Urban Land Institute Toronto (ULI) recently hosted a sold out panel, Navigating a Post-OMB World. Panelists included Jane Pepino, Senior Partner, Aird & Berlis LLP; Leona Savoie, Vice President, Hullmark Developments Ltd.; Emma West, Partner, Bousfields; and Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, Ward 27, Toronto Centre – Rosedale.
At the end of 2017, it was announced that the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) would be replaced by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). At the time, we thought this might smooth out the development application process, but after talking with Leona Savoie and Emma West, we have a clearer picture of what the LPAT means for the industry.
Newinhomes.com (NIH): Do you think the OMB needed to be replaced?
Leona Savoie (LS): I don’t think that it needed to be replaced. However, a balanced reform could have been entertained.
NIH: Then how does the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) differ from the OMB?
LS: The manner in which appeals are considered will be completely different. All evidence will be front loaded to the municipal application processing stage and it is incumbent on the municipality’s council to evaluate that evidence against all provincial policy.
Emma West (EW): It is important to note that Bill 139 included a number of changes to the Planning Act and Conservation Authorities Act and also repealed the Ontario Municipal Board Act and replaced it with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act.
So, there are a number of things across the planning process as a whole that have changed, beyond just the changes to the appeal body itself, including what can be appealed. In terms of the differences between the LPAT and the OMB, one of the key differences is that the new LPAT process could be a two-step appeal process. At the end of the first appeal, LPAT may direct Council to reconsider the application.
NIH: Two steps? So, will the LPAT actually streamline the development process?
LS: In the short term, no. I believe that application processing time will be extended. Long term, maybe, since it may result in a more predictable system.
EW: We do not yet fully understand the effect of the changes on the approvals timeline but it certainly seems like it will take longer, particularly at the beginning of this new process while all the parties are figuring out the changes. More time might be required upfront as the application is processed and before an appeal. If an appeal is launched, given the two-step process to the appeal, it would probably take longer.
NIH: What will be some other major hurdles for developers?
LS: Trying to get strong positions/feedback out of the municipalities sooner on the development proposal ideally when someone is in due diligence at acquisition stage. If a developer will have to front end reports and rationales sooner than typically done, this will eliminate the development process ‘spin cycle.’
In the past, developers and their consultants have taken on the burden of educating the public on their proposal. It will now become more important to rope the municipality, their planners and politicians into this process.
Development is a complicated process riddled with tonnes of engineering that the general public and even municipal planners do not understand. Municipal planners should be charged with the autonomy to balance out all stakeholder (internal and external) interests. This is not happening anymore. So, what if an application gets caught up on a technical issue which is often the case? Who will adjudicate? I believe that this is where most of the bottlenecks will occur.
(L-R) John Duffy, John Matheson, Jane Pepino, Emma West, Leona Savoie, Councilor Kristyn Wong-Tam, and Richard Joy
NIH: Do you have any recommendations for developers?
LS: Start consultation early. Ensure your planning consultants and lawyers are engaged early and that all reports are iron clad before submissions are made. Be prepared for a more lengthy process. The municipalities do not have the resources to deal with this yet.
NIH: How should developers communicate with communities?
LS: This depends on where you’re doing business. Some councillors prefer to control the messaging. Some do not. Some communities are younger than others. Do you use social media or conventional mailings? Will working through key points of contacts for ratepayer groups be enough? I think depending on where your application is, developers and their consultants will have to create a local based communication strategy.
A big thanks goes out to Leona and Emma for taking the time to talk to us about the LPAT and the upcoming changes to the development application process.