Ontario officials are calling for the province’s land-use dispute resolution process, saying it serves the needs of developers more than the needs of their communities.
The Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) is the next step after the local level to resolve disputes related to land use planning, environmental and natural features and preservation, land valuation, land compensation, municipal finances and other matters.
Toronto City Councilman Mike Colle wants more education on the OLT.
“I’ve seen an increasing trend for developers to bypass the local planning process and go straight to the Ontario Land Tribunal,” Colle said Yahoo Finance Canada.
“I think it’s important that people know what [OLT] because I think 99 percent of the population has no idea.”
Colle says he prefers to see disputes dealt with locally and that there is no need for the OLT.
“Local planning decisions are much more democratic and should not be left to an appointed, mysterious board of directors who appear to be just friends of the development industry,” said Colle.
Part of the problem, Colle says, is that developers sometimes jump to the OLT 90 days after local-level applications and before a municipal decision is made on multimillion-dollar projects.
Not just because the developer didn’t make enough money
Toronto City Councilman Josh Matlow also has issues with the process and how developers can go to the OLT if they don’t like the decision.
“What I would prefer to see is an appeals process where if the developer wants to appeal, just like the judicial system, that appeal must be well founded. Not just because the developer wasn’t making as much money as she wanted,” Matlow said Yahoo Finance Canada.
“They need to be able to tell that wasn’t done right or that they skipped a step where they didn’t see a guideline. There must be an actual reason to appeal other than a developer wanting to get more.”
Matlow also says the OLT does not meet the needs of his or other local communities.
“It’s incredibly frustrating when we know the needs of our community in terms of affordable housing needs, social services like school capacity, childcare, parking, infrastructure and quality of life. A developer has the ability to bypass the democratic process and go straight to a provincial court appointed by the province, which is unelected and unaccountable,” Matlow said.
“They might live in Sault Ste Marie or Thunder Bay, which are wonderful places, but they might not understand the context of local neighborhood priorities in our city.”
A number of local governments in several regions want to disband the OLT, including Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas. He also updated the growing list on Twitter.
In defense of the Ontario Land Tribunal
Others say the developers’ influence is overdone and the Ontario Land Tribunal is a necessary process.
“The OLT is necessary in the current regulatory context. Given the powers that local councils have under the Planning Act, I don’t know if land-use planning decisions can be purely political decisions,” says a source employed by a municipality in the greater Toronto area.
“Given the unique needs of communities in a province as large and geographically diverse as Ontario, I do not believe that land use planning decisions can be driven solely by the private interests of the development industry. The OLT provides the necessary point where tension can be mediated or decided”
The source asked that their name not be used as they are not an authorized spokesperson for the community.
Jessy Bains is Senior Reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.