McGuinty government to put the public interest first and give communities control over how they grow

Archived Release

McGuinty government to put the public interest first and give communities control over how they grow

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

TORONTO, Dec. 15 - The McGuinty government is introducing legislation to bring fundamental change to land use planning in Ontario, Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretsen announced today. These reforms would give communities the important tools they need to grow smart, for a change. If passed, the Strong Communities (Planning Amendment) Act will put the public first, by opening up the planning process by allowing more time for public scrutiny, boosting environmental protection and better protecting the public interest. "If enacted, this bill will move quickly to take the government in a new direction by giving the people of Ontario a real and significant voice in the way their communities grow and prosper," said Gerretsen. "The bill, if enacted, would make the planning process responsive to local needs for a change." "Under the previous government, a weak Planning Act allowed unfettered development and uncontrolled sprawl. Proponents of urban expansions were allowed to bypass democratically elected local governments and appeal directly to the unaccountable Ontario Municipal Board (OMB)," added Gerretsen. "The OMB consistently overruled democratically elected local officials, approving projects that made sense only to the proponents." Municipalities will be given more time to review planning applications, allowing more time for public input into decisions on developments proposed for their communities. The proposed legislation would make sure land use decisions are consistent with the province's priorities for environmental protection and community growth. This is the first part of a comprehensive overhaul of the OMB, one of the McGuinty government's top priorities. The government plans to continue public consultations on the Provincial Policy Statement and other related high priority issues in the new year. Today's announcement would put more planning power in the hands of communities and put the public interest first. Disponible en français Visit www.mah.gov.on.ca Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ministry of Municipal Affairs December 15, 2003 STRONG COMMUNITIES (PLANNING AMENDMENT) ACT: GOVERNMENT SEEKS MAJOR REFORMS TO LAND USE PLANNING IN ONTARIO As part of its core commitment to give communities the tools they need to grow smart, the Ontario government is introducing the Strong Communities (Planning Amendment) Act. The proposed reforms would put greater planning power in the hands of communities and ensure that everyone plays by the rules by following provincial policies in areas such as greenlands preservation and rural protection. The proposed Strong Communities (Planning Amendment) Act includes measures that would: - put the public interest first by preventing appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) of urban expansions that are opposed by elected municipal governments; and - give the public a stronger voice in the planning decisions that affect their communities by increasing the time available for municipalities to review planning applications before they may be appealed to the OMB. For example, - the time frame to consider amendments to official municipal plans and applications for approval of subdivisions would double to 180 days from the current 90 days; - the time frame to consider zoning applications would change to 120 from 90 days; and - the time frame to consider applications for consent to sever a property would increase to 90 days from 60 days. The time extensions would allow municipalities more time to thoroughly study and consider the full implications of development applications. - ensure that provincial planning policies could no longer be ignored, by changing the language in the act. The reforms would require that land-use planning decisions be "consistent with," rather than "have regard to," the Provincial Policy Statement - the document setting out the province's priorities for how communities grow and how municipal governments protect the environment; and - protect broader provincial interests by enabling the minister to advise the OMB if a proposed official plan, zoning bylaw or related amendments are matters of provincial interest. The decisions respecting such matters would then be finally determined by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. The previous government allowed the OMB to frequently overrule local governments and approve urban expansion projects that did not reflect local interests. The proposed legislation would be another strong step toward the government's goal of fundamentally reforming the unelected OMB. Public consultations will follow introduction of legislation. There will also be further consultation on the larger issue of the OMB and other priority issues. The Planning Act The Planning Act, as it currently stands, governs land-use planning and development in Ontario and sets out how the land-use planning system works, who the decision-makers are, and the avenues for dispute resolution. The Provincial Policy Statement The Provincial Policy Statement sets out overall policy direction on matters of provincial interest related to responsible land-use planning and development. The central principles of the Provincial Policy Statement are the protection of sensitive greenspace, including farmlands, and balanced community growth. The current Planning Act requires the province to review the Provincial Policy Statement every five years to determine if it is up to date and serving the public interest. This review is now underway and will be part of the planned consultations. Disponible en français For more information visit www.mah.gov.on.caFor further information: Contact: David Ross, Minister's Office, (416) 585-6333; Audrey Bennett, Ministry of Municipal Affairs, (416) 585-6014