Local planning appeal tribunal often works for the common good
If you follow development and construction in Ontario, you will be familiar with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) and its predecessor, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
LPAT adjudicates disputes about the decisions of municipal councils as they relate to the Planning Act. Opponents of development often label LPAT as biased in favour of developers. These critics erroneously believe that the decisions of local councils should be placed ahead of Ontario policy and legislation.
What often goes unmentioned are the countless decisions by LPAT that have resulted in new housing developments that benefit those in need. As the provincial government prepares to introduce changes to streamline and expedite the LPAT process, it is a good time to remember some of these decisions.
Thanks to LPAT, Habitat for Humanity was able to build nine affordable housing units at 357 Birchmount Rd. in Scarborough, despite opposition from the local councillor and residents.
Housing for more than 1,700 students will be added to the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph after the resolution of appeals to LPAT.
When the City of Toronto was unable to reach a decision within the prescribed time frames, LPAT allowed the building of 1,000 purpose-built rental units near transit in the High Park neighbourhood of Toronto.
A housing project for seniors on vacant Toronto District School Board property got the go-ahead from LPAT after the city failed to make a decision. It resulted in a continuum-of-care facility funded by the Ministry of Long-Term Care, and 49 independent seniors’ apartments.
In Hamilton, LPAT approved a residential care facility for adolescent girls with mental health challenges following the intervention of the Ontario Human Rights Commission over the city’s bylaw objections.
These are some of the numerous decisions that have been made by LPAT, and the OMB, that have resulted in development that would not have occurred in their absence. These decisions, by LPAT and the OMB, have benefited seniors, students, people with disabilities, and those needing rental housing in a city with a housing shortage.
When a group feels a municipal development decision runs counter to provincial policy or legislation, the case can be brought to LPAT, which derives its authority from provincial legislation.
Through Bill 108, More Homes, More Choice Act, the province reinforces the notion that an effective and efficient tribunal is a necessity to ensure that planning conforms to provincial policy and regulations and that the planning process is free of political interference.
Recently, the provincial government announced changes to LPAT to enhance the effectiveness and speed by which the body adjudicates disputes. These positive changes will increase LPAT resources, streamline the appeals and ensure that decisions are made on the latest and best possible information.
Undoubtedly, these are positive steps to increase supply of housing and affordability for Ontarians.
Dave Wilkes is president and CEO of BILD (Building Industry and Land Development Association), and can be found on: Twitter.com/BILDGTA Facebook.com/BILDGTA YouTube.com/BILDGTA and BILD’s official online blog: BILDBlogs.ca