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.

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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.”

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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

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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

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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: < http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?BillID=3176>.

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.

Erwin

[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.

Sincerely,

Yasir Naqvi, MPP | Ottawa Centre

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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 Reeveley (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.

Erwin