OMB sides with Taggart/Walton — OPA 150 on hold

2 March 2016

Six and a half months after a one-day hearing in early August 2015, the OMB (member R.G.M. Makuch) issued a decision dated February 23, 2016.

Briefly, Taggart/Walton wanted the Board to allow the appeal of Official Plan Amendments 150, 140 and 141 in their entirety and order the City to expand the planning horizon to 2036, complete the LEAR review and the Employment Lands study, and do so on or before August 2017.

OPA 150 is the result of a Comprehensive Official Plan Review, adopted by Council in December 2013.  OPAs 140 and 141 are further amendments to the Official Plan.

For background on these issues and a report on the hearing, please see the thread of postings to the GA list (dated April 6 to August 9), attached as a PDF. The Decision is attached as well.

Bottom line: The Board didn’t allow the appeals-in-their-entirety (as that “would not be in the public interest”) but in effect gave Taggart and Walton everything they wanted: It adjourned the hearings on the appeals until such time as the City has completed the LEAR review and the Employment Lands study and also admonishes the City to “review its adoption of a 2031 as opposed to 2036 planning horizon to ensure consistency with the PPS 2014.”

Another point Taggart/Walton had raised was whether OPA 150 didn’t go outside the bounds of what an Official Plan should contain (section 16 of the Planning Act).  Here the Board said this matter should be subject to a full hearing, opening the door to potential wholesale deletions from OPA 150.

Finally, Taggart/Walton had argued that, because OPAs 140 and 141 were corrections to OPA 150 they should have been subject to the more stringent notification and public meeting requirements of a Comprehensive Review (section 26) rather than of a ordinary OPA (section 17).  On this point too, the Board agreed with Taggart/Walton.

Comment.  The Decision does not assess the arguments of either side to any substantive degree.  It spends three pages on explaining what the motion argued, one page on what the City counter-argued (essentially simply copying what the Notices of Motion & Response said) and then just two pages on “Findings.”  Even this lay person finds big holes in the assertions made in these Findings.  E.g., it asserts that the Employment Lands and LEAR studies are “required” under section 26.  Not so: section 26 says that the City needs to ensure that the agricultural and employment land policies are “confirmed or amended.” This the City did, finding that there was no pressing need to amend either of them.  Similarly, the Board finds that determination and updating of agricultural land designations is “critical to the adjudication of the debate over the expansion of the urban boundary” but there is no such debate because OPA 150 did not expand the urban boundary and that determination is not appealable.

By rights, this Decision should be appealed on grounds of gross errors in law. I’m taking bets that this will not happen and that the City will just plod along with the two studies, expand the planning horizon to 2036 (opening the door to further urban boundary expansion even though we have at present a 24-year supply of residential urban land and the Employment Lands study is finding that we’re good till 2041) and come back next year with a whole new OPA.

Who’s really running this town will be confirmed.

The City adopted OPA 150 with undue haste (a point both community and developers agree on) and its approach (351 amendments that are nearly impossible to comprehend) is atrocious, but this Decision by Member Makuch should not be allowed to stand.



For follow-up, please go here.

Here is the City’s “Work Program to Complete Official Plan Amendment 150“, distributed to Councillors on June 20, 2016 and tabled at Planning Committee at its meeting of June 28.