Last week, Bill 73 became law in Ontario. The Smart Growth for Our Communities Act has made important changes to help communities like ours grow up instead of out.
Bill 73 was the result of a review conducted by the province over the last few years of its land use planning and appeal and development charge systems, which involved significant community consultation.
Some of the changes made by the bill are especially important to us here in Waterloo Region, including:
- eliminating the ability of individuals and corporations to appeal a community’s entire official plan, after it has been approved by local municipalities and the province (which happened to our Regional Official Plan)
- expanding the list of “provincial interests” that the Ontario Municipal Board must have regard to, so that it includes “promotion of built form that is well-designed, encourages a sense of place and provides for public spaces that are of high quality, safe, accessible, attractive and vibrant“
- requiring any appellants to explain exactly why a decision is “inconsistent with provincial policy statements, provincial plans or upper-tier official plans” if they wish to appeal on those grounds, or the OMB may dismiss the appeal without a hearing
Other aspects of the bill include changes to allow municipalities to collect development charges that more closely reflect the costs of providing services like transit to new developments, and stronger requirements for municipalities to account for how they spend development charges and consult with their communities on major planning documents.
We’re very encouraged by many of these changes that resulted from the government review, which will help communities like ours to build stronger neighbourhoods and protect valuable farmland and sensitive natural areas from urban sprawl.
Currently, the provincial government is conducting another review, this time of four major plans that govern land use in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and a review of the OMB itself has been promised after the current review concludes. We look forward to these more recent reviews, and to more positive changes like Bill 73 being proposed and made by the government in the months to come.