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May 29, 2015
VIA E-MAIL: minister.mah@ontario.ca
Hon. Ted McMeekin
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Government of Ontario
777 Bay Street, 17th Floor
Toronto Ontario M5G 2E5
Bill 73: Smart Growth For Our Communities Act, 2015

Dear Minister McMeekin:
The Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations (FoNTRA) is an umbrella organization currently representing 32 residents’ associations located in the heart of Toronto. Ever since its inception in 2001, its primary activities have focused on engaging in public policy debates at the provincial and municipal levels related to planning institutions, processes, and tools. FoNTRA supports most of the key planning provisions of Bill 73 but offers below refinements which, it believes, would make the proposed reforms more relevant to its situation. As presently written, these amendments have little applicability in the Toronto context. While it is understood that the proposed legislative changes aim to address Province-wide issues, our member organizations are confronted with development pressures, project complexities, and institutional realities that do not exist elsewhere in the Province and which may have been inadequately taken into account in Bill 73, including the following:

TORONTO’S OFFICIAL PLAN: Toronto’s current Official Plan was adopted by City Council in November 2002, approved by the Minister in April 2003, and came into force in July 2006 following partial approval by the Ontario Municipal Board. Between 2006 and 2010, the City amended its brand new Official Plan 120 times. Although Toronto started the mandatory five-year Official Plan review in 2011, it is proceeding in a piecemeal, ‘thematic’ fashion with few results four years later: heritage policies (OPA199) came into force only earlier this month; partial revised transportation policies (OPA274) are in force; policies related to economic health and employment lands (OPA231) remain under appeal; policies related to neighbourhoods/apartment neighbourhoods/healthy neighbourhoods, the environment, or urban design remain in draft form; and, proposals for other policy areas (e.g. mixeduse areas, regeneration areas, avenues, etc.) have yet to be released to the public. Next year, the Official Plan will reach the 15-year milestone of its 30-year planning horizon – already mutilated by some 300 amendments.

TORONTO’S ZONING BY-LAW: When the City adopted the new Official Plan in 2002, it promised that a “new comprehensive Zoning By-law will be the key regulatory instrument that implements the Official Plan policies and provides regulations and standards that shape the City’s built form and land use.” More than twelve years later, this new comprehensive zoning by-law to implement the Official Plan does not exist. Instead, the City spent more than ten years harmonizing the existing zoning regulations and adopting them as Zoning By-law 569-2013 while relying on a never-ending stream of site-specific rezonings to accommodate developments. Furthermore, the old zoning by-laws of the six former municipalities have not been repealed. As the City has admitted, the “fundamental flaw with the site-specific rezoning process is that the cumulative impact of redevelopment is difficult to address.”

TORONTO’S PLANNING PRACTICE: The Municipal Law Section of the Ontario Bar Association, in its August 2004 submission to your Ministry, attempted to put a positive spin on the prevalent planning practice as follows: “Implementation of the new efficiencies of land use will primarily be effected by the actions of private landowners bringing forward development proposals and requiring necessary amendments to official plans and zoning by-laws.” A member of the Ontario Municipal Board, more aptly, called this “planning by exception.” If an Official Plan isn’t robust enough to provide for the needs of a 5 or 10-year planning period, it fulfills no useful function as a guidance tool. Although Toronto’s Official Plan has been stripped of any measurable targets – on the dubious claim that an Official Plan has to provide ‘vision’ and the Zoning By-law ‘precision’ – it still needs to be amended an average of 30 times per year. Particularly troubling in this context is the regular use of the Provincial Policy Statement (‘PPS’) and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (‘Growth Plan’) as planning justification for amendments to the Official Plan – notwithstanding its conformity with both the PPS and the Growth Plan.

TORONTO’S COMMITTEE OF ADJUSTMENT: Many areas of Toronto, including the areas covered by FoNTRA, were developed prior to the enactment of the first comprehensive Zoning By-law in 1953 leaving large numbers of properties in legal non-conforming status and necessitating minor variance applications for almost any physical improvement. Usually more than 3,500 minor variance applications per year are being adjudicated by To-ronto’s Committee of Adjustment of which about 300 are being appealed to the OMB. As a result, the planning de-partment performs only a cursory review of this flood of applications and intervenes with substantive staff reports in rare cases only. Very substantial variances to the Zoning By-law for major developments are routinely approved in the absence of any opponents appearing at the hearing.

