Bill 73 – amending the Development Charges Act and the Planning Act

29 March 2015                                                                           PDF version

Bill 73, the Smart Growth for Our Communities Act, 2015: Some Highlights

with Commentary by Erwin Dreessen

Bill 73, the Smart Growth for Our Communities Act, 2015, was introduced in the Ontario Legislature on 5 March 2015. The Bill would amend the Development Charges Act and the Planning Act.

Key Proposed Changes

+ Full transit extension costs to be financed by development charges and the costs can be estimated by looking forward 10 years instead of being limited to the level of service of the previous 10 years. (If so prescribed, the latter principle could also apply to piped services.)

+ Greater transparency in accounting for development charges accounts, Section 37 (community benefits) moneys, and payments in lieu of parkland.

+ Municipalities must establish a planning advisory committee.

+ In notices and decisions, higher profile for submissions made by the public.

+ If a decision on an application is not reached within 180 days then either side can extend the period once with up to 90 days.

+ Payment in lieu of parkland is reduced from 1 hectare per 300 dwellings to 1 hectare per 500 dwellings. Council can specify an even lower rate.

Click here for the full memorandum and its attachments, a 1-pager on the Committee of Adjustment; and the Region of Waterloo model for a planning advisory committee.

Other comments on Bill 73

+ Michael Mizzi, A/General Manager of Ottawa’s Planning and Growth Mangement Department, wrote a memo to Planning Committee, tabled on June 23, 2015.  At Councillor Leiper’s insistence, Planning Committee discussed it on July 7. The discussion runs from 3:11:05 to 3:29:00 on the audio tape.

+ Here are the equivalent memos written by staff in Halton and Waterloo Regions. The Waterloo memo appends earlier correspondence (including jointly with Ottawa) about the Development Charges Act, as well as an advisory from Hemson Consulting, describing the proposed changes to the DC Act in positive terms.

Comment: In contrast to the memos from Halton and Waterloo, Ottawa’s memo is quite “thin” in content, missing, e.g., the important changes to the Development Charges Act, glossing over several aspects of where the views of the public are given higher profile, and the clauses on a development permit system; only one of two changes affecting the Committee of Adjustment is mentioned.  Note that staff is opposed to the proposed obligation to establish a planning advisory committee and opposes having to explain what effect public input has had on decisions taken.

+ A June 2015 Municipal Law Bulletin from McMillan law firm.  Largely descriptive, the Bulletin does wonder whether the changes will result in an even slower “planning approval process”.  It also draws attention to Minister McMeekin’s words in the Legislature on April 21, 2015, confirming that changes to the OMB’s operations, practices and procedures were not part of Bill 73, the “first-stage review” following the consultations of October 2013 – January 2014.  “In the end,” he said, “we all want to see planning disputes resolved, wherever possible, locally.”

Bill 73: Submission to the Legislature

The Bill, introduced on March 5, 2015, was finally referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy on September 29. In late October, notice arrived that hearings would be held in Toronto on November 2 and 3 and the deadline for written submissions was November 3 as well.

The Greenspace Alliance sent in a submission.  Key points made:

  • Repeal of the 10% reduction for transit services in the calculation of development charges is strongly supported, as is the forward-looking basis for estimating capital costs. We suggest the latter should apply to piped services as well. We suggest that “Benefits to existing settlement areas” should be better defined.
  • We applaud the higher profile awarded to public input and suggest that the Bill could do even more to foster a collaborative land use planning process.
  • We welcome making a planning advisory committee obligatory but suggest that, as a minimum, it should consist of a majority of independent residents.
  • We fully agree that “global” appeals of a new official plan or zoning by-law should not be allowed and suggest that this rule be extended to Comprehensive Official Plan Amendments as well.
  • We strongly oppose reducing cash-in-lieu-of-parkland to the equivalent of 1 ha per 500 dwellings and, worse, giving a municipality the option to specify an even lower rate.

The full submission is here.

