Burlington advocacy group puts their weight behind Mayor's motion at Region to abolish LPAT-OMB.

News 100 blueBy Staff

July 10th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We love logoWeLoveBurlington is a small, non-partisan, grass roots organization that advocates on a broad range of issues that affect the City of Burlington and its citizens.

From its onset, we have opposed both the spurious rationale and the forced process of Bill 108; particularly the unilaterally imposed amendments that it makes to duly enacted, existing legislation. As such, we endorse the motion of Mayors Meed Ward and Bonnette to abolish the Local Planning Advisory Tribunal or LPAT, both a creature of the past and a monster of the present.

Our delegation is very brief and speaks to a single fundamental concept – that actions that affect people’s lives and community should have the active involvement and informed consent, or at least awareness, of those people. In other words, citizens have a fundamental right to know about and participate in actions that touch them.

MMW Regional pic

Burlington Mayor and Regional Councilor Marianne Meed Ward

Rick Bonnette -Halton Hills

Halton Hills Mayor and Regional Councilor Rick Bonnette

One of our tag lines, recently coined, is “Burlington’s Future Determined First and Last by Burlington”. Although this may seem simplistic or parochial we firmly stand by the precept that Burlington’s citizens should always be principal in decisions that involve their interests; that Burlington’s Council – duly elected and representing all the citizens – has a far stronger natural right, an obligation, to influence the City’s future than does an unelected, external tribunal appointed by a government more removed and distant. The government that governs best is not only that which governs least but that which is closest to those to whom it must answer; that is accountable to its neighbours and shares not only their concerns but their physical community.

We fundamentally agree with current wisdom that suggests that the OMB and more recently LPAT is a creature of the past, and no longer serves the interests of the citizens of the province. Any quasi-judicial construct, such as the LPAT, that has decision authority over a duly elected body such as a municipal council is a flawed creature, the product of a patronistic, dated and closed world view. We strongly advocate that Ontario take its place with the rest of Canada and enable municipalities to have a determinate role in their future. Abolish the LPAT.

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14 comments to Burlington advocacy group puts their weight behind Mayor’s motion at Region to abolish LPAT-OMB.

  • david barker

    James,. The recourse without LPAT would be to the courts, as it is for all other areas of life. Yes, the courts are bogged down. So maybe there should be a separate property division similar to small claim court. Surely if an OP is accepted by the region/provincial govt’s then it should be easy to adjudicate. Does it fall within or outside the OP?

  • david barker

    You know how people post signs on telegraph poles and lamp posts when a cat or dog goes missing. Well maybe we should have M”MPP McKenna” signs posted throughout the city as she is nowhere to be seen or heard from.

  • david barker

    James ! Really, “a few vocal constituents”? Come on, man. That’s B’s. Those few vocal constituents voted out that awful city council we had for one that is In tune with its constituents. Constituents from the full spectrum across the city that have said “enough is enough”; “we don’t want 29 storey high rises”, “we want developers to be responsible for paying for the city infrastructure their developments demand”, “we expect developers & the Provincial government to respect our Official Plan”.

  • david barker

    This past Tuesday I had a long and most congenial telephone conversation with a senior member of MPP McKenna’s Burlington office’s constituency staff. I called as I had received no response to my open letter dated to McKenna, also published here in the Gazette.

    Our conversation focused heavily on the Burlington’s Official plan, on the whys and wherefore of LPAT, and the relationship between the Provincial government and a municipal council. We did tangent off onto other subjects such as pedestrianizing city centres.

    MPP McKenna’s representative wanted it to be clear that the relationship between Province and municipality is very different to that between Province and Federal government. The representative described the Province/municipality relationship as being one of a parent & child, and that the Province creates the municipality, which only exists at the pleasure of the Province. Further the Federal government was created by the Provinces of Canada and so the Federal government cannot be seen as the parent in the relationship with a Province. A view that the parent (Province) knows better than the child (municipality) as to what is best for the citizens of the municipality was definitely advanced by MPP McKenna’s representative. That in my view is just plain scary !

    In discussing LPAT and it’s predecessor OMB, McKenna’s representative in justification of its existence put forward the argument that it provided better (more affordable) access for the public (private &/or corporate) to challenge a municipality’s decision than would otherwise be available via the courts. I questioned that position by saying I had been advised by a number of planing professionals (consultants and lawyers) that taking a challenge to the OMB would likely cost the Challenger between $40,000 and $60,000. I do not consider that affordable for the average private citizen.

    Then of course there is the make up of the LPAT tribunal. McKenna’s representative seemed not to see any issue in having non-elected, Provincial government politically (parent who knows better) appointed arbiters making decisions, rather than truly independent courts of the land. I of course am all in favour of dissolving LPAT, in favour of the court system. Perhaps a separate branch could be set up to segregate these types of cases from other civil matters. I did offer an alternative as to the make up of the LPAT tribunal, if there must be one. I suggested the arbiters should all be residents of the municipality and be appointed by the regional Council.