Given Toronto’s inappropriate focus on ad hoc, site-specific development control at the expense of detailed policy planning for areas undergoing growth and change, FoNTRA herewith offers its observations on the key planning reforms proposed in Bill 73 as seen through a specific Toronto lens:
REFORM 1: Conformity of Official Plans with the Growth Plan and PPS
FoNTRA supports the prohibition of appeals to the Official Plan on certain specified matters. However, all aspects of the Growth Plan, not just growth forecasts and settlement boundaries, need to be covered. Today, nine years after the Growth Plan came into force in 2006, only 71% of lower-tier municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe have actually brought their Official Plan into conformity with the Growth Plan and, while all 21 upper and single-tier municipalities have brought their Official Plans into conformity, only 76% are actually in effect or partially in effect. The Province’s failure to ensure a timely implementation of the Growth Plan has created uncertainty and con-fusion, regularly exploited by developers who argue that their particular proposal better meets the Growth Plan than the Official Plan which already may be in conformity. FoNTRA recommends that compliance of all Official Plans with Provincial Policies and Plans be required within two years of the coming into force. Once the Province has de-termined conformity and approved a Plan, related appeals to be defended by municipalities need to be prohibited.
REFORM 2: Global Appeals of new Official Plans
While FoNTRA supports in principle the proposed prohibition of global appeals of new Official Plans, FoNTRA recommends that Bill 73 define what constitutes a ‘new’ Official Plan. Toronto has no ‘new’ Official Plan.
REFORM 3: Moratorium on Amendments to new Official Plans by Private Parties
FoNTRA supports the moratorium on amendments to new Official Plans by private parties but recommends that the time period be extended from two years to five years. FoNTRA has long advocated a strengthening of both the plan-ning substance and the planning process, as follows: 1) Official Plans should be required to provide population and density allocations in order to offer intelligent guidance for site-specific re-zonings; and, 2) site-specific amend-ments to the Official Plan by individuals should be eliminated or curtailed in order to maintain the validity of adopt-ed public policy in between the mandatory comprehensive reviews.
REFORM 4: Specified Content of Official Plans
FoNTRA supports the requirement to make it mandatory for Official Plans to include the description of measures and procedures for informing and obtaining the views of the public in relation to certain planning documents. How-ever, FoNTRA believes that an even stronger need exists to make it mandatory for Official Plans to describe popula-tion allocations and development densities, in order to properly plan for infrastructure needs.
REFORM 5: Review Periods for Official Plans
FoNTRA supports the extension of the mandatory review periods for Official Plans from five years to ten years but recommends that this provision apply to all Official Plans, not just ‘new’ ones. FoNTRA recommends that the re-view period be limited to two years in order to prevent piecemeal ‘thematic’ reviews, as currently conducted by To-ronto, of an Official Plan which had been characterized, as follows: “The Plan is an integrated document. For any individual part to be properly understood, the Plan must be read as a whole.”
REFORM 6: Imposition of Development Permit System
FoNTRA does not support the proposal to authorize the Minister imposing a development permit system on local municipalities or to authorize upper-tier municipalities to adopt by-laws imposing similar requirements on lower-tier municipalities. While FoNTRA recognizes that development control using development permits can offer ad-
vantages under certain specific circumstances, Ontario currently lacks the necessary experience gained from a prac-tical application. The few lessons learned from the extremely limited use of a development permit system in Lake of Bays, Carleton Place, Gananoque, and Brampton’s Main Street North Revitalization area have little relevance to the Toronto situation with almost half a million separate land parcels in need of an effective regulatory framework.
REFORM 7: Operation of Section 37 of the Planning Act
FoNTRA supports the proposal to require any money collected under Section 37 to be kept in a special account and subject to an annual financial statement. However, the use of Section 37 requires additional safeguards. As outlined above, and contrary to the statutory requirements, Toronto maintains obsolete zoning regulations, in part at least, to generate cash by allowing developments that exceed the prescribed height or density. FoNTRA recommends that the Planning Act limit the use of this tool to Zoning By-laws updated to implement the Official Plan and only for physi-cal improvements that directly increase the carrying capacity of the site to be developed. Absent of these additional amendments to the Planning Act, the use of Section 37 still fails to meet fundamental planning principles.
REFORM 8: OMB to ‘have regard to’ information and material received prior to appeal
FoNTRA supports the proposal to require the OMB to have regard to written and oral submissions from the public received by the municipal council or approval authority in cases where appeals arise from a failure of a municipal council or approval authority to make a decision within the stipulated time frame.
REFORM 9: Moratorium on Minor Variance Applications
FoNTRA supports the moratorium on minor variance applications following owner-initiated site specific amend-ments to the Zoning By-law but recommends that the time period be extended from two years to five years. A two-year limitation is unlikely to stop this practice for large and complex projects with a lengthy development process. However, FoNTRA does not support a similar two-year moratorium following the adoption of a comprehensive Zoning By-law. As outlined above, Toronto has a large number of legal non-conforming properties whose pre-zoning development standards have never been captured adequately in any Zoning By-law.
REFORM 10: Operation of the Committee of Adjustment
FoNTRA supports in principle the proposal to add to the existing four tests for minor variances a requirement to consider any prescribed criteria. It is assumed that this provision relates to the stated intent to define the nature of minor variances through regulation. FoNTRA also supports in principle the proposal to require written reasons for Committee decisions as long as this requirement is better defined. Toronto’s Committee of Adjustment routinely issues written reasons, albeit totally meaningless, since they simply repeat the language of the Planning Act.
In summary, Toronto will not be able to benefit from key planning reforms unless the ten refinements listed above are implemented – perhaps through amendments to the City of Toronto Act. FoNTRA appreciates this public consultation and is ready to discuss its ideas with Ministry staff and at the upcoming legislative hearings.
Sincerely,

Cathie MacdonaldGeoff Kettel
Co-Chair, FoNTRACo-Chair, FoNTRA
57 Duggan Avenue129 Hanna Road
Toronto, OntarioToronto, Ontario
M4V 1Y1M4G 3N6
cathie.macdonald@sympatico.cagkettel@gmail.com

Copies:
Premier Kathleen Wynne, MPP, Leader, Liberal Party of Ontario – premier@ontario.ca
Mr. Patrick Brown, Leader, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario – pwb@votepatrickbrown.ca
Ms. Andrea Horwath, MPP, Leader, New Democratic Party of Ontario – ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca
MMAH, Provincial Planning Policy Branch – planningconsultation@ontario.ca
Mayor John Tory and Toronto City Council
Ms. Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner & Executive Director, City of Toronto
FoNTRA Members and Others
The Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations (FoNTRA) is a non-profit, volunteer organization comprised of 32 member organizations. Its members, all residents’ associations, include at least 170,000 Toronto residents within their boundaries. The 32 residents’ associations that make up FoNTRA believe that Ontario and Toronto can and should achieve better development. Its central issue is not whether Toronto will grow, but how. FoNTRA believes that sustainable urban regions are characterized by environmental balance, fiscal viability, infrastructure investment and social renewal.

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