Proposed regulations pertaining to the community benefits authority

The Honourable Steve Clark
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
777 Bay Street, Floor 17
Toronto, ON M5G 2E5

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Municipal Services Division
Municipal Services Office – Central Ontario
777 Bay Street, Floor 13
Toronto, ON M5G 2E5

RE: ERO 019-0183 – Proposed new regulation pertaining to the community benefits authority under the PLANNING Act

Dear Minister Clark,

The Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations (FoNTRA), represents 30+ residents’ associations with thousands of members in the North Toronto area.

We are very concerned that the new tools proposed under the Community Benefits Charge Authority (CBCA) will not be adequate to provide for both hard infrastructure and the community facilities and parkland that will be needed to support complete communities and make new development liveable for people and families.

Furthermore, we are concerned that those tools will not uphold the principle that “growth pays for growth”.

Specific objections are:

1)  Municipalities and residents will lose a significant amount of control over the ability to shape their cities and neighbourhoods

With the powers of municipalities to deliver liveable communities now under the control of the Minister, municipalities and residents lose much of their ability to determine how much parkland new developments should contribute in-step with a growing population.

2)  Municipalities will have insufficient planning and financial tools with fewer options at their disposal.

Under Bill 108, development charges will exclude parks and recreation facilities, which currently provide for a significant amount of funding for new parkland acquisition and park upgrades.

The new CBCA provisions force municipalities to choose between community service facilities and parkland, while both are needed to ensure liveable communities. This will result in a significant reduction in liveability in areas subject to development, especially for families with children.

When parkland is chosen, a significantly reduced dedication of 5% (reduced from 10%) of the development site will typically not be enough to result in good functional parks, especially in areas like downtown or midtown Toronto.

To make matters worse, specific by-laws with alternate parkland requirements for the Toronto downtown and midtown areas are no longer able to be advanced as Bill 108 removed provisions enabling separate alternative rates, further reducing the City of Toronto’s ability to acquire parkland.

The option for municipalities to acquire parkland outright funded through the CBCA in areas such as downtown and midtown Toronto is prohibitive and will not result in any significant downtown and midtown park acquisitions.

Lastly, the provision that requires a large amount of the acquired CBCA funds to be spend in each year (60%) makes it very difficult to plan and execute significant projects in that timeframe and also inhibits assembling funds over several years for major projects such as larger size parks.

3)  The nature of the CBCA authority – one bucket, makes it harder to direct and secure benefits to where growth occurs.

Under current regulations, new parks and community infrastructure to support growth is identified and largely paid for by development charges. Parkland is secured through Section 42 and Section 37 supplements and supports local improvements in the area where the development occurs. It provides local benefits in exchange for more height and density.

Under Bill 108, community benefits and parkland are to be consolidated and charged at a rate yet to be determined by the Minister. This new regime leaves the ability of municipalities to build new parks, and to secure community benefits at the whim of the Minister of the time, and it removes the connection between where growth occurs and the location of benefits inherent in the Section 37 provisions.

4)  Community Benefits – Inclusions and exclusions

Bill 108 proposes the inclusion of some community benefits that, traditionally are considered as hard infrastructure improvements needed to support development, or are secured via site plan approval, which are not currently included under section 37 benefits.

Community benefits will now include pedestrian and public realm improvements (such as widened sidewalks, POPS, street trees, street benches, public art, landscaped open spaces, access to transit and transit shelters and cycling amenities), links to cycling networks and bike parking spaces, realignment of and improvements to existing streets, mid-block connections, etc.

Bill 108 also proposes some exclusion of community benefits, such as for cultural or entertainment facilities. These types of facilities are important elements that make for healthy and liveable communities.

We are concerned that these exclusions will result in a significant reduction in the quality of the urban environment that will result from new development.

We are also concerned about the draft regulation not addressing provisions related to legal agreements being registered on title where in-kind benefits are provided.

Section 37 has provided a useful mechanism for securing numerous matters affecting the implementation of new development. It is essential that this mechanism is not lost.

5)  In the final analysis – will the new regulations adequately support growth and be revenue neutral?

Currently, development charges are revised every five years following an external review that is integrated into the growth plan of each municipality with the basis for development charges being a per unit charge.

Under Bill 108, development charges will be computed based on the value of land with rates still to be determined by the Minister. Fluctuating land values and the ability of the Minister to alter rate structures at any time will create a potentially unstable basis to support long term municipal capital planning.

While the expressed intent of these changes is to be revenue neutral, the proposed charging methodology is inherently unstable, and there is no guarantee that longer term revenue neutrality would be maintained.

The Minister has stated that the new regulations should not result in municipalities having to make up any cost shortfalls. However, until the regulations are fully developed, it is not possible to assess the full impact of the changes to the Development Charges Act or the adequacy of the Community Benefits Charge Authority, and to verify the statement that the proposed regulation changes will be revenue neutral.

Respectfully submitted,

Geoff Kettel
Co-Chair, FoNTRA

Cathie Macdonald
Co-Chair, FoNTRA

cc: Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Jill Andrew, MPP Toronto – St Paul’s
Kathleen Wynne, MPP Don Valley West Robin Martin, MPP Eglinton – Lawrence
John Tory, Mayor of the City of Toronto
City of Toronto Councillors
Chris Murray, City Manager, City of Toronto
Gregg Lintern, Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning
Kerri Voumvakis, Director, Strategic Initiatives, Policy & Analysis
Pat Vanini, Executive Director, Association of Municipalities of Ontario
Bill Roberts, Confederation of Resident and Ratepayer Associations (CORRA)
Andy Gort, President, SERRA
John Bossons, Summerhill Residents Association