Future Forward to the Past Ontario's New Planning Regime Comes Into Force October 19 2019

The Province, through Bill 108, More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019, introduced sweeping changes across 13 statutes, including the Planning Act and the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act, 2017, with the stated intention of cutting red tape, reducing costs, and increasing the supply of housing in Ontario. Although Bill 108 was passed on June 6, 2019, the vast majority of the amendments are presently not yet in effect.

On September 3, 2019, the Province proclaimed into force key amendments to the Planning Act and the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act, 2017 that in essence return the development process and the planning appeals regime back to where they were before the reforms introduced by the previous Government. These changes include:

  • Reducing planning decision timelines
    • For Official Plans, from 7 months (210 days) to 4 months (120 days)
    • For Zoning By-laws, from 5 months (150 days) to 3 months (90 days)
    • For Plans of Subdivision, from 6 months (180 days) to 4 months (120days)
  • Empowering the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (“LPAT”) to make its decision based on the “best planning outcome,” rather than consistency or conformity with higher order planning instruments
  • Enabling the LPAT to make a final determination on appeals, rather than a recommendation back to the municipal Council.  This takes the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal back to the situation under the former planning tribunal – the Ontario Municipal Board.
  • Removing existing restrictions on a party’s ability to introduce evidence and call and examine witnesses at LPAT hearings
  • Limiting third party appeals of Plans of Subdivision and approval authority non-decisions on Official Plans and Official Plan Amendments
  • Authorizing additional residential units for detached, semi-detached, and row houses in both the primary dwelling and ancillary building structure
  • Focusing the use of inclusionary zoning to areas that are generally high-growth and near higher order transit (e.g., major transit station areas) and areas where a community planning permit system is required by the Minister.
  • Enabling the Minister to require the community planning permit system (formerly known as development permit system) to be used in specified areas (e.g., major transit station areas and provincially significant employment zones), and removing appeal rights related to implementing documents

Certain other amendments introduced through Bill 108 – including the replacement of Section 37 density bonusing with a new “Community Benefits Charge,” and changes to the Ontario Heritage Act – will be proclaimed on a future date yet to be determined.

Under the Province’s transition regulations, in general, appeals proceeding under the former regime (introduced through Bill 139, Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017) will continue under that former regime if the LPAT has scheduled a hearing on the merits of the appeal. If no merits hearing has been scheduled, then the appeal will proceed under the new Bill 108 regime, with an opportunity for appellants to provide a new notice of appeal responsive to the new regime.

Meanwhile where the Province has the power to approve Planning documents (like certain Official Plan Amendments) changes have been made arbitrarily and without consultation. Examples are City of Toronto OPA 405 Midtown Plan and OPA 406 Downtown Plan where densities were increased by the Province and numerous other changes were made to the documents without discussion or right of appeal.

The original source of much of the material is a Stikeman Elliott newsletter “Ontario’s New Planning Regime to Come Into Force on September 3, 2019“, dated August 28, 2019.

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