Significant Changes to the Land Use Planning Appeal System – Part 1

Last December, the Ontario government passed Bill 139, which made changes to the land-use planning process intended to reform the existing system and provide local parties with a stronger voice in the process.  This post will outline some of the changes under the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017, which came in to force on April 3, 2018.

Purpose of changes to the land-use planning and appeal process

Overall, the purpose of the new legislation is to introduce new rules that protect the rights of individuals, communities, municipal government and provincial interests, and offer a more level playing field for all parties. It updates the province’s oldest tribunal, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), replacing it with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). Many of the changes are intended to create a faster and more affordable process for hearing land-use planning appeals, while creating more certainty for local municipalities in their decision making.

Included in the changes is the creation of a Local Planning Appeal Support Centre to provide legal and planning information and advice.

Restricted jurisdiction with regard to certain municipal decisions

Under the previous rules, the OMB was permitted to undertake a de novo hearing of a matter and make an independent decision, having regard to any prior municipal decision but not bound by it. The new rules give greater weight to the decision-making process in local communities. Any appeals relating to official plans, zoning by-laws, or plans of subdivision may only be overturned by the LPAT where the original decision is inconsistent with municipal plans or provincial policies.

In cases where a municipal decision is found to be inconsistent, the municipal council is to be given written reasons, with 90 days to review and reconsider their application. If their subsequent decision fails a second appeal on the same grounds, the LPAT may substitute its own decision for that of the council.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs retains authority to designate any appeal as a matter of provincial interest, which suspends the above restrictions, and grants the LPAT authority to overturn a municipal decision in favour of its own.

Kitchener Waterloo Lawyers for Municipal Planning Matters

Our municipal lawyers act regularly on behalf of municipalities, public sector actors, landowners, developers, builders, and individual actors. We can provide advice and guidance about this new legislation, and how it may impact your interests. If you have a potential land-use planning matter, or any questions about these changes, speaking to an experienced planning lawyer can help you make well-informed decisions.  Contact us online or call 519-886-3340 to make an appointment with one of our lawyers.