Sometime in the next few weeks the Province will introduce legislation creating a new “Local Planning Appeal Tribunal” (LPAT) that would replace the Ontario Municipal Board with respect to land use planning appeal matters.
Major changes being proposed include:
- The elimination of de novo hearings;
- Further restrictions to what may be appealed. LPAT would only be able to overturn municipal decisions in very limited circumstances, where there is inconsistency with provincial policies or nonconformity with the applicable official plan(s). Provincially approved official plans and official plan updates would no longer be appealable, nor would Ministerial Zoning Orders;
- Restrictions on the right to amend a new secondary plan within the first two years, unless permitted by municipal council, and the right to appeal an interim control bylaw for the first year following its enactment;
- The option to prohibit appeals to developments near major transit areas, although it is unclear what will constitute a major transit area and whether this option can be exercised by upper- and lower-tier municipalities.
Other proposed changes include strict statutory timelines for oral hearings, mandatory case management, and the virtual elimination of viva voce expert evidence. The new appeal process would move away from oral advocacy towards a paper-based system; the theory being that this will increase access to justice, efficiency and transparency, and reduce the length of appeals. In line with these goals, the Province proposes to create a “Local Planning Appeal Support Centre” to provide free planning and legal advice to individuals who want to participate in the appeal process. See the Ministry’s news release at the following link for a full summary of the proposed changes: https://news.ontario.ca/newsroom/en
It remains unclear what impact the proposed changes will have on existing appeal matters. We will have to wait to see the transition and other provisions in the draft legislation.
One thing is certain, if passed, the proposed amendments would result in sweeping changes to Ontario’s land use planning appeal system.