Development Charges Act and land use planning and appeals system consultations

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            GOHBA members urged to speak out to influence changes sought by municipal governments

Ottawa Construction News staff writer

The provincial government is implementing a review of Ontario’s Development Charges Act and land use planning and appeal system at the request of Ontario’s municipalities, indicating the possibility of more onerous development charges, while municipal authorities seek greater power to review planning appeals before they reach the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

This consultation could be the first stage of a “quantum leap” in development charges and possibly a more onerous appeal/review processes, Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association (GOHBA) president Pierre Dufresene indicates.  Accordingly, he hopes members will join in a provincial initiative to speak up and respond to the consultation invitation.

“On both of these consultations, the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) has set up a consultation process and is coming to larger local associations to get members’ input,” Dufresne said.  “We want to provide feedback to these issues.  The message we want to send is one of fairness, equity and affordability.”

The issues, raised in a series of questions posed by provincial government officials, could have profound impact on the industry, especially if municipalities are able to levy development charges on formerly exempted projects, such as hospitals.

“Right now, municipalities can only charge for future projects based on historical service levels,” he said.  “There is no historical level for light rail in Ottawa.”  The province has allowed North York to levy these charges, “and we fear that it will set a precedent on the quantum of development charges now.”

“Municipalities are also asking for an elimination of the statutory 10 per cent municipal contribution for new projects,” Dufresne said.  “The current rule is in place to recognize that the overall municipality benefits from new development.”

The problem is that “the new home purchaser is a very small percentage of of the population at any time,” Dufresne says.  “These purchasers shouldn’t be burdened with unfair charges.  As well, for the population at large, as development charges increase, there is an artificial inflation in the value of existing dwellings, resulting in higher appraised values, causing people to pay more taxes.”

The second topic, relating to the appeals and approval process, will not impact on the Ontario Municipal Board’s authority, the provincial government says.

“It is somewhat encouraging to learn that the OMB operations are being excluded from the review and that it will focus on improving the appeal process,” says GOHBA executive director John Herbert.

However, questions arise about the process and “how are they going to make the OMB more responsive to community and local governments which make the decisions, and are already well-served,: Dufresne said.

“The OMB makes decisions based on already-approved municipal and provincial policy and ensure the integrity of policies implemented through the lower-level decisions.

“Very often, people promote intensification until they feel directly affected and local politicians, although supporting official plan objective,  oppose rezonings because of community push back.  We want any changes to the OMB to be open and transparent so that it is protected.”

Dufresne said he hopes as many members as possible “especially development lawyers and consultants who are involved in the development process” show up at the meeting.

“We need to express our situation in ottawa about how change should be affected in a positive fashion, and in order to do that, we need to participate and provide feedback.”

The Ottawa OHBA consultations are scheduled for Dec. 9 from 9:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. at the Centurion Conference Centre.

“Following these internal consultations at local HBAs, there will be other opportunities for member engagement with the ad-hoc committee,” the OHBA announcement says.  The provincial association also invites members to communicate about the Planning Act with the OHBA’s director of policy, Mike Collins-Williams, at mikew@ohba.ca.  For more information about how to get involved with the Development Charges Act review, contact Stephen Hamilton at shamilton@ohba.ca.

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