    McKenna’s representative was at pains to point out that the mess in Burlington as respects decisions at OMB/LPAT going in favour of the developers and against Council’s positions was solely due to the Official Plan being one whose origin goes back to 1997 and so was (is) non-compliant with Provincial legislation, not withstanding numerous amendments to the plan over the years. McKenna’s representative stated the OP was not just non-compliant with the requirements of Bill 108, but was also non-compliant with legislation of the previous Liberal Provincial government. I have no idea if that is correct or not. The OP being non-compliant the representative said is the main reason why the developers have been able to drive a horse and carriage through gaps in the Official Plan. Again, I have no ability to say if that is right or wrong.

    What McKenna’s representative did to my surprise say, and repeated a couple of times, was that once Burlington’s Official Plan is settled and accepted by the Region, & so the Province, should a developer appeal to LPAT seeking say a 29 storey building where the OP allows say only 11, then LPAT would undoubtedly each and every time side with the municipality and deny the appeal. Hmmmmm?

    I also took the phone call as an opportunity to ask McKenna’s representative about event opportunities where constituents could have public access to MPP McKenna to raise questions and elicit answers on topics of concern. I noted McKenba’s website offered no information as to the timing or location of such opportunities. The answer I received is that is because presently there are no such events on the calendar. I suggested “town hall” type meetings are a necessity for good, close and direct interaction between MPP and constituents. I noted my councilor, Lisa Kerns, held one monthly and that it certainly helps with the councilor’s standing with her constituents to be accessible.

    Last word, and back to the question of LPAT, I would like to suggest that our council initiates a citizen letter campaign (and I mean letter) to Premier Doug Ford and MPP McKenna seeking:-

    Either

    The abolition of LPAT and it’s replacement either by the court system as it exist or a new branch dedicated solely to planning disputes.

    Or

    The composition of any LPAT tribunal being comprised of residents of the defendant municipality.

    The letter should a standard format composed by the City, and which has space for the sender’s name and address to be inserted. The standard letter should either be downloadable or should be available in hard copy at City Hall.

  • Penny Hersh

    Having sat through 3 LPAT Pre-hearings I can tell you that LPAT was essentially the OMB. We were anticipating great changes when LPAT was announced. It was to be resident friendly and available to residents who did not have the expertise or finances to wade through this process on their own. It was nothing of the kind. Residents could speak to an LPAT planner, and depending on the expertise of that planner got information that was not always correct. NO funds were ever provided.

    LPAT was supposed to work for residents because no longer would there be any cross-examination of participants ( this took up a lot of time and money as both sides had the ability to ask questions). The pre-hearing was the first step in deciding if LPAT felt that the case had merit.

    At the pre-hearings I went to most of the participants were dismissed ( by that I mean for whatever reason the adjudicator felt they did not quality – i.e.lived too far from the proposed development etc.) Those that were accepted were given the opportunity to send in a written presentation and then typically a telephone meeting was set up for all parties, and participants. The final step was an email to those who provided their email addresses at the pre-hearing, with the decision of LPAT. Parties could then decide to move ahead with their appeal if they felt the LPAT decision was wrong and then the appeal would move into a full OMB appeal.

    What I found out as well that if a group wanted to have PARTY Status ( group that brings forward the appeal) they had to be incorporated. To have a strong representation at LPAT it was still necessary but not essential, to hire a lawyer to represent you at the hearing. What we were told was that there would be more credence given to a professional providing information than a resident (even if the resident had expertise in that field – i.e. retired planner ). One resident group ended up spending close to $17,000.00 and they lost their appeal. Resident friendly, I think not.

    ECoB, for over a year, has publicly voiced the fact that we felt the LPAT system needed to be abolished. This was something Roland Tanner and I spoke to Marianne Meed-Ward about. At the time she said she was leaning towards the same thing.

    My personal feeling, in order to accomplish this that this will be a hard road to climb, and it will not come quickly.

    I have a question for all the mayors that passed the motion on getting rid of any Provincial Involvement in the decision making of development in their Municipalities. HOW DO WE MOVE FORWARD NOW UNTIL/OR IF LPAT IS ABOLISHED?

  • James

    Giving Burlington or any city for that matter complete control over development within its boundaries with no recourse whatsoever would be akin to allowing your 5 year old to have final say over what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There needs to be accountability in the system for it to work, an opportunity for further discussion to remove political posturing and NIMBYism, focus on core planning principles, and ensure the best possible long-term outcomes. If roles were reversed and we had a pro-development Mayor and Council who blindly approve anything and everything, wouldn’t you agree that having an appeal body is worthwhile? Pendulums swing both ways, be careful what you wish for.

