In 2011 the City of Toronto (the "City") commenced review of its Official Plan (the "OP Review"). Pursuant to section 26 of the Planning Act, the Official Plan must be reviewed and revised every 5 years to ensure that it conforms with provincial plans, has regard for matters of provincial interest and is consistent with provincial policy statements. Therefore, the purpose of the OP Review is to update, revise or delete existing policies and to add new policies where necessary, as a result of recent provincial legislation. To identify policies in need of revision, extensive public consultation was conducted by the City from May to December 2011. As a result of this consultation, several areas of the Official Plan were identified for revision during the OP Review including (1) heritage policies (2) affordable housing (3) transportation planning policies and (4) employment lands policies and designations.
Since May 2012, a number of reports have been prepared by City Staff in relation to these areas of review, including:
- Staff Report re: Proposed Heritage Policies – May 24, 2012
- Staff Report re: Affordable Home Ownership Opportunities – May 29, 2012
- Staff Report re: Rental Replacement in Mid-Rise Developments on the Avenues – August 16, 2012
- Staff Report re: Proposed Section 37 Policies Related to Housing – August 16, 2012
- Staff Report re: Employment Uses Policies – August 27, 2012
- Staff Report re: Transportation Planning Policy in Support of a Comprehensive Transit Plan – August 29, 2012
- Staff Reports re: Official Plan Amendment to Adopt new Heritage and Public Realm Policies – September 20, 2012, January 7, 2013 & March 25, 2013
- Staff Report re: Draft Policies and Designations for Employment – October 23, 2012
- Staff Report re: Official Plan Amendment to Adopt New Section 37 Policies Related to Affordable Housing – January 30, 2013 &
- Supplementary Staff Report re: Amendment to Adopt New Heritage and Public Realm Policies – February 4, 2013
At the City Council ("Council") meeting held April 3-4, 2013 (the "April Meeting") two Official Plan amendments were before Council for adoption: Official Plan Amendment No.214 for new Section 37 Policies related to Affordable Housing (the "Section 37 Affordable Housing Amendment") and Official Plan Amendment No.199 to Adopt new Heritage and Public Realm Policies (the "Heritage and Public Realm Policies Amendment").
The Section 37 Affordable Housing Amendment was not adopted at the April Meeting, but instead was referred to the Chief Planner and Executive Director of City Planning with a report to be provided to Council for its June 11-12, 2013 meeting. Specifically, Council sought information regarding the implications of removing two provisions from the Section 37 Affordable Housing Amendment and regarding the creation of a definition of affordable ownership housing. Further, Council requested information concerning the results of consultation on the amendment. It is anticipated that the Section 37 Affordable Housing Amendment will once again be before Council for adoption at its meeting on June 11-12, 2013.
The Heritage and Public Realm Policies Amendment, however, was adopted by Council on April 4th, 2013. The changes to the Official Plan brought forward in this amendment are in response to the 2005 Ontario Heritage Act, the 2005 Provincial Policy Statement and the 2006 Provincial Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, all of which include policies regarding heritage properties. More specifically, the Heritage and Public Realm Policies Amendment includes new policies that set out the procedures and structure for heritage and archaeological preservation in the City, encourage the raising of heritage and archaeological awareness throughout the City, and provide for the protection of heritage features through the evaluation of new construction or alterations on or adjacent to heritage properties. Notably, the new policies also establish a Heritage Register as required by the Heritage Act, mandate the completion of Heritage Impact Assessments under certain circumstances, and require the adoption of a heritage management plan and archaeological management plan by the City. Incentives to encourage the preservation of heritage properties are also provided, including allowing additional gross floor area in excess of what is permitted in the zoning by-law up to the gross floor area of the heritage property.
Interestingly, the new policies now provide for the protection of "significant views" to landmark buildings, landscapes, the downtown/financial district and natural heritage features (new Policies 9, 10, 11 and 12 under Section 3.1.1 and new Policies 43-45 under Section 3.1.5). For example, the view of the downtown/financial district skyline from a number of locations including the eastbound Gardiner Expressway and the Toronto Islands is protected under the new heritage policies.
Finally, a number of policies regarding the securing of heritage easement agreements have been implemented. For example, heritage easement agreements are to be secured:
- where feasible when a City-owned heritage property is sold, leased or transferred to another owner;
- from publicly funded institutions such as universities, schools and hospitals as a condition of accepting heritage conservation or maintenance incentives;
- from designated heritage property owners where additional protection beyond designation is warranted due to location, proposed alteration and/or the nature of that property;
- when a property on the Heritage Register is to be relocated as a means of securing the conditions related to the relocation; and
- where archaeological resources of heritage value are to be preserved in situ.
Given the restrictive nature of heritage easement agreements and the onerous obligations placed on property owners within such agreements, these new policies should be of note as such agreements appear to be required much more frequently under the amended Official Plan.