FoNTRA’S Key Planning Reform Proposals – Summary

November 16, 2010 · 0 comments

in City of Toronto Official Plan

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FoNTRA’S Key Planning Reform Proposals – Summary (November 16, 2010)
1. Official Plan
FoNTRA believes that long-term planning can be improved through stabilizing Toronto’s Official Plan.
2. Planning Act
FoNTRA advocates two small but significant changes to the Planning Act.
3. Local Appeal Body and Committee of Adjustment Processes
FoNTRA recommends that the implementation of a LAB be combined with improvement in the Committee of Adjustment procedures.
4. Request for a minor variance and the “four test” requirements of Section 45(1) of the Planning Act
FoNTRA strongly supports the 2005 decision of the Divisional Court in Vincent v. Degasperis, which clarified the “four test” requirements in Section 45(1) of the Planning Act when there is a request for a minor variance.
5. Protection of Neighbourhoods and Community Involvement
FoNTRA promotes community involvement in planning so that local neighbourhoods are protected and a local-area Secondary Plan is re-instituted wherever an Official Plan change is proposed.
6. Responsible Development
FoNTRA recommends that development application fees be at a level that provide for full-cost recovery.
7. The use of Section 37 of the Planning Act by the City of Toronto
8. Coordination of Provincial Policy Statement, Provincial Plans, and Official Plans
FoNTRA believes in addressing the relationships of provincial policies and provincial plans in the central planning legislation by integrating any required approvals in a single process related to the Official Plan approval process.
9. Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS)
FoNTRA is concerned that the OMB interprets the PPS in a manner that focuses on intensification regardless of the suitability of the location.
10. Local Governance

FoNTRA’S KEY PLANNING REFORM PROPOSALS
Official Plan
• FoNTRA believes that long-term planning can be improved through stabilizing Toronto’s Official Plan. Accordingly, we encourage rules-based planning and discourage site-specific Official Plan amendments. To enhance the Official Plan as a planning instrument, FoNTRA advocates two changes to the Planning Act. [See two changes below.]
Planning Act
• FoNTRA advocates two small but significant Planning Act changes:
1) The Official Plan should be required to provide population densities and land-use intensities which would provide guidance for site-specific re-zonings; and
2) Site-specific amendments should be eliminated to maintain the validity of public policy in between the mandatory comprehensive Official Plan updates every five years.
• We urge the City of Toronto to actively support these changes that require action by the Province.
Local Appeal Body (LAB) and Committee of Adjustment Processes
• FoNTRA recommends that the implementation of a LAB be combined with improvement in the Committee of Adjustment (CoA) procedures in the following three problem areas:
1) inadequate/deficient notices to the public,
2) unequal procedures at the CoA hearings, and
3) inadequate defense of CoA refusals by the City at appeal hearings.
Request for a minor variance and the “four test” requirements of the Planning Act
• FoNTRA strongly supports the 2005 decision of the Divisional Court in the Vincent v. Degasperis, 2005 CanLll 24263 (ON S.C.D.C.) which provided clarification to the “four test” requirements of Section 45(1) of the Planning Act when there is a request for a minor variance. The four tests for a minor variance are:
1) The variance is minor in nature: In 2005, the Divisional Court elaborated that this provision of the Planning Act had to be interpreted to mean that a variance can be more than a minor variance for two reasons, namely, that it is too large to be considered minor or that it is too important to be considered minor. The Court further clarified that the likely impact of a variance is often considered the only factor which determines whether or not it qualifies as minor but … such an approach incorrectly overlooks the first factor, size.
2) The variance is desirable for the appropriate development or the use of the land: The Divisional Court also clarified the second test to mean that the desirability of the variance sought for the appropriate development or use of the land, building or structure … includes a consideration of the many factors that can affect the broad public interest as it relates to the development or use.
3) The variance maintains the general intent and purpose of the Zoning By-law: The general purpose of zoning is to control the permitted uses and the desired physical character of an area as well as and to prevent the intrusion by uses, development patterns, and building forms deleterious to adjacent properties or to the community at large.
4) The variance maintains the general intent and purpose of the Official Plan: The general purpose of an Official Plan is to articulate a public policy framework, including goals and objectives, capable of guiding physical change and managing social, economic and environmental impacts. In Ontario, it sets the limits within which zoning regulations can be enacted.
Protection of Neighbourhoods and Community Involvement
• FoNTRA promotes community involvement in planning so that local neighbourhoods are protected and a local-area Secondary Plan is are re-instituted wherever an Official Plan change is proposed.
Note: A stable Official Plan, as outlined on page 2 above, would permit (when appropriate) the approval of all Zoning By-law amendments by Community Councils.
Responsible Development
• FoNTRA recommends that development application fees be at a level that provide for full-cost recovery and that a minimum standard, such as the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard, be implemented for all new development in Toronto. We urge the City of Toronto to actively support these changes that again require action by the Province to amend the Development Charges Act so that there is a distinction between developments designed to maximize energy efficiency and environmental sustainability and those that do not.
Note: Until changes to the Planning Act (as outlined on page 2 above) are implemented, development application fees for development proposals that require Official Plan and/or Zoning By-law amendments should be increased accordingly.
The use of Section 37 of the Planning Act by the City of Toronto
• FoNTRA recommends a three-fold policy:
1) Section 37 benefits should not be negotiated by individual Councillors but by staff;
2) Section 37 benefits should have a clear planning relationship to the increased height and/or density granted; and
3) Section 37 benefits should have a direct and consistent relationship to the economic benefits inherent in the density and/or height increase, as spelled out in a written policy.
Coordination of Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), Provincial Plans, and Official Plans
• FoNTRA believes that such confusion can only be remedied by addressing the relationships of provincial policies and provincial plans in the central planning legislation, the Planning Act, and by integrating any required approvals in a single process related to the Official Plan approval process. FoNTRA’s recommends:
1) The relationships of policies under the PPS, Provincial Plans, and Official Plans should be clarified and prescribed in the Planning Act.
2) Conformity of Official Plans with policies under the PPS and any Provincial Plans should be established in a single review/approval process.
3) The Planning Act should be amended to require Official Plans to prescribe building intensities and population densities.
4) Amendments to Official Plans initiated by individuals (i.e. non-government) in between the mandatory 5-year reviews should be prohibited.
5) The PPS should provide direction for integrating the various planning elements such as land use, transportation, and economic development.
Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS)
• FoNTRA is concerned that the OMB interprets the PPS in a manner that focuses on intensification regardless of the suitability of the location,
• FoNTRA is concerned that the OMB disregards the express wishes of the municipalities (both lower and upper tier) in upholding an Official Plan designation from a different era by adding additional density to the land.
Governance
• FoNTRA supports less control by the Mayor and strongly recommends that the majority of City Council approve the membership of the Executive Committee. Also, chairs of standing committees should be approved by City Council. Finally, chairs of standing committees should not sit on the Executive Committee.
• FoNTRA strongly supports the election of Community Council Chairs by the respective Community Councils rather than selection by the Mayor.
• FoNTRA recommends that Community Councils should have enhanced powers with delegated powers for more areas, especially planning approvals for projects with local impact and consistent with the Official Plan and/or Zoning By-Laws.
Note: A stable Official Plan, as outlined on page 2 above, would permit the approval of all Zoning By-law amendments by Community Councils.

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