Mayor’s Council Update – Feb 22, 2022

Aurora Council last night unanimously passed my motion to dissolve the OLT (Ontario Land Tribunal)…  Here are my comments…

 

Communities across this province are facing a housing crisis that is decades in the making.  Urgent action is needed to increase access to a diversity of housing options paramount of which is the need to remove barriers to getting shovels in the ground.

The motion before you speaks to the need to eliminate one of the key process related barriers to increasing the development of new housing – the land use planning appeals process through the Ontario Land Tribunal.

Municipal Councils are required to create an Official Plan that meets provincial planning goals – including growth and intensification targets.  We are required to demonstrate that our plan – our vision for our community – conforms with the provinces over arching planning goals.  We are required to get approval for that plan.  And we are legislatively required to adhere to that plan.

To get to that approval stage, a municipality has to go through exhaustive administrative and consultative processes designed to ensure that everyone has their say in the final plan.  This process can take literally years.

At the end of all that, at the end of all that consultation with key stakeholders, after we have spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, we arrive at a plan that serves the dual purpose of meeting the provinces planning goals and policy statements and our community’s long term planning  interests.

So  what then is the role of the Ontario Land Tribunal in this whole process?  Is it to support municipalities in upholding their approved plans and to support growth and development that is appropriate to the community within which it is planned?

No it is not.

The role of the OLT is to decide whose vision of a community takes precedence by presiding over a process where – often –  the vision of a single applicant, with goal of maximizing profit for a single location, has the same weight as that of a municipality’s provincially approved overarching community plan.

Does our OP meet growth targets? yes it does

Does our OP meet intensification targets? yes it does

Does our OP have zoning that fosters diverse housing options? yes it does.

Have we ever denied an application that complies with that plan? no we have not.

In the past 10 years, aurora has been appealed 30 times because we didn’t approve an applicant’s demand to allow what isn’t allowed.

Appeal after appeal quoting intensification as the planning policy rationale for demanding more than what is allowed.

Yet, the December 2021 Ontario Auditor General’s report states that, the Regional Municipality of York met the intensification targets every year from 2015 to 2019.

We are meeting our intensification targets. Just not where the applicant can make the most money.

Our current OP requires 25% of all new units to be affordable.

Are they being built? NO.  They are not.

And they won’t be as long as the OLT has the power to ignore local municipal planning decisions.

The existing planning appeals process mandates that municipalities follow their plan but allows applicants to ignore it entirely.

Any decision of council that fails to follow law or process can be appealed in a court of law.  Why are planning decisions any different? Why are applicants allowed to appeal a council planning decision simply because they don’t like it?

At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves do we as a council, a corporation and a community agree that we should have the authority to uphold our community vision as expressed in our Official Plan? that we should have the final say in whether to grant or deny an application that seeks to change that vision?

Or do we agree that an unelected, unaccountable, unappealable third party should decide?

It’s really that simple.

Profit driven planning doesn’t build our community.  It builds someone else’s bottom line.

Lets send the message that it is time for a change;  If we truly want to take action to address the housing crisis, then lets take the first step in fixing this flawed and broken land use planning system and request the Province to dissolve the OLT; give municipalities the authority to uphold their official plans.

And let’s get back to building our future, together today.

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