E.D. – November 2, 2015

Bill 73: Committee hearings

On November 9, 2015 the Ontario Legislature’s Standing Committee on Social Policy held hearings on Bill 73. Here are a few excerpts.  Points made include:

+ Mayor of Oakville: Growth paying less than the full cost of growth costs the City 6.5% of its tax bill.  Bill 73 would gain the City 0.5% ($700,000), gratefully welcomed.  On the other hand, the lower rate of cash-in-lieu-of-parkland would mean a loss of $6 million.  It is understood that this lower rate is intended to provide cities an incentive to take land instead.

+ Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations: Five ways in which the Province can help ensure that Committees of Adjustment do a better job.

+ Ontario Federation of Agriculture: We’re losing 350 acres of arable farmland a day in Ontario.  Arable farmland takes up only 5% of the province’s land mass. “How do we stop it?”  Answer: “It takes a strong government to stop it and laws that are enforced, and, I think, acknowledgement by the citizens of Ontario that farmland is a non-renewable natural resource and needs to be treated as such.”

The Committee also heard several pleas to empower municipalities to impose “inclusionary zoning” which would “allow municipal governments to use development regulations and the approval process to require developers to create a portion of affordable housing within their new market developments.”

Erwin – 15 November 2015

Bill 73 receives Royal Assent

On December 3 the Ontario Legislature passed Bill 73 as amended by Committee and received Royal Assent the same day — a red-letter day for the planning regime in Ontario.

Go here for all the details: <>.

Recall that some of the key changes in Bill 73 were:

+ in the Development Charges Act: Transit costs are no longer discounted by 10% and cost estimates look forward to service levels in the next 10 years, not backwards to the last 10 years;

+ in the Planning Act: municipalities must establish a planning advisory committee; public input is given a higher profile; and payment in lieu of parkland is reduced to the equivalent of 1 hectare per 500 dwellings instead of 1 ha per 300, or Council can specify an even lower rate.

Here are some highlights of the changes made by Committee:

+ The Background Studies for a development charges by-law (which is revised every 5 years) must be made available to the public at least 60 days before the by-law is passed.

+ A new subsection is added to Section 2 of the Planning Act (which is the section that spells out the “provincial interest”).  The new subsection is:

(r) the promotion of built form that

(i) is well-designed,

(ii) encourages a sense of place, and

(iii) provides for public spaces that are of high quality, safe, accessible, attractive and vibrant.

+ The original Bill said that a new Official Plan or a totally revamped Zoning By-law would be immune from appeals for 2 years.  This has been weakened by further saying that Council could permit applications for amendments following “a specific request, a class of requests or requests generally”.  Ditto for permitting minor variances within 2 years after a zoning by-law is amended.

+ A municipality may, by by-law, specify the criteria for minor variances; the notification requirements and OMB role regarding such a by-law are spelled out.

+ An Official Plan must contain, in addition to goals, objectives and policies and their effect on the social, economic and natural environment, also consider the effect on the “built” environment.

+ Many clauses pertaining to the giving of notice were further amended by adding the words “in the prescribed manner” and by accommodating the practice of notification by e-mail.

Min. Yasir Naqvi’s notice to the community is below.  I have asked him what the basis is for saying that the Bill will “Promote and protect green spaces by encouraging more municipalities to develop plans that help determine the need for parkland in the municipality;” but I have not yet received a response.


[received Dec 4, 2015:]

Dear neighbour,

I am so pleased to share that yesterday the Smart Growth for Our Communities Act (Bill 73) passed in the Ontario Legislature. Land-use planning and sustainable development has been an important issue to our community. Thanks to everyone who came out to our numerous consultations, like the Sustainable Community Summit in October 2012, to give true expression to “community-inspired development”. Our hard work paid off! This new legislation includes many of the proposals that came out of those sessions. These changes give Ottawa Centre residents a greater, more meaningful say in how our community grows.

