Thank you for undertaking a review of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), which we sincerely hope results in the changes outlined in the rationale for the review.
POWR MAG (Protectors of Wetlands and River Magnetawan), a small rural residents'/environmental group, experienced and continues to experience first hand the enormous emotional and financial drain that having a case in front of the OMB means. It is incredulous that ONE person who is not even from the area could overturn a unanimous, well-considered decision of a local, democratically elected municipal council. POWR MAG is very fortunate that our Council has continued it opposition to an expanded pit and the addition of a quarry right along the Magnetawan River and a wetlands, which according to MNRF ecologists trained on OWES, would be provincially significant, if it were evaluated. It has cost our group over $91,000 since 2010 for 2 pre-hearings and less than 1/2 day of hearing - only to have the hearings adjourned twice sine die. We are exhausted from the delays, unresponsiveness of the proponent even to demands from the OMB case coordinator, constant fundraising, meetings, document preparation and the strain of monitoring, holding meetings, etc. We do not get to write off our expenses.
I heard a comment on CBC radio that most of the issues with the OMB are from large cities. What is perhaps not realized is that small municipalities, like citizen groups, often do NOT take the decision to deny a developer, especially when it is an aggregate licence, because they simply cannot afford the costs associated with an OMB process. We have to pray that we choose what be the most significant issue(s), or at least the one that might resonate with a particular member, because we cannot afford the experts to defend against the adverse effects and negative impacts of noise, a carcinogenic silica dust that coated the wetlands, our picnic tables and our lungs, unknown impacts on our wells, traffic & highway hazards, potential of hazardous heavy metals draining into the river and the water table, the destruction of the beautiful scenic vistas, destruction of wildlife and their habitat, land use conflicts.
We understand that the concerns we have are not just with the OMB. That the NEED for the aggregate cannot even be raised is a PPS problem that fails to recognize that rock and sand abound on the Canadian shield. There is NO NEED to destroy the environment, our peaceful enjoyment of our homes and properties and risk the health of a wetlands and a beautiful river, that our Township has declared a significant natural heritage feature.
Repairs to the OMB are needed to make citizen participation easier and less expensive and to ensure its decisions uphold provincial land use plans.
Planning is a public process. OMB processes are too expensive and time consuming, making the OMB out of reach to citizens who want a say in shaping their communities AND small municipalities that want their Official Plans and By-laws respected. Not only are hearings too costly and time consuming, but far too many citizen groups have been penalized with punitive cost awards for participating in what should be an open public process.
As an unelected body, the OMB should not overturn provincial planning laws. OMB decisions frequently erode the ability of these laws both to protect farmland, rivers & lakes and to encourage vibrant mixed-used sustainable communities. This must end.
All too often, the OMB makes decisions on wetlands, agricultural lands and forests, when these cases should be referred to the Environmental Review Tribunal.
We urge you to fix the OMB to support citizen participation, ensure the environment is given due process and uphold provincial planning laws.
[Original Comment ID: 207231]
Submitted January 24, 2018 2:57 PM