On January 21, 2013, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) released a decision on PL110080. This case was an appeal by a number of developers of the Region of Waterloo’s Official Plan (OP). This ruling by an unelected, unaccountable body damages our local community here in Waterloo Region, and threatens the future of the Ontario as a whole.
In response, the Region of Waterloo is pursuing the two legal options open to it: appeal to divisional court, and a request that the OMB allow a rehearing. While the OMB has refused to rehear the case, the provincial government is asking the divisional court to allow it to stand with the Region of Waterloo in the Region’s appeal.
Why is this OMB ruling such a threat to Waterloo Region and Ontario as a whole?
Threats within the Waterloo Region
- The Region believes opening 85 hectares of new land for development will meet housing needs in the Region and its goals for intensification. But the OMB is trying to force the Region to open 1053 hectares. This is an 1139% increase of land that will be exposed to development.
- An enormous amount of rural lands will be lost to development. This will reduce our available farmland and lands for local food, greatly reduce the remaining green space in our Region, and potentially threaten the groundwater recharge areas around our community we rely on for drinking water.
- This additional sprawl will threaten the Region’s goals for intensification and its initiatives that depend on it, such as transportation choice, vibrant urban spaces, and economic development.
- The Region spent a decade planning for our community. Our democratically elected officials made a decision with democratic rigour and substantial community input. That decision has been overruled by the OMB. In the ruling, the OMB states that they owe our Regional Council’s democratic local decisions “minimal deference” and careful consideration. They state that they do not need to demonstrate that the Region’s decision is unreasonable to overrule it. The hard work and democratic will of our community to achieve the quality of life we want deserves more than minimal deference to a reasonable decision.
Threats to the Province of Ontario
- The OMB decision states that “The absence of a specific date in s. 126.96.36.199” of the Growth Plan “indicates to us that it was not the Province’s intent that density actually be achieved by a specific date.” This interpretation guts the Growth Plan density targets for “designated greenfield areas” being developed, and sets a precent across Ontario.
- The OMB’s decision relies on past growth to predict future growth patterns. This does not consider new challenges, changing lifestyle patterns, and current goals. This precedent locks Ontario as a whole into continuing the sprawl of past generations that are being rejected by our communities and our elected leaders.
- Greenfield development is expensive for already overstretched governments and their infrastructure budgets. More sprawl will increase the already underfunded infrastructure needs of municipalities and the Province of Ontario for the long term.
- The far-reaching implications of this decision will lower quality of life for Ontarians well into the future. As planning experts in Waterloo have compellingly written, “We struggle to reconcile the Board’s decision with contemporary planning goals of increased housing choice, lower municipal tax burdens, increased environmental sustainability, and better quality of life.”