Repairs to the OMB are…

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Repairs to the OMB are desperately needed to make citizen participation easier and less expensive and to ensure its decisions UPHOLD provincial land use plans. Perhaps, ‘repairs’ alone would not be sufficient, so it might be time to issue a 'demolition permit' to deal with this unelected politically-appointed board.

Municipalities are mandated by the province to prepare Official Plans at regular intervals. These preparations take a lot of time and involve public meetings and coordination with the planning departments at the Regional and Provincial. After spending millions of dollars on an Official Plan, a municipality must receive provincial approval for its plan. The ink is barely dry before developers are trotting off to the OMB in order to undo fresh Official Plans.

Planning is SUPPOSED to be a public process. Instead, OMB processes are expensive and onerous, designed to make it difficult for citizens to participate in decisions about their OWN communities. Citizen groups have also been penalized with punitive cost awards for participating in what should be an open public process.

As far as I am concerned, the OMB is nothing but an unelected politically-appointed lever of intervention for developers, a tool that permits developers to destroy Official Plans by overturning provincial planning policies. OMB decisions frequently erode the intent of these laws to either protect farmland or encourage compact mixed-used communities. The main problem with the OMB relates to it having NO incentives for achieving (NOR penalities for NOT achieving) minimum targets set out in provincial policy statements, NO standardized method for developing a land budget, NO real acknowledgement of environmental constraints, NO monitoring, NO enforcement, etc. For instance, an appeal to the OMB (Jan 21, 2013) confirmed there are no hard and fast rules for the OMB when it comes to achieving density targets, nor any particular time frame associated with the Provincial Growth Plan. When Waterloo Region argued for a minimum designated greenfield area density target, the OMB over-ruled the Region, writing that “Section indicates … it was not the Province’s intent that density actually be achieved by a specific date.”

The OMB is permitted to make decisions on wetlands, agricultural lands and forests, when these cases are far beyond its limited development and sprawl-oriented ‘tunnel vision’. These matters should be referred to the Environmental Review Tribunal; in fact, the environmental impact of continuing development has become so enormous that the Environmental Review Tribunal could be rejigged to replace the OMB entirely.

[Original Comment ID: 207142]