2022 Capital and Operating Budgets

  1. The importance of Good Planning in the Race to be Better

    We recognize that this year the City continues to face fiscal challenges on a scale that is unprecedented.  We believe that the City should be bold, not shy away from making investments and raising revenue. It is apparent that the way the City, the province, the country, and the world, work have been changed indelibly and permanently as a consequence of the pandemic.  If people can work from anywhere, they will still work from somewhere. Will that somewhere be Toronto?  Or Whitby, or Scottsdale, or Barbados?? The call has been “to build back better”.  This is right. The legacy of the pandemic will be the “race to be better”.  What has Toronto going for it? Its brand?  “Diversity Our Strength”, “You Belong Here”?  Toronto not only has to remain a good place to live for all its (diverse) people, but become a better place. 

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Implementing the One-Stream Preliminary Review Program for Building Permit Applicants

FoNTRA supports the recommendations of this report to improve the Preliminary Review Program, and specifically Recommendation 4 that:

  • City Council request the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning, in consultation with the Chief Building Official and Executive Director, Toronto Building, to review application requirements for the Committee of Adjustment to consider requiring a preliminary zoning review to verify the minor variances and remove the option of a zoning waiver.

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Mandatory Pre-Application Consultation Amendments

Pre-application consultation is encouraged and supported as a component of the Province’s land use planning system, and its use is clearly necessary given the reduced statutory review timelines introduced by Bill 108, the More Homes, More Choices Act, 2019.

FoNTRA strongly supports mandatory pre-application consultation as this will help make the application approval process more efficient for all involved.  At present, the “complete application” requirements mean that applicants must compile enormous amounts of detailed information, and then the process must be repeated when the application is better focused on City objectives. This wastes time for all involved except the consultants who get more work as a result.

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Review of Mediation and Settlement on Planning Process 

This is to express our strong support for Councillor Gord Perks’ request for a review and report back on the negotiation process for development applications which have been appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT). Residents Associations are frequently involved in these OLT appeals and have found the process to be inconsistent and not transparent.

We request that the review involve consultation with residents and resident associations, especially those who are “frequent travellers” at the OLT and are familiar with these issues.

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Enhancing post-permit compliance

RE: MM37.21 Measures to Enhance Compliance After the Permit Process – by Councillor Ana Bailão, seconded by Councillor Frances Nunziata (Ward All)

Dear Mayor John Tory and Members of City Council,

We are writing in strong support of the above noted Member’s Motion to review options for strengthening the City’s enforcement of illegal construction after occupancy, or where a change of use of the property has occurred.

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Improving Winter Access to Toronto’s Parks for 2021-22

This is to express the strong support of the Federation of North Toronto Residents Associations (FoNTRA) for the staff report and its recommendations, which we note will have financial implications for the 2022 Budget.

The proposal would have more facilities maintained during the winter, including more snow clearing on multi-use paths, and explore different snow clearing methods in environmentally sensitive areas, such as ravines, which cannot be salted due to the environmental impacts.

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Effective Public Participation in City Planning Processes Update

This report provides a status report on public participation processes in City Planning in response to both a Members Motion moved by Councillor Jaye Robinson and adopted by City Council on April 27, and a Motion recommended by PHC and adopted by City Council on July 14-16, regarding systemic barriers.

FoNTRA wrote to City Council in strong support of Councillor Jaye Robinson’s Motion, as follows:

  • City Council direct the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning, to review virtual planning consultation meetings, in consultation with members of the public, and report back to Planning and Housing Committee in the second quarter of 2021 with recommendations for improvement, including:
    1. guidelines and practices to ensure that virtual community consultation meetings are consistent and effective;
    2. strategies to improve opportunities for members of the public to participate in virtual community consultation meetings;
    3. best practices related to virtual consultation in other jurisdictions; and
    4. opportunities to improve accessibility for members of the public and, in particular, members of the public participating by phone.

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Concept 2 Keys Development Application Review Program

This report brings forward updates on the work completed to date by the Concept 2 Keys team, highlighting preliminary results of Phase 1, updates on preparatory work for Phase 2, and additional City-wide development process improvements.

The Concept 2 Keys (C2K) program focusses on reducing costs, and increasing efficiency. This is laudable, except that for a government service this singular focus is fundamentally flawed – you are the City and you exist to serve the public, not just customers, i.e. development applicants. Nowhere is there any mention of residents, neighbours, or interests other than that of the applicant or undefined stakeholders.

