Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Transmitted by Canada NewsWire on : June 1, 2004 09:51

Ontario moves forward on OMB and land-use planning reforms
Government to engage public on changes to land-use planning system

TORONTO, June 1 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is moving to strengthen Ontario's communities by talking to Ontarians about reforming the Ontario Municipal Board and the land-use planning system, Municipal Affairs and
Housing Minister John Gerretsen announced today. "Planning reform is key to building strong communities and a prosperous economy," Gerretsen said today at a breakfast meeting of the Canadian Urban Institute. "We will seek the views of the public on what reforms are needed to give our communities the flexibility and tools they need to be strong, safe and livable."

The government took the first step toward implementing its comprehensive vision for land-use planning reform in December 2003, when it introduced Bill 26, the Strong Communities (Planning Amendment) Act, 2004. The proposed act would boost local democracy and bring greater accountability and transparency to land-use planning by putting planning decisions back in the hands of municipalities.

"The introduction of Bill 26 was a major step to planning reform," said Ann Mulvale, President of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. "We support the government's intent to review other elements of land-use planning -
- this is long overdue."

Today's announcement represents the next major step toward fulfilling the government's commitment to reforming the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The government will seek public input on the OMB, including its mandate and
accountability, how the OMB can be made more accessible to the public and board members' qualifications and length of tenure. The government is also consulting on the Planning Act and the revised draft Provincial Policy Statement, which sets out the province's overall vision of growth and priorities for land-use.

Public information sessions will be held across the province during the months of June and July. The first session takes place on June 8 in Windsor. Planning reform is an important component of the government's plan to
promote managed growth, sustainable development, a strong economy and a healthy environment.

"Well-planned communities will help enhance Ontario's reputation as a preferred location for business and will ensure this province's economy continues to grow and prosper long into the future," said Minister of Economic
Development and Trade Joseph Cordiano.

"We're committed to showing leadership by planning ahead for the right kind of growth in the right places," said Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal David Caplan. "The way we live tomorrow will depend on how we plan and
grow today."

"We are taking action on the priorities that will lead to a higher quality of life in our cities, towns and rural communities," said Minister Gerretsen. "Ontario's success depends on building strong communities, a robust
economy and a healthy environment."


Backgrounder

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ENGAGING THE PUBLIC IN REFORMS TO LAND-USE PLANNING IN ONTARIO

The McGuinty government is taking the next step in its change agenda to sustain well-managed, planned growth and build strong communities.

A series of public information sessions will be held in major centres across Ontario to get input from the public and key groups with interests in la nd-use planning on the government's planning reform initiative.

The public is being invited to provide input on the role of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in the land-use planning system; the revised Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), which is the government's statement of its land-use
priorities; what changes are required to the Planning Act; and implementation tools that people feel are needed to facilitate better planning and strong communities in Ontario.

Reforms to the planning system will complement a number of concurrent government priorities, including dealing with gridlock, protecting the environment, preserving greenspace and heritage resources, containing urban
sprawl and sustaining a strong economy.

Public Information Sessions on Planning Reform

June 8 - Windsor June 29 - Kingston
June 10 - Vaughan July 6 - London
June 15 - Toronto Downtown July 8 - Thunder Bay
June 16 - Toronto East July 12 - Ottawa
June 17 - Toronto West July 13 - Oakville
June 22 - Hamilton/Niagara July 15 - Sudbury
June 24 - Pickering

An information package including three consultation discussion documents is available at www.planningreform.ontario.ca, or on request by calling the toll-free line, 1-866-751-8082, or (416) 645-8082 in Toronto. Information will also be distributed during the public information sessions to give people the
opportunity to provide comments and share their views on how Ontario's communities should grow and prosper.

Planning Act Reform (Bill 26)

The Planning Act sets out the ground rules for land-use planning in Ontario, describes how land uses may be controlled and identifies provincial interests in land-use planning.

Phase One of Planning Act reform began in December 2003 with the introduction of Bill 26, the Strong Communities (Planning Amendment) Act, 2004.