The Smart Growth for Our Communities Act, 2015, which reforms the Development Charges Act and the Planning Act, will:

  • Help municipalities recover more money to pay for transit services and waste diversion;
  • Give residents a meaningful say in how their communities grow by requiring municipalities to look at opportunities to better involve residents in the planning process for new developments and enhancing a planning tool that will be developed with resident and stakeholder input;
  • Promote and protect green spaces by encouraging more municipalities to develop plans that help determine the need for parkland in the municipality;
  • Help municipalities resolve potential planning disputes earlier at the local level, such as through alternative dispute resolution, to reduce the involvement of the Ontario Municipal Board in local disputes;
  • Make the planning and appeals process more predictable by extending the review of new municipal official plans – plans that lay out how municipalities will grow and develop – to 10 years, instead of five;
  • Make the development charges system – a system for municipalities to help cover the costs necessary for growth from developers – more predictable, transparent and accountable by creating clearer reporting requirements for capital projects that municipalities are financing through development charges; and
  • Make the collection and use of money paid by developers for higher and denser developments, as well as for parkland, more transparent and accountable.

I had the opportunity to speak on this important legislation on behalf of our community. You can watch my speech here. Thank you for your continued advocacy on this issue. Our new legislation will help build responsible and sustainable growth.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at my Community Office at any time to share your thoughts and concerns.  I look forward to hearing from you.


Yasir Naqvi, MPP | Ottawa Centre

Update, 10 December 2015

The Ministry, via Min. Yasir Naqvi’s office, provided helpful information about the cash-in-lieu-of-park matter.  The ratio of required parkland — 1 hectare per 300 dwellings — remains. Reducing the amount of cash the City would receive in-lieu (the equivalent of 1 ha per 500 dwellings), creates an incentive not to do so and instead insist on actual parkland.

We shall see whether this incentive will make a difference in Ottawa.

Another new clause in Bill 73 is that the municipality must have a “master parks plan” before it can use the cash-in-lieu alternative.  On that score, of course, Ottawa has lots of words on paper: Official Plan policies and the [Urban] Greenspace Master Plan.

Update – 24 February 2016

At the FCA meeting of February 4th, MPP Yasir Naqvi noted that, while Bill 73 has received Royal Assent, the changes to the Planning Act have not yet been proclaimed; the date of proclamation is uncertain. The changes to the Development Charges Act are in force.  Planning Committee on February 9th received a report with an amended summary of the provisions as they affect or will affect Ottawa’s practices.

Update – 29 February 2016

Today the Ministry posted notices of proposed changes to Planning Act regulations (go here for one; the others can be accessed from there).  The comment period is till April 14.  We commented on one EBR 012-6823), saying we support the requirement that public consultation strategies be included in development applications.  Update, 21 Nov: This is now a requirement (ref. EBR 012-6823).

Update – 1 July 2016

All of Bill 73 came into force today.  The Ministry produced this set of 36 slides (1.9 MB), highlighting changes to the Planning Act.  Here is a summary of what the new requirements are with regard to public input and transparency.

Update – October/November 2016

One of the new requirements is that municipalities must now set up a Planning Advisory Committee (doing so was optional before Bill 73).  A proposal put forward by staff in the context of the Mid-term Governance Review was thoroughly mocked by David Reevely (Citizen, October 28).  Still, Committee approved it, until, just before Council would endorse it, the FCA sent a letter strongly critical of the proposal.  As a result, at Council on November 9, Planning Committee chair Jan Harder, seconded by Councillor Leiper, moved to defer this part of the review to 1Q2017.

Update – 8 December 2016

A settlement reached with the City on one aspect of our appeal of <OPA 173> commits the City to consult with the Alliance and other stakeholders on how it should implement the new public input requirements as a result of Bill 73.

Update – 27 September 2018 (posted to the GA List on Sep 30)

Back in late 2016 City Council adopted <OPA 173> (about urbanization of Kanata North — “Area 1” in OPA 76 parlance).  This was the first instance of the City attempting to comply with Bill 73 which requires Council to report on the public input it received and on what the effect had been of that public input on its decision. When the Greenspace Alliance appealed OPA 173, one of its grounds was that the City’s compliance with Bill 73 was inadequate.  That part of the appeal was settled with a promise that the City would consult with the Alliance and other interested stakeholders before the next Governance Report is brought forward; it is due this November or December and will then be put to the newly elected Council in January. (The Governance Report sets out the “rules” for the new term of Council.)

