The Ontario Liberal government introduced legislation today to restrict the Ontario Municipal Board's authority over urban planning issues and make it more difficult for developers to circumvent planning decisions made by local councils. If passed, the legislation would, among other things:
The OMB's decisions in favour of developers have in the past, disproportionately perhaps by anti-development lobbyists, compromised its perception as an impartial arms-length arbiter. However, those decisions have often managed to curb the arbitrary and politically-motivated regulatory excesses of politicians who pander to NIMBY-style opposition to development — the OMB frequently rescues cities from irresponsible economic policy and heavy-handed property restrictions. These ends, though necessary, are obtained at the expense of allowing elected politicians to take populist stances on development issues without having to be held accountable in the end. Loosening restrictions on municipalities' planning authority may be an unappealing prospect — London has spent $220,000 so far in legal fees in unsuccessful attempts to defend the recklessly political Richmond Street zoning bylaw — but local government in Ontario will remain a child's game until voters and councillors are not saved from the consequences of their dirigiste fantasies. A little competition in regulatory regimes in Ontario would punish those towns and cities that allow their elected politicians to pander to their own "I got mine" prejudices. Unfortunately, the legislation will not go far enough.
Update, December 13, 2005: The London Free Press reports that deputy mayor Tom Gosnell is pleased with the proposed OMB reform:
Alan Patton, a lawyer for local developers, offers a perspective less indulgent to politicians' grandstanding rhetoric:
"Giving more deference to local councils is appropriate because the public can change the makeup of a council every three years. …It's more democratic than leaving the decisions to a board that doesn't understand the history or interests of a city."
[…] he's not convinced local politicians will like the changes, especially if more deference is shown to local councils and residents.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Posted by MapMaster on Monday, December 12, 2005