Media Release

Public Rights Lost Under Proposed Development Permit System

May 26 1998

Toronto.The Canadian Environmental Law Association has called for public input and appeal rights in a Development Permit system proposed by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Responding to a Discussion Paper issued by the Ministry, CELA criticized the proposal which could see municipal decisions made on development applications in "development permit" areas, with no notice to the surrounding land owners or the public.

In its brief to the Ministry, CELA pointed out that the proposed system would give members of the public and surrounding land owners no right of input into the decisions being made, and no right of appeal from the development decisions made by the local municipality in those areas. For example, in a development permit area that listed industrial uses, a municipality might decide to allow a new chemical packaging plant without notice to the public, nor public input. Under the proposed system, a neighbour who found that no groundwater protection had been required by the municipality would be unable to appeal the decision.

The Discussion Paper stated that one of the aims of the proposed system was to move public input "up front" to the Official Plan and development permit by-law stages. CELA raised concerns that people will have little appreciation at those preliminary stages of future impacts that might result from development applications. CELA also pointed out that many of the province's environmental, health and safety laws can only be applied in the context of particular applications.

CELA also alleges that provincial environmental, health and safety laws and policies will be inadequately applied and enforced under the new system. Requirements will be inconsistent across the province, and residents from one municipality to another will receive very different levels of protection.

Theresa McClenaghan, counsel with Canadian Environmental Law Association said, "When you combine the impact of the proposed development permit area system with the down-loading of environmental and health responsibilities from the province, I fear that municipalities, particularly the smaller, rural municipalities will be unable to cope."

CELA also criticized the possibility of delegating the decisions to grant development applications under the new system to non-elected bodies or municipal staff. "Elected and accountable municipal representatives must be the decision makers, especially when developers ask for special consideration or exceptions from the rules," said McClenaghan.

The submission was endorsed by eighteen environmental and citizen's groups from across Ontario, including the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, the Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment and the Wildlands League.

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For more information:

Theresa McClenaghan, Counsel, 416-960-2284
Kathleen Cooper, Researcher, 416-960-2284