Something important may be about to happen.
Industry outsiders no doubt missed it, given the councillors’ headline-grabbing spat over the TTC that overshadowed most other local news last Monday.
But on the same day, the Toronto City Council asked the province to free the city from the Ontario Municipal Board’s jurisdiction, a measure that its proponents claim would give residents a greater say over what gets built in their neighbourhoods.
This isn’t the first blow to the OMB — only a few months ago, Mississauga called on the province to abolish the Board, which hears appeals of zoning decisions and frequently overturns council.
Indeed, the OMB is no stranger to controversy, having been accused of not keeping itself up-to-date and of acting in a quasi-judicial manner. Recently, a Toronto Star reporter went so far as to call it “a 19th century relic.”
On the other hand, the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) says the current system works fine.
“In principle, BILD strongly supports the necessity of the Ontario Municipal Board, by providing an impartial, adjudicative tribunal, further removed from local political pressures,” wrote BILD in a letter addressed to the council.
Moreover, as this article notes, while the OBC is often accused of cozying up to developers, it has also taken decisions that defied corporate interests, such as when it kept Walmart out of Leslieville in 2009.
Local councils certainly have no planning or development training. Their agenda is often short-term, which can prevent them from seeing the big picture.
Given these limitations, I doubt councils will be able to handle disputes between NIMBYs and municipalities, and I worry that they will indefinitely tie up projects.
What are your thoughts?