The Ontario government, bowing to pressure from large municipalities, is scrapping the Ontario Municipal Board. In the past a Developer presents his project plans to the City for consideration. Usually the Developer has a basis for his proposal. The City reviews the plan in a well defined process and makes its recommendations to the Developer in order for the project to be approved. If the Developer disagrees then they have the right to file with the OMB for a review. This can happen because of disagreements on land use, density, City restrictions etc. The basis for the appeal would be the development rules that are set by the province and the Cities Official Plan (OP). The review panel starts from the beginning takes that into consideration and comes up with a recommendation which is considered final. Often it can go against the wishes of City Planning. The Cities complain the process takes up large amounts of its staff time (Toronto Star). The new system gives far more power to the City. If there is a disagreement the project will now go to a Tribunal which will look at the existing work and make recommendations back to the City. TVO highlighted concern in December, it is most interesting that both Developers and Environmental groups are concerned that it takes due process out of the system.
This is a big shift in power to the municipal government. What does mean? Likely longer approval periods. Developers I have spoken to believe that it will take much longer to arm twist local Planning into agreeing to the rules and precedence that have been put in place ultimately adding to time and cost to a project. It will may also make it more difficult for smaller developers to move projects forward as the cost is already significantly high. One of the good things about the recently retired OMB was its ability to minimize political influence. Under the new forum is there now the risk for the flow of funds to politicians and civil servants as the stakes become ever higher.
For the real estate business if this slows projects, restricts density or reduces the opportunity to use land for redevelopment that will continue to feed the GTA housing dilemma.