This article was published on March 20, 2020. For an update on the LPAT’s procedures, please visit this article.

We are providing this update to alert landowners and other development industry stakeholders of how COVID-19, and its associated social distancing measures, are impacting the land development industry and the broader municipal sector in Ontario. Please note that this article is accurate to the time of publishing, however the situation is changing rapidly. If you have any questions about how COVID-19 may impact your project or appeal, please do not hesitate to reach out to any member of Dentons’ Municipal, Land Use Planning and Development Law team.

Planning appeals can still be filed

While hearing events have been postponed and some Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) services scaled back, appeals of planning instruments can still be filed.

The LPAT’s Registrar has advised that they are accepting courier deliveries so that any new appeals or referrals, required to be filed in hard copy pursuant to the LPAT’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, may be filed as usual. Please contact any member of Dentons’ Municipal, Land Use Planning and Development Law team if you require any assistance in this regard.

In keeping with proper social distancing practices, the LPAT has, however, scaled back operations. This includes:

  • Adjourning all scheduled appearance hearings, telephone conference calls, and mediation events scheduled until April 3, 2020;
  • Refraining from scheduling appearance hearings or case management conferences until further notice; and
  • Closing all front-line counter services until further notice.

Toronto Local Appeal Body (TLAB) appeals can still be filed with the City of Toronto Committee of Adjustment, via email, but will not be processed and forwarded to the TLAB until a more regular service program is resumed. TLAB operations have also been scaled back. All in-person hearings scheduled until April 3, 2020, have been adjourned, although scheduled teleconference hearings are proceeding as scheduled.

On March 20, 2020, the Province issued a regulation under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act suspending “any provision of any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario establishing any period of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding in Ontario, including any intended proceeding”, including appeal periods under the Planning Act. If you have questions regarding a specific appeal, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Provincial Offences Act matters scheduled until April 3, 2020, have also been adjourned, to be rescheduled at a later date.

Municipal Council and committee meetings

Bill 187, the Municipal Emergency Act, 2020, was introduced and enacted on March 19, 2020. The legislation allows municipal Councils, committees and local boards to meet by electronic means during the COVID-19 crisis, or where the Province has declared an emergency so that the business of municipal government can continue in these circumstances. It also allows relief from municipal noise by-laws to allow for deliveries to keep business moving forward.

However, prior to the enactment of the Municipal Emergency Act, 2020, municipalities had already started cancelling previously scheduled Council, committee and local board meetings.

The City of Toronto cancelled all Council, committee, board and tribunal meetings, including the Committee of Adjustment, until April 3, 2020. The City of Vaughan has also cancelled Council and committee meetings until April 10, 2020. The City of Ottawa’s Committee of Adjustment hearings have been cancelled until April 5, 2020.

Some municipalities are closing Council and committee meetings to the public, but livestreaming them via the municipality’s website. The City of Mississauga cancelled its Planning and Development Committee meetings scheduled for March 30, 2020, and April 1, 2020, but proceeded with a special online meeting of Council on March 19, 2020. Similarly, Town of Newmarket Council and Committee of the Whole meetings are closed to the public, but can be livestreamed through the Town’s website.

Dentons is closely monitoring for municipalities that will be bringing their Council and committee meetings back online as a result of the newly enacted Municipal Emergency Act, 2020. If you have questions or concerns regarding a matter in a particular municipality, please contact a member of Dentons’ Municipal, Land Use Planning and Development Law team.

Municipal services

Municipalities across the Province are examining the services that will be provided during this time. Many municipal staff are working from home, and in-person access to public buildings is being restricted or prohibited. Accordingly, many municipalities are processing existing planning applications, but not accepting new ones. The City of Vaughan, for example, has indicated that new development applications will not be accepted. Similarly, new applications to the City of Toronto’s Committee of Adjustment will not be accepted. The City of Toronto’s City Planning Department has further advised that there will be delays in the review of existing applications, on account of the current circumstances. The recent suspension of Planning Act appeal periods made result in further changes, in this regard.

Municipalities are also examining how to best assist their constituencies, including through property tax deferrals, parking enforcement leniency, relief from parking fees, free transit and other options. Again, this varies from municipality to municipality.