Canada: Ontario Passes Bill 73: Amendments To The Planning Act And Development Charges Act

On December 3, 2015, the Ontario government passed Bill 73, Smart Growth for Our Communities Act, 2015, to reform the Planning Act and the Development Charges Act, 1997 with the aim to give citizens a greater say in how their communities will grow and give municipalities more tools to fund community services.

The version of Bill 73 that received Royal Assent is largely similar to the version initially introduced at First Reading in the Legislature. The following is a summary of the key amendments made by Bill 73:

Planning Act

  • Review of Provincial Policy Statements. Policy statements are to be reviewed at 10-year intervals, instead of the previous five-year intervals.
  • Promotion of built form is a matter of provincial interest. In addition to the existing list matters of provincial interest, the Ministry, the council of a municipality, a local board, a planning board and the Ontario Municipal Board must have regard to the promotion of built form that: (i) is well designed; (ii) encourages a sense of place; and (ii) provides for public spaces that are of high quality, safe, accessible, attractive and vibrant.
  • Effect of written and oral submissions on decisions. Decision-makers are required to explain the effect, if any, of written and oral submissions from the public relating to a planning matter on their decisions.
  • Informing and obtaining the view of the public. An official plan must contain a description of the measures and procedures for informing and obtaining the views of the public in respect of proposed amendments or revisions to the official plan, proposed zoning by-laws, proposed plans of subdivision and proposed consents.
  • Review of new municipal official plans every 10 years. The review and revision of an official plan is required every 10 years after the plan comes into effect as a new official plan and at five-year intervals thereafter until the plan is replaced.
  • No "global" appeals of new Official Plans. Global appeals of new official plans (i.e., appeals of the decision of Council to adopt all of a plan) are prohibited.
  • No appeals for certain matters to the Ontario Municipal Board. Appeals of part of an official plan in connection with specified matters are prohibited. These matters include, but are not limited to: the Greenbelt Area or Protected Countryside or within the boundary of a specialty crop area designated by the Greenbelt Plan; the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan Area; forecasted population and employment growth as set out in a Growth Plan; and where the official plan of a lower-tier municipality in the Greater Golden Horseshoe growth plan area identifies forecasted population and employment growth as set out in a upper-tier municipality's official plan.
  • Use of Dispute Resolution. When a notice of appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board is filed, council may use mediation, conciliation or other dispute resolution techniques to attempt to resolve the dispute. Municipalities are given an additional 60 days to engage in alternative dispute resolution to resolve appeals prior to forwarding the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board.
  • Extension of time to make a decision on an official plan or official plan amendment. The 180-day period to give notice of a decision with respect to a plan or amendment to a plan may be extended by up to 90 days by the applicant, the municipality or the approval authority. However, the person, public body, municipality or approval authority that gave or received a notice of the extension may terminate the extension at any time by another written notice.
  • Limitation of appeals for non-decisions. At any time after an appellant files an appeal of a plan where the approval authority fails to make a decision within 180 days (or as may be extended), the approval authority may give a notice requiring those who wish to appeal to do so within 20 days of the notice.
  • Prohibitions on certain development applications. There is a two-year prohibition on all applications seeking: (i) amendments to a new official plan, from the date that any part of the plan comes into effect; (ii) amendments to a new comprehensive zoning by-law (if council repeals and replaces all of the zoning by-laws in effect for a municipality), from the date on which council repeals and replaces such by-laws; and (iii) variances to an owner-initiated site-specific rezoning, from the date that the by-law was amended. However, council can override this prohibition through a declaration by resolution that such application is permitted. The resolution may be made in respect of a specific application, a class of applications or in respect of such applications generally.
  • Prohibitions on development permit by-law amendments. A council is authorized to pass a development permit by-law to provide that no person can apply to amend the relevant Official Plan policies or development permit by-law prior to the fifth anniversary the day the by-law is passed. However, Council can override this prohibition through a resolution that an application for such amendments is permitted.
  • Council may establish additional criteria to be considered for minor variance applications. When a Committee of Adjustment makes a decision on a minor variance decision, it must apply any criteria prescribed in the regulations as well as any additional criteria contained in a by-law passed by council, in addition to the established 4-part test. Note that such a by-law is subject to the public meeting, (new) dispute resolution and appeal provisions under Section 34 of the Act. Criteria that were not in force on the day of the minor variance application do not apply.

Development Charges Act

  • Capital costs for transit services. The amount of capital costs that municipalities can recover for transit services, other than the Toronto-York subway extension, is increased.
  • Disclosure of development charge background studies. A development charge background study must be made available to the public, either on the municipality's website or in the municipal office, at least 60 days prior to the passing of the development charge by-law and until the by-law expires or is repealed.
  • Asset management plans. A development charge background study must include an asset management plan to deal with all assets whose capital costs are proposed to be funded under the development charge by-law and demonstrate that all of the assets are financially sustainable over their full life cycle.
  • Multiple building permits or building phases. If a development consists of one building that requires more than one building permit, the development charge is payable upon the issuance of the first building permit. However, if a development consists of two or more phases that will not be constructed concurrently and are anticipated to be completed in different years, each phase of the development is deemed to be a separate development for the purposes of the payment of development charges.
  • Reporting requirements. The financial statement relating to development charge by-laws and reserve funds prepared by the treasurer of a municipality must include a statement identifying all assets whose capital costs were funded under a development charge during the year and the manner in which any capital cost not funded under the by-law was or will be funded. The financial statement must be made available to the public.

Note that the majority of the Bill 73 amendments will come into force on a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor. However, a few amendments are in force as of the date of Royal Assent (December 3, 2015)-namely, that the provincial policy statement is now required to be reviewed and revised every 10 years instead of every 5 years.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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