to rural development decisions.

Agriculture needs to inform the LPAT that this industry only functions in rural Ontario and needs the confidence in the development permit process to allow farms to continue to grow.  The new LPAT may be positive for farmers but only if they use it the right way. Local involvement may be the best solution when the new Local Planning Appeals Tribunal has hearings.

Posted by Paul Bootsma on June 1, 2017

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4 Comments

  • jim Wheeler says:

    I question whether municipalities are prepared for this new approach. They will have less ability to “punt” controversial issues to the OMB by taking positions that they know will please their constituents and will result in the developer appealing to the OMB. Their decision has not been the final decision, so they can play politics. Will councils now allow reasonable development or oppose everything not locally popular.

    Second, the OMB has been the vehicle by which most landfills and quarries have been approved and developed as no local council could bring themselves to approve them, and the OMB would take care of that. We may see a rise in building and roads costs as existing gravel pits and quarries are depleted.

    In 10 years we may wish for the OMB to be reinstated.

  • Andrea Rivest says:

    My concern would be that there may be political pressure for the new Board to side with the municipality and reaffirm its decision. At least with the OMB, the approval authority is far removed from the community and would have an impartial decision based on the facts. There is danger that this new local board would become a “rubber stamp” confirmatory body only.
    On the other hand, the positive to this is that the body making decisions locally will know the local flavour of communities and what will or will not fit.
    The decision has both negative and positive attributes. Time will tell how it plays out.

  • Richard O'Brien says:

    Interesting comment and one I partly agree with, BUT, having had dealings with the OMB and local government nothing is perfect.
    My major concern and one that seems to be missed by most commentators is the fact that there seems to be no real appeal process for “the little person.” The LPAT doesn’t appear to allow individuals the right “to be heard” unless they are or can afford to hire someone to prepare written submissions. A skill set most do not have.
    The “big guy” wins again.

  • Cliff Rice says:

    I would worry about who would sit on the Tribunal. Does each municipality have their own local tribunal, and if so, how would they be selected?
    There is potential for this to be an unbalanced partisan panel if not done thoughtfully and hopefully prayerfully.
    I am not only a farmer, but also a doctor and environmentalist. I have personally been involved in a protracted fight over a proposed expansion of a sand pit into 100 acres of EP land critical for groundwater base flows in our county’s only cold water stream. The municipal government cared less and were it not for an impartial OMB and committed citizens who helped raise enormous sums of money to pay for numerous studies and experts, this would have been lost.
    I fear a locally contrived tribunal may have the same effect unless the members can be impartial and have a wide range of knowledge to balance development with stewardship.

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