It’s time to remove the OMB’s power over Toronto

For those who seek to protect our neighbourhoods from unwanted and inappropriate development, the mere existence of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) portends an ongoing battle.

The residents of the Beach have witnessed a never-ending series of applications to build taller than permitted buildings along historical Queen Street. The City, to its credit, has undertaken visioning studies, historical analyses and even opposed some development in the planning stages. But still the city and residents must contend with the prospect of lengthy hearings before an unelected and unaccountable body.

As an MPP, it is part of my job to vet publicly appointed bodies. Several years ago I queried the then-appointed chair of the OMB, Marie Hubbard, about her views on the mandate of that body. I will never forget her response. She stated, “My mandate is to facilitate the development industry in the province.”

No words were spoken in favour of neighbourhood preservation, or of municipal official plans. It was all about the developers.

Fast forward to today. My colleague Rosario Marchese is the MPP for the riding of Trinity-Spadina.  He has submitted Bill 20 which would in effect make the City of Toronto the final arbiter of planning decisions in our municipality and obviate the OMB’s role in Toronto.

In February 2012, city council voted 34 to five that Toronto be exempt from the OMB. MPP Marchese’s bill would give effect to that request. It is not difficult to see why council has requested such action from the provincial government:

1. The OMB sides with developers. Studies indicate that developers win 64 per cent of all hearings. They have deep pockets. Municipalities win only 36 per cent of the time. It is not a level playing field.

2. Land use planning is a municipal issue. The OMB pays limited attention to decisions made by councils. The “have regard to” provision of the law is routinely ignored. Courts have ruled that the OMB has to provide only minimal deference to local decisions.

3. The City of Toronto Act allows the city to set up its own appeal process.

4. The Liberal government under Dalton McGuinty removed all ministerial oversight from the OMB. In the past, Ministries could overrule bad decisions. That is not the case today.

5. The city routinely spends million of dollars defending its decisions and if it was the final arbiter, these monies and countless staff hours would be saved.

The City of Toronto is 129 years old. It is the largest municipality in Canada. It has professional planners, lawyers, engineers and architects capable of making informed and rational decisions. The time for provincial oversight from an unelected, unaccountable and developer-friendly body no longer has any place.

The City of Toronto has requested that it be set free. It is time for the cage to be opened so that this bird flies free. The residents of the Beach may yet gain control of our neighbourhood.

On an unrelated note, we are pleased that my bill – Bill 49, an act to protect the tips and gratuities of servers – has received unanimous support at second reading. It has now been sent to Committee to allow for deputations and possible amendment. Government resources and Cabinet support will be forthcoming. The egregious practice of tipping-out to business owners to keep one’s job may soon be history.

As always, I can be reached at our constituency office at 416-690-1032.

Michael Prue, MPP Beaches/East York


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8 comments

City council is very susceptible to appeals from vociferous NIMBYs. Taking these decisions out of the hands of elected councillors concerned about the next election makes eminent sense. If these decisison were left to council, terrific developments like the Lakehouse condos, the condos on Kioppendavie and 200 Woodbine would likely be rejected in favour of preserving what I would call run down houses fronted by add-on run down commercial space, but the NIMBYs would call “heritage properties”!

Agree with you, Joan.

Right now one person is deciding the fate of the heritage buildings on restaurant row at King and John. David Mirvish has plans to tear down yet more perfectly good buildings on King – one of those buildings has parts of the original UCC in it.

Agree with Joe that decisions should be out of the hands of untrained-in-city-planning city council members but should be in the hands of planners who look at a whole neighbourhood and make sure that the design suits an area. This used to be the case but meddling city councillors changed that.

We’ve all been walking through neighbourhoods in the city where suddenly there’s a building or house that doesn’t “fit” – certainly there are residences in the Beach that should never have been approved – I don’t mean the condos on Queen which are a good fit. The rest of the city that has 30 floors and up condos springing up all over just shake their heads when they read of the objections to the various beach developments.

Alas, even if this bill were to pass, I don’t think our city council would make any better decisions – as Joe says, they say yes or no to development so as to be in the good books of the majority at election time. It’s also why we need a two-term on council by-law.