    • Stephen White

      Your support for an appeal body would be credible if, in fact, we had a level playing field where both developers and ordinary citizens/ratepayers groups had equal access to resources, funding, legal counsel, planning expertise, etc., and decisions could be based on facts and merits rather than who can wear down the other side faster. The fact is that the pendulum, to use your analogy, is clearly skewed in favour of the development industry.

      Developers have deep pockets, dozens of planners and lawyers on staff or retainer, and the time and resources to wear down anyone who opposes their plans. The people appointed to boards such as LPAT/OMB are clearly pro-development in their focus. Appointed officials with no tie or commitment to the community invariably don’t give a damn for things such as preserving the character of neighbourhoods or enhancing the vibrancy of this community. Ditto the developers. Their sole interest is making a profit. At the end of the day they trundle off in their 7 series Bimmers to their mega million dollar mansions in Caledon, Vaughan, Markham, etc., and leave the rest of us to clean up the crap they leave in their wake (i.e. traffic congestion, ugly architectural monstrosities, etc.).

      So…kudos to the Mayor for having the guts to propose the abolition of the LPAT-OMB. Unelected bodies such as this are like the Canadian Senate: they are long past their best before date, and have long outlived their usefulness.

      Now, where’s the online petition where I can sign?

      • James

        I am all for a level playing field, my concern is that abolishing LPAT doesn’t accomplish that. In fact I am concerned it will make things worse. It further brings politics into “good planning” and puts planning matters into the hands of the untrained elected officials. How many members of Council are certified planners? Or are we doing away with the planning profession altogether now? Basing planning decisions on what is popular amongst a few vocal constituents does not represent good planning, and does not represent the best long term planning for the city as a whole. It opens the door for backroom wheeling and dealing the likes of which we’ve never seen before, and once a decision is made, it will be final with no recourse or reconsideration based on merits. I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but corrupt elected officials are certainly not unheard of, and under the right “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” scenario, we could find ourselves regretting doing away with the only mechanism we have to force a second look when things go wrong. Today that may not be a concern to many, but what about tomorrow? All I’m saying is that this is a dangerous path. If you have a flat tire you don’t throw away the car. You fix it. This isn’t an easy fix, but LPAT needs fixing, not abolishment.

        • Stephen White

          First, the planning process is political simply by its very nature. It is also confrontational and combative. It became that way because you have diametrically opposed interests and a power imbalance. If there were more equilibrium in the process then there would be more incentive to cooperate and compromise. Having an arbitrary, unelected board with no stake or interest in the community make decisions on development does nothing to promote local autonomy or control.

          Second, planners are subject matter experts, not decision-makers. They provide input into the process in much the same way as engineers, accountants or other professionals do on technical matters. Ultimately, it is the taxpayers’ representatives elected by citizens who should have the deciding vote and exercise control on the process. I think that’s called “democracy”.

          Third, LPAT/OMB disproportionately side with developers. Most members are lawyers, and they no connection to the community. Maybe you are comfortable with unelected, distant officials having the final say on local development but I daresay most Ontarians are not.

          We should kill off the LPAT/OMB in much the same manner we should scrap the federal Senate. The only people who will mourn its demise are the political hacks who feed at the trough and engorge themselves from a well-remunerated public sector sinecure.

          • James

            Agree to disagree, although I’m not convinced you’re understanding what I’m saying. Eliminating an appeal option when decision makers get it wrong, which they sometimes do, is dangerous. Having a local Council with unfettered power and no regard to the greater good beyond what their most vocal constituents feed them is dangerous. But that’s exactly what you’re saying you want. When the pendulum inevitably swings the other way, and it will, and we have a pro-development Council at the helm, I trust you will remain silent and gladly accept 50+ storey developments downtown knowing that you once had an appeal option but willingly chose to eliminate it, and will gladly accept whatever our elected officials give us. Because “democracy”. I apparently don’t have as much faith in our elected officials as you do. I agree with you that the system is flawed, but it’s better than no system at all. It needs to be fixed, not abolished, and provide citizens with the equal playing ground we rightfully deserve.

    • Perry Bowker

      James, you probably have not seen the OMB in action. Or researched some of the consequences. Three years ago the Province held a comprehensive process to fix the OMB, with input from across the board. Unfortunately it wimped out and delivered a watered-down LPAT, but it was at least a start. Now the “for my people” government wants it back, mostly to continue its revenge on Toronto, but with collateral damage everywhere.

  • Carol Victor

    Could not agree more….Municipal affairs affect all of us..
    We need to be more engaged in this level of government . the high rise
    development that caught many of us by surprise is only the beginning….we cannot afford to be
    complacent…gigantic and expensive retirement homes are using the guise of affordable
    housing to gain entry into the downtown core., they are.lobbying aggressively…we need to take control of our own destiny and protest loudly to protect our city.

    I

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