That promise was met on September 27 at a 1 1/2-hour meeting attended by Paul Johanis for the GA and Bob Brocklebank, Roland Dorsay and Erwin Dreessen for the Governance Committee of the FCA. The City was represented by Tim Marc, Bruce Finlay, Charmaine Forgie and the Coordinators of Council and Planning and Agricultural & Rural Affairs Committees.

We started out by establishing that a common interest is that there be effective consultation, and that citizens must feel that they have been heard and their input has been meaningful. The question then is whether the current process as set out in the mid-term Governance Report of November 2016 is meeting that objective.

Charmaine, noting that improving public consultations on planning matters is one of this Council term’s Strategic Initiatives, enumerated a long list of “small steps” the Planning Department has undertaken, admitting that there is a long way to go yet.  Improvements include: standardized comment sheets, obligatory “What We Heard” reports, 3rd party moderators for contentious public meetings in the community, small improvements to the DepApps site, community association attendance at pre-consultation meetings, an improved Planning Department section of the City’s web site, and regular meetings with the FCA Governance Committee.  The calendar function on the City’s web site in particular, she agreed, needs further improvement. Erwin commended Charmaine for the recently initiated Newsletter about public consultation opportunities.

Commenting on the 85-word recommendation that is now a feature of every staff report on matters pertaining to decisions under the Planning Act, Erwin wondered what its utility is.  Tim responded that it authorizes the Clerk’s Office to produce a “Summary of Written and Oral Submissions” at the end of the process (approved at a later Council meeting under its Bulk Consent Agenda).

We noted that in these Summary reports, under the headings “Effect of Submissions on Planning Committee Decision” and “Effect of Submissions on Council Decision” we had found no instances where such effects were recorded, the typical wording being “Council considered all written and oral submissions in making its decision and carried the item as presented.” Bill 73, in contrast, requires “a brief explanation of the effect, if any, that the written and oral submissions … had on the decision.

As a counterexample, Erwin cited a Ministry (MNRF) decision on granting KNL an “overall benefit permit” to kill endangered species, posted on the EBR web site.  The proposal had generated 422 comments.  The posting was not shy to state: “Effect(s) of Consultation on this Decision: Comments were considered, however no changes were made to the permit proposal as a result of the comments received in response to the Environmental Registry notice.

The night before the meeting, Tim had sent us some examples of recent Summary reports. In one, a Zoning By-law Amendment for 3443 Innis Road (ACS2018-PIE-PS-0083), Committee had amended staff’s recommendation by adding a Holding provision and removing Delegated Authority for site plan approval. None of the many comments received (and adequately reflected) had actually asked for these specific changes but Tim asserted that nonetheless they were made as a result of the public input.

Yet in the “Effects” part of the Summary that link was not evident. It led Paul to note that by failing to make that link explicit the City is short-changing both itself and the community. The current practice focuses on the ultimate outcome instead of on the inputs. Throughout the development review process (comments to staff, open houses, etc.) changes may be made as a result of public input — fewer by the time it reaches Committee and even less often at Council. The history of these changes, he said, should be reflected in the Summary. The corollary to this is that many more planning proposals should be subject to a public meeting prior to the Planning Committee meeting.

Charmaine seemed receptive to Paul’s suggestion. She observed that, ideally, an applicant for development approval would be the one initiating a public consultation while City staff’s role would only be one of moderator.

Bob suggested that not acknowledging that link feeds cynicism among the citizenry. Roland emphasized that citizens want to know whether their submissions had an effect. Erwin stated that, if the public input did not change the decision, then that should be acknowledged.

In conclusion, staff indicated that a less legalistic, plain-language approach would be considered and acknowledged that more explicitly setting out the reasons why public input did or did not have a impact on Council decisions would be a positive step in demonstrating when public consultation is meaningful and that the public has been heard.

In closing, Erwin commended the Coordinators for their consistently excellent summaries of submissions received — in the tradition of the erstwhile Synopsis Minutes which unfortunately were abolished in 2011.

Update – 28 November 2018

The Governance Report was tabled today. There’s not much meat in it resulting from our September 27 consultation:

“Reflecting feedback received through discussions with Greenspace Alliance, staff will be looking to update the standard language for the summaries of submissions to more clearly indicate where amendments have (or have not) been made as a result of public submissions to Committee. ” (p71)