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Mandatory Pre-Application Consultation Amendments

Making pre-application consultation a mandatory, rather than a voluntary step in the development review process has been identified by internal and external stakeholders, and through jurisdictional review, as a first step in addressing inconsistencies that have implications for application quality, staff productivity, overall time to decision and city-building outcomes.

The report states that jurisdictional research indicates that improvements to the early stages of the development review process, including requiring pre-application consultation, results in the submission of higher-quality applications, increases the number of applications moving from pre-application consultation to actual submission, reduces the overall number of circulations, and helps to establish mutual accountability early on.

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Municipal Conflict of Interest Act

City of Toronto Council Chamber

In January, 2021, we provided information on the Public Inquiry which recommended a conflict-of-interest overhaul for municipal councillors referencing Frank Marrocco’s report – Report of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry, Transparency and the Public Trust. One of his recommendations is to broaden the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act to expand the definition of the personal or family interest that can put a politician in a conflict of interest.

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Toronto Buildings Review

FoNTRA representatives were part of the consultation process leading up to this report, including a meeting with Will Johnston, Chief Building Official. Our focus in that meeting was on residents as “customers” as residents are impacted by various functions undertaken by Toronto Buildings.

Errors in the reports on variances required for Committee of Adjustment applications and the errors in the use of waivers by applicants cause confusion and delays at the Committee of Adjustment hearings as well as approval of incorrect variances. There is also confusion and concern about issues that are now covered by the Building Code, such as responsibility for safely and damages to neighbouring properties related to construction next door, whether  lot lines or party walls. Also variable and lack of enforcement can be an issue.

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Update on Committee of Adjustment Virtual Public Hearings

FoNTRA has been active in bringing forward the concerns of residents across the area about the Committee of Adjustment, and interrelated processes in residential infill, such as neighbourhood planning guidelines, zoning review, TLAB appeals, and construction issues.

The Report responds to City Council direction and requests related to the COVID related measures taken by City Planning in the past year, which focus on four operational matters: application volume; staffing and panel member capacity; public notification improvements; and participation at virtual public hearings. The Report’s basic message is all about efficiency in handling volume, not about making decisions that are fair, that are based on input from neighbours, and that respect and maintain neighbourhood character. 

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Open Data Requirement

This is to express the strong support of the Federation of North Toronto Residents Associations (FoNTRA) for the Motion put forward by Councillor Paul Ainslie, Chair, General Government and Licensing Committee, and recommended by Executive Committee, as follows:

  1. City Council direct the City Manager to implement mandatory open data requirements in all reports submitted to standing committees for the purposes of ensuring the City can continue to build its open data platform, and City Council request Standing Committee Chairs to monitor their agendas for compliance with this requirement.

We appreciate the Motion’s reinforcement of the City’s commitment to Open Government and taking practical steps to ensure that the Open Data policy is implemented. 

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Review of Codes of Conduct for Members of Council, Local Boards and Adjudicative Boards

There is unquestionably a need for the City to review and update its Codes of Conduct for elected and appointed officials, especially in light of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry which recommended in November 2020 that municipal codes of conduct across Ontario, and related provincial legislation, be updated to improve transparency in local government. And the Government of Ontario has recently announced consultations, and a private members bill amending the City of Toronto Act, 2006 has been introduced, to specifically address workplace harassment and discrimination committed by members of Council. While the Motion header indicates the Review will cover Members of Council, Local Boards and Adjudicative Boards, the report appears to have a strong focus on Members of Council. We would recommend that equal attention should be focussed on Codes of Conduct application to Members of Local Boards and Adjudicative Boards also.

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Improving Virtual Community Consultation Meetings

This is to express FoNTRA’s strong support for Councillor Robinson’s Motion to be considered by City Council at its meeting of April 7, 2021:

City Council direct the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning, to review virtual planning consultation meetings, in consultation with members of the public, and report back to Planning and Housing Committee in the second quarter of 2021 with recommendations for improvement, including:

  1. guidelines and practices to ensure that virtual community consultation meetings are consistent and effective;
  2. strategies to improve opportunities for members of the public to participate in virtual community consultation meetings;
  3. best practices related to virtual consultation in other jurisdictions; and
  4. opportunities to improve accessibility for members of the public and, in particular, members of the public participating by phone.