Bill 26 proposes the first step toward OMB reform. The bill would enable municipalities, not the Ontario Municipal Board, to determine their local boundaries; give municipalities more time to review planning applications;
require that land-use planning decisions must "be consistent with" the PPS--a stronger test than the existing "have regard to" standard; and provide for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to declare matters before the OMB to be of provincial interest.

Bill 26 was posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) website for a 90-day comment period which ended on March 15, 2004.

Consultation on Bill 26 will focus on proposed reforms to the Planning Act. It will also seek suggestions on what other changes may be required to the Planning Act to make it more effective.

Ontario Municipal Board

The OMB is a specialized administrative tribunal of provincially appointed members with province-wide decision-making authority over municipal land-use planning. The board is established under the Ontario Municipal Board
Act, which deals with a range of matters including appointments to the board, its jurisdiction and general powers, and certain rules regulating its practice and procedure.

When there are disputes involving land-use planning matters that cannot be resolved, the Planning Act provides an appeal process. The OMB provides the public forum to hear the appeal.

The role of the OMB within the land-use planning system as established by authority under the Planning Act, is to resolve disputes involving official plans, zoning bylaws, minor variances, subdivisions, consents and site plan
matters.

Areas to be reviewed include:
- The qualifications of OMB members and their length of tenure
- The public's ability to participate in OMB hearings
- The OMB's mandate, which encompasses everything from the most complex
projects to backyard additions
- Accountability of the OMB to stand in the place of elected councils

Provincial Policy Statement Five-Year Review

The Provincial Policy Statement is a statement of the government's land- use priorities and provides policy direction to municipalities, the Ontario Municipal Board and other decisionmakers as they make land-use planning
decisions affecting Ontario communities.

The proposed changes to the PPS would give municipal decision-makers the framework to make wise decisions for better communities. For example, the proposed changes would:

- Protect greenspace, by requiring municipalities to set targets for
redevelopment, intensification and infill on lands that are already
developed - before any expansion onto farmlands and natural areas;

- Revitalize our communities by promoting the cleanup and redevelopment
of brownfields;

- Reduce gridlock and traffic congestion, by direct ing development into
areas already served by transit, and promoting transit-friendly
development that gives people the choice to get out of their cars;

- Encourage housing and jobs in close proximity, so that people can live
and work in the same neighbourhood;

- Recognize that healthy livable cities need urban greening - urban
parks, green roofs, for example - for better air quality;

- Preserve our valuable water resources, through stronger policies to
guard our watersheds, our rivers and our lakes for future generations.

The PPS is issued under the authority of Section 3 of the Planning Act. It provides policy direction on a wide range of matters such as managing growth, using land efficiently, and protecting resources such as prime
agricultural lands, water and significant natural features.

In making land-use planning decisions, all decision-makers are required to "have regard to" the policies in the PPS. The proposed Strong Communities (Planning Amendment) Act, 2004 (Bill 26) proposes to change this standard to
require that all land-use planning decisions "shall be consistent with" the PPS.

The current PPS was issued in May 1996. The Planning Act requires the PPS to be reviewed every five years. Staff of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and other provincial ministries with interests in land-use
planning are responsible for the review.

Draft PPS policies are included in the consultation documents for public review.

Implementation Tools

As the government moves forward with its proposed reforms to promote more effective land-use planning, it is also looking for suggestions and recommendations on planning-related tools that can assist in meeting this
objective.

For example, the Planning Act now provides most municipalities with the ability to prepare community improvement plans that encourage redevelopment and/or rehabilitation improvements throughout their community. Once
implemented, the plan allows municipalities to make grants or loans to assist in the rehabilitation of lands and buildings within the community improvement project area. Such action encourages urban revitalization, thus promoting urban intensification.

The consultation will ask the public what new or revised tools would support better planning and strong communities in Ontario.

Disponible en français

For more information visit www.mah.gov.on.ca

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/For further information: Patti Munce, Minister's Office, (416) 585-6333;
Audrey Bennett, Provincial Planning and Environmental Services Branch,
(416) 585-6014/


ONTARIO MINISTRY OF MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS AND HOUSING