OMB Rules on Motion for Directions on Completeness of Official Plan Amendment Application under new Planning Act Provisions

In Decision/Order No. 2897 between Top of the Tree Developments Inc. and the City of Toronto, OMB Chair Hubbard and Vice Chair Lee ruled on a motion to determine whether an application for an official plan amendment was complete as of the date of its filing. The City of Toronto attempted to impose additional application requirements upon the applicant based upon existing general official plan policies, but without adopting any specific official plan policy to address the new authority granted by the Planning Act that came into force on June 1, 2007. This is the first decision of the OMB that considers whether an application is complete under the revised Planning Act provisions and s. 22(5), in particular.

The OMB held that a specific official plan policy related to the requirements under this subsection must be adopted and in force before a municipality can impose additional requirements for complete applications. A municipality cannot simply rely upon official plan policies which were in force prior to this sub-section coming into force in this regard, even if they already set out additional application requirements.

The OMB also confirmed that there are no ownership requirements in the Planning Act before a person or municipality can bring an official plan amendment application to redesignate lands; an issue which has often been disputed before the Board.

With greater authority comes greater responsibility, and the Board commented that municipalities must be prepared to undertake the required steps to implement their new powers and responsibilities under the Act even if that means the creation of further opportunities for appeals.

In light of this decision, it can be inferred that the new grants of authority in the Planning Act to control architectural design pursuant to section 41(4)(2)(d) and sustainable design pursuant to section 41(4)(2)(e) require the adoption of new official plan policies prior to the exercise of the authority under these sections. However, it should also be mentioned that both the power to regulate sustainable design and architectural design is limited because both the Planning Act and Ontario Building Code Act prevent municipalities from regulating the manner of and standards for construction.