On May 16, 2017, the Provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Attorney General of Ontario announced the government's intention to "overhaul" Ontario's land use planning appeals system.

The Province intends to introduce new legislation later this month, which will replace the Ontario Municipal Board (the "OMB") with a Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (the "LPAT").

Key highlights of the Province's announcement include:

Eliminating "De Novo" appeal hearings of municipal decisions

  • Under the new legislation, the LPAT may be restricted to deciding on issues that were considered by municipal council

  • The LPAT will only be able to overturn a municipal decision if that decision does not follow Provincial policies or municipal plans

  • Upon such findings of inconsistency or non-conformity, the LPAT will first return the matter to municipal council for a new decision

  • The LPAT will retain authority to make a final decision only when, on a second appeal, the municipality's subsequent decision still fails to follow Provincial policies or municipal plans

Mandatory case management

  • In most cases, the LPAT will conduct mandatory case management to narrow issues and encourage settlement

  • The aim is for fewer and shorter hearings, as well as a more efficient decision-making process

  • The new legislation will introduce clear timelines for hearing procedures

  • The reforms will create a less adversarial system, with an emphasis on mediation and eliminating examination and cross-examination of witnesses in favour of a more paper-based process

Free legal and planning support

  • The Province will create the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre, which will provide free and independent advice and representation to Ontarians on land use planning appeals

Sheltering major planning decisions from appeal

  • The legislative changes will shelter the following decisions from appeal:

    • Provincial approvals of Official Plans and Official Plan updates, including approvals of conformity exercises to Provincial plans
    • Minister's Zoning Orders
  • New secondary plans will be protected from private amendment applications for 2 years, unless permitted by council

  • Local Appeal Bodies will have expanded jurisdiction to hear appeals from site plan matters, in addition to minor variances and consents

    • Presently, the City of Toronto is the only municipality that has created a Local Appeal Body
  • Municipalities will have a new discretionary tool to block certain appeals from proceeding with respect to policies that support appropriate development around major transit station areas (500 metre radius).

The finer details of the Province's land use planning reforms (including any grandfathering or transition provisions) will become known once the proposed legislation is tabled later this month. We will continue to monitor these changes and provide updates as they become available.