I disagree with McNulty, the City of Toronto has a vested interest in turning our City into Condoland. Along with the OMB the only focus is bringing in as much money as possible to keep paying the credit card debt for a public sector we can’t afford. It is estimated that approx 40% of all condo sales are to foreign speculators – this is not real-estate for Canadians it’s Wall Street for ultra-rich Chinese who need a spot to park their money.

Yes, neighbourhoods can seek help from their City Councillor but in at least the case of Kippendavie we got McMahon – whose last job was teaching english as a second language. Against the well heeled developers, their lawyers and a City Planner who thinks that Kippendavie (a little side street that already supports Kew Beach PS and daycare) is an identical street to Woodbine (a main thoroughfare) we got rammed. McMahon is a nice lady but as our representative she was confused, out of her depth, and quite frankly out to lunch. The result… a king kong sized mega condo that dwarfs anything else on the street and is the entire east-west skyline from Buller Ave. And to be clear Kippendavie is the template for your little side street… and with the OMB deciding – your street is next.

McNulty, the options should not be old houses or MEGA CONDO. 6 houses with lots of green space become a concrete block that is more than 400% larger than what the RULES permit. How about responsible development? This mega condo would be large for Queen Street yet it got built on a side street! How is this possible?

Look at the Kippendavie example rationally and honestly tell me that the OMB works. Without the money to defend our neighbourhoods from attack we are defenceless against the vested interests and corruption. Especially, when we have no representation to speak of on City Council.

Ahhh, Kippendavie, the NIMBYs and their hyperbole make an appearance! “king kong sized mega condo”?!No wonder you people aren’t taken seriously by those capable of forming rational thoughts.

Those condos are completely to scale and will fit in nicely to the streetscape and the community.

As to your views on Councillor McMahon, they are clearly coloured by the fact that she didn’t heel exactly to your wishes. And that is precisely the strongest argument in favour of an independent OMB – taking important decisions out of the hands of politicians whose only real concern is re-election.

Sure Joe – you are right – calling NIMBY makes every argument for you. I have never read you quote a single fact – just calling NIMBY. How about this – folks… come on down to Kippendavie and look at the new condo northbound from Buller. It’s hard to miss it… because it’s all you see.

Take a look and tell me if this thing “fits in nicely”. I question how it can fit in when it’s five times the size of anything around it. I guess I’m a NIMBY because I don’t think that a five storey 60 unit concrete block with underground parking fits on a little side street. I guess the rules are NIMBY because this building breaks them all.

By the way, I have no financial interest in the condo boom either way – what about you Joe?

Kippendavie, the fact that you are a NIMBY is clearly illustrated by the statements that you make without any factual support whatsoever. “Five times the size of anything around it” – clearly false, since, although larger than existing apartment blocks on Kippendavie, the new condo is most certainly not five times their size. It’s also not five times the size of Kew Beach School, also on Kippendavie. Just more hyperbole from the NIMBYs.

You have provided no evidence that the building doesn’t fit in nicely – we simply have to accept your opinion. Kippendavie is a side street, but it certainly isn’t quiet, with a school on it – also, being the fist street south of Queen, east of Woodbine, it attracts probably the most traffic of any street south of Queen in the Beach

I certainly have no financial interest in this condo and I am not a developer. I’m not sure what the “condo boom” is, so I can’t say one way or the other whether I have an interest in it. I’m just a life long, third generation Beach resident who is in favour of improving life in the Beach which this building, along with the current projects re-developing Queen, in my opinion, do. However, I suspect that you are a property owner on Kippendavie and clearly have a financial interest in this issue. However, I think that you’ll be surprised when the result of this project is to increase your property’s value.

Finally, I am sure that you would be jumping up and down screaming if unreasonable “rules” impacted your ability to reasonably and attractively develop a piece of property that you owned! You’d be praising the existence of the OMB under that scenario!

Yeah, I live on Bayview and York Mills in North York, Ontario. We as a local home owners objected to all the proposed townhouses developments by those deep pockets developers. They all got approved by the OMB. As long as you have $$$$$ you can do ANYTHING you want. I saw that with my own eyes for the last 10 years. There must be a lot of bribes involved. Give me a break? Those submission drawings for rezoning proposal to a signle family neighborhood all did not show any trees, zero landscapes, zero existing trees protections. Why they got accepted to be in the proposal in the first place? Those rezoning proposals shoud not be allowed to be accepted in the first place.

High gloss floor area = $$$$ + greed and power = OMB approval

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