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Study Work Program Update

FoNTRA understands the importance of a vital and active planning function to the long-term health of the whole city, including thriving and complete communities. We recommend:

  • That City Council approve additional resources in the 2021 Toronto Budget for City Planning Division’s Study Work Program; and
  • that City Planning Division ensure that Studies, Plans and Guidelines directed to protection of neighbourhood character, i.e. HCD, CHRA, and Neighbourhood Guidelines are prioritized.  

City Planning Division’s activities basically consist of two streams: the Study Work Program, and Development Review. The Study Work Program, which includes such activities as Avenue Studies, Secondary Plans, Zoning By-law Updates, Heritage Conservation District (HCD) Studies, Community Heritage Resource Assessments (CHRA) and neighbourhood-specific Design Guidelines, is critical in order to advance the City’s strategic priorities, and also to strengthen the position of the City in dealing with development applications. It is also vital in dealing with a provincial government that does not respect the authority and jurisdiction of the City.

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City Planning Study Work Program Update

FoNTRA understands the importance of a vital and active planning function to the long-term health of the whole city, including thriving and complete communities. We recommend:

  • That City Council approve additional resources in the 2021 Toronto Budget for City Planning Division’s Study Work Program; and
  • that City Planning Division ensure that Studies, Plans and Guidelines directed to protection of neighbourhood character, i.e. HCD, CHRA, and Neighbourhood Guidelines are prioritized.

City Planning Division’s activities basically consist of two streams: the Study Work Program, and Development Review. The Study Work Program, which includes such activities as Avenue Studies, Secondary Plans, Zoning By-law Updates, Heritage Conservation District (HCD) Studies, Community Heritage Resource Assessments (CHRA) and neighbourhood-specific Design Guidelines, is critical in order to advance the City’s strategic priorities, and also to strengthen the position of the City in dealing with development applications. It is also vital in dealing with a provincial government that does not respect the authority and jurisdiction of the City.

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2020 City of Toronto Budget

FoNTRA understands the importance of a vital and active planning function to the longterm health of the whole city including thriving and complete communities. City Planning Division activities basically consist of two streams: undertaking planning studies, and creating plans; and managing development applications. Conducting pro-active planning activities such as Avenue Studies, Secondary Plans, Zoning By-law Updates, Heritage Conservation District (HCD) Studies, Cultural Heritage Resource Assessments (CHRA) and neighbourhood-specific Design Guidelines are vitally important. The underlying principle is that the Study Program is critical in order to strengthen the position of the City in dealing with development applications. Unfortunately the waiting lists for studies and plans are long, and getting longer.

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City Planning Division – Study Work Program

In order to assess part of the Study Work Program we have extracted and collated the Heritage Conservation studies (HCD studies and plans, CHRAs and other studies) by category i.e. 2020 Forecast, Hearings, Active beyond 2020 and On Hold (see attached). For
example two projects from North York, Lawrence Park West HCD and Leaside CHRA, which were authorized in 2014, are shown as “On Hold” (see attachment).

The development of secondary plans that take transportation and other required infrastructure needs into account along with the availability of parkland, schools, social service requirements, heritage studies, Zoning Reviews and neighbourhood-specific Design
Guidelines are critical. It is important to get ahead of the development applications with completed plans, as is being demonstrated in Midtown (OPA 405) and Downtown (OPA406). While the 2020 Staff Recommended Budget includes small staffing and capital funding increase for certain studies, the Division still lacks the resources to develop and update any
but the most critical Secondary plans. Planning for the City’s future – for the population and
jobs growth that is expected – necessarily suffers. And the lack of updated Secondary plans
with clear population targets/densities and development guidelines necessarily means that
too many planning decisions are left to be determined on an ad hoc basis by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

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Special Committee on Governance Summary of Findings

This is to provide our comments on the report and recommendations arising from the Special Committee on Governance (Committee) work relative to its mandate to consider the impacts on the City’s governance structure and processes arising from the reduction in the size of Council, and make recommendations to City Council on any further changes to its governance structure.

It reminds one of a WWII slogan…”Keep calm and carry on” i.e., that in general, things are fine, and there may be some tweaking required. On the contrary it is our impression that (1) the pressure on councillors, particularly in the central south/north corridor is intense, and unsustainable, and (2) the level and quality of discussion has declined in Standing Committees and in City Council due to the reduced number of Members, as Members are unable to cope with the range and complexity of the agendas that they are being asked to weigh in on. At this stage, it is impossible to know whether there are longer term implications of this concern.

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