This one chart shows developers rushing to the OMB before it’s too late
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This one chart shows developers rushing to the OMB before it’s too late

Appeals are rapidly piling up before legislation brings major changes.

Appeals made to the Ontario Municipal Board have more than doubled, according to new data released by the City. The sudden rush of applications comes as developers anticipate that upcoming provincial legislation will result in a less favourable system.

The number of appeals made to the OMB has more than doubled this year, compared to the same period of time last year. Graph courtesy of the Office of Josh Matlow, data courtesy of the City Clerk and City Planning Division.

For more than a hundred years, the Ontario Municipal Board has had the power to overturn planning decisions made by municipalities, greatly endearing the body to developers across the province.

But under provincial legislation tabled last spring, the OMB would be replaced by a new body called the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal. Instead of treating all appeals as brand-new attempts at winning approval, as the OMB has done in the past, the LPAT would consider appeals on narrower grounds: whether the city failed to adhere to its own policies, or if its policies are in contravention of provincial rules. It would also level the playing field by offering residents free legal representation.

Perhaps anticipating a more difficult time getting their projects approved, developers have been bringing appeals in droves. In 2016, there were 38 major appeals,  while in the same timeframe in 2017, there were 85. The trend is happening all over the city, not just in the downtown core.

The Star even quotes a developer who openly acknowledges this rationale:

“We’re sorry for subverting the process and we know that this is not an application that you or the city can support, but we needed to quickly submit an application given the uncertainty at the provincial level.”

Turns out the City had actually anticipated exactly this problem, and requested that a clause be included in the legislation to prevent the kind of rush that’s now happening, by making the law apply retroactively to all applications filed since the new legislation was introduced last May. The province has since shot down that idea, so here we are.