Media Release

CELA Applauds Planning Act Changes

Dec 16 2003

Toronto. Yesterday the Ontario government introduced important changes to Ontario’s Planning Act and promised to conduct extensive public consultation regarding additional planning matters. The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) agrees with the changes proposed so far and looks forward to additional consultation on other matters including strengthening the Provincial Policy Statement. The changes in Bill 26 will make it easier for communities to make local decisions before matters are appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board. “The appeals by developers to the Ontario Municipal Board within short time frames were preventing many communities from completing their public process,” stated Theresa McClenaghan, counsel with CELA. This new law will allow communities more time to examine official plan amendments, zoning by-law amendments, and other applications, before a right of appeal arises. In addition, the deadline for a municipality to hold a public meeting regarding an official plan amendment is deleted, again giving municipalities adequate time for public review. Some types of appeals are eliminated. Applicants will no longer be able to appeal on the ground that a municipality did not give a public notice of a meeting concerning the application. Appeals will not be allowed for amendments that would alter urban settlement area boundaries or establish new urban settlement areas. Removing such appeal rights will give elected municipal councils greater control over whether, when, and in what direction their urban settlement areas will grow. Bill 26 will restore the Minister’s power to indicate that certain planning matters are of provincial interest. In such cases the Ontario Municipal Board’s decision making powers would be limited with the decision up to the Provincial government. This could apply to official plans, zoning by-laws and other planning decisions. Another important change is in the standard for decision making. Municipal decisions and provincial government and agency advice on decisions, comments, and submissions must be “consistent with” the Provincial Policy Statement. This replaces the current language which is to “have regard for” such policy statements. However, CELA notes that the current Provincial Policy Statement must be significantly strengthened in order to gain the needed benefits of this change. CELA is encouraged by yesterday’s announcement that Provincial Policy Statement review will continue and that there will be additional public consultation. “Once enacted these changes should go a long way to making the municipal land use process open, accessible and protective of natural heritage”, said Richard Lindgren, Counsel with CELA.- 30 -For additional comment and information, please contact:Theresa McClenaghan, Counsel 416-960-2284 ext. 218Richard Lindgren, Counsel 416-960-2284 ext. 214