KPMG review of the Committee of Adjustment – some concerns require additional action

Toronto City Hall
100 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

RE: PH2.5 Committee of Adjustment – Consultant Review

Dear Chair Bradford and Members of the Planning and Housing Committee,

FoNTRA is pleased to see the results of the KPMG consultant review and supports the recommendation that City Planning undertake the recommended implementation plan. This plan will begin to address the issues that we have been raising regarding the operations of the Committees of Adjustment and that hinder the important role of residents in the process. Ensuring an effective role of residents in the Committee process is even more essential now that democratic right of appeal has been taken away.

The report states that “concerns have been raised by a number of stakeholders that the process is too complex and inaccessible for many users. Some users have expressed lack of confidence and satisfaction in the process and do not believe the current practice consistently delivers quality decisions. Further, there have also been concerns raised about the public’s ability to effectively participate in the public hearings, both in the traditional in-person model and in the virtual hearing model introduced in 2020.”

Our particular comments on the report’s delivery of initiatives in 2023 include:

  • Revising the public notice and decision language – Reasons for the decisions must be provided, as many decisions now do not include any.
  • Hosting session with applicants and members of the public outside the public gearing process – This is an essential initiative, in which FoNTRA members would be pleased to participate.
  • Developing a comprehensive panellist training and professional development program – This is also an essential initiative that must include the provision of a fair process for participation of residents. FoNTRA would be pleased to assist with this component.

FoNTRA supports the KPMG implementation plan items. Please see the Appendix for detailed comments. We particularly note the following:

  • Plan item 4. Regularly engage with applicants and members of the public – FoNTRA is able to provide information from the resident’s perspectives in such a process. We assume this would include participation in consultation on other items in the plan.
  • Plan item 6. Refreshing requirement re elimination of zoning waiver process, in accordance with Recommendation 4. from item PH30.7 adopted by City Council on February 2 and 3, 2022. Waivers often include errors and therefore waste the time of staff and those participating in the hearing. The former City of Toronto successfully eliminated this option.
  • Plan item 5. Support equitable tenant participation – This is essential for a fair process. Homeowners had been known to provide affected tenants with hearing notices.
  • Plan item 7. Evaluate opportunities to provide more detailed reasons for Committee decisions. Current practice seems very uneven with decisions published without reason attached.

Other considerations include:

  • The report does not address the role of City Planning in the hearings to provide advice on some applications and no planners attend. Some Committees seem to automatically accept the Planner’s advice. Consideration should be given to providing more consistent and effective use of planning advice.
  • The report ignores an important issue in decision-making – the protection of trees. While not a variance issue per se, C of A decisions should not result in the needless loss of tree canopy. Consideration must be given as to how the Committee can better address the important City objective of increasing, not losing, tree canopy.

Yours truly,

Geoff Kettel
Co-Chair, FoNTRA

Cathie Macdonald
Co-Chair, FoNTRA