It hit the fan on Friday - we will be cleaning this mess up for years.

News 100 blueBy Staff

June 10th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

In a Statement released by the Mayor last Friday she said that the Bill passed by the provincial government the day before will “have a devastating impact on municipal finances and local land use planning control.

Bill 108, also known as “More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan,” was first introduced just last month. Burlington City Council, Halton Region, fellow mayors from the Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO) and other mayors from across Ontario all expressed significant concerns with the impact it would have on our communities.

“Changes to development charges will mean growth will pay even less of the cost of growth, leaving taxpayers to make up the difference. This will unnecessarily add costs at a time when local governments are being asked to find savings.

“Reinstating the old Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) rules means even less local control over planning our communities.

“With legislation that impacts no less than 13 different acts, we requested more time to submit our comments before a decision was made, so we could better evaluate the potential impacts to our cities.

“The Province did not listen.

“We now turn our attention to the regulations that will implement the bill, expected this fall, where there may be opportunity to undo some of the damage Bill 108 will cause.”

Rohmer with MMW

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward meets Richard Rohmer on the beaches of Normandy during the 75th Anniversary of the D Day landings. Honorary Lieutenant General Richard Heath Rohmer OC CMM OOnt DFC CD QC, wasa born in Hamilton, he flew 135 missions in the Second World War, including two on June 6, 1944. He is now age 95, married for 70 years. He is still sharp as a whip and charming as can be. We are so grateful for his service and his lifelong contributions to our country.

Mayor Meed Ward released her statement while she was in France representing Burlington at the 75th Anniversary of the June 6th, 1944 D Day landings on the Normandy beaches which was the beginning of the end of World War Two. The war ended on May 7th, 1945.

We love logoWe Love Burlington had quite a bit more to say on the bill and provided much more detail.

Bill 108, was introduced and passed First Reading in the Ontario Legislature on May 2, 2019. On Friday May 31st there were public hearings with Third Reading on June 4th. Once it receives Third Reading it is effectively law.

The Bill has serious impacts on environmental protections and the protection of endangered species. The amendments seriously affect the preservation of bio-diversity. Schedule 5 of the Bill makes it far easier for plants and wildlife habitat to be destroyed. It would also lead to significant delays and uncertainty regarding listing of species at risk, providing more exceptions and mechanisms for escaping the prohibitions, severely limit the government’s mandatory actions to protect and recover species at risk and remove requirements for the Minister to consult with species experts. In a bizarre and deadly trade-off, the Bill would allow proponents to harm some ‘at risk’ species in exchange for benefitting others. It would create a mechanism where proponents could pay a regulatory charge in lieu of meeting conditions on a permit designed to protect and recover species or habitat. The new term, so aptly and grotesquely coined, is “pay to slay”.

We love at QP

The We Love Burlington Executive met with the Burlington MPP, Jane McKenna at Queen’s Park.

The Bill seeks to amend 13 different statutes that seriously impact municipalities and land use planning processes. It will change the collection of development charges with “soft charges” (i.e. those collected for community infrastructure such as libraries, community centres, arena, playgrounds or sports fields) no longer eligible for inclusion. The Bill will also seriously impact municipal heritage conservation. Bill 108 would also alter how development applications are reviewed by the City at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).

It would effectively reinstate the former powers on the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) whereby LPAT would determine the “best planning outcome” in development disputes and could once again overturn a municipal council’s planning decision. It would effectively reinstate de novo hearings.

WeLoveBurlington became concerned with the potential impacts of Bill 108 on Burlington and other municipalities when it saw the linkages to the provincial program downloading, capacity challenges and consultation/process deficiencies that are the true threats around the Ontario municipal government review.

MMW + Burlington delegation

Mayor Meed Ward observing as the We Love Burlington delegation speaks to Provincial Review Advisors.

Amalgamation was and is an effective rallying point but the issues with which we are most concerned are exemplified by Bill 108 – lack of adequate consultation with stakeholders and citizens around arbitrarily imposed changes, the quantum of dysfunctional change and unanticipated impacts imposed on municipal services and governance, the likely inability of an overloaded municipal system to accommodate the changes without higher taxes, reduced services and increased debt and, finally, the absence of a decisive and deciding voice for those most impacted by the changes – the citizens.

On June 1st, WeLoveBurlington responded to the extremely short deadline for comment on Bill 108. The contents of the letter follow.

May 31, 2019
The Honourable Doug Ford
The Honourable Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier
The Honourable Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Dear Premier Ford, Deputy Premier Elliott, Minister Clark:
Reference: 019-0016
Bill 108 – (Schedule 12) – the proposed More Homes, More Choice Act: Amendments to the Planning Act

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the proposed Bill 108.

We are the WeLoveBurlington Advocacy Group. We are distinctly ‘grass roots’ and non-partisan. We advocate on a broad range of issues that affect the City of Burlington and its citizens.

At the outset, we would like to note several directions and tendencies of the current provincial government that have given us cause for ongoing concern and which we see unfortunately reflected in Bill 108.

First, a general rush to precipitous action with insufficient consultation with affected parties, interest groups and citizens generally. We understand that Bill 108 and its consequences are entirely within the powers and prerogatives of the provincial government. However, we firmly believe that appropriate and timely consultation with the electorate is a fundamental principle of the democratic process. Such has not occurred here.

Second, a tendency to download program funding and operational responsibilities with little consideration of their ultimate financial or operational impacts. Indeed, in many cases these potential affects are both unidentified and unclear resulting in a needlessly dynamic policy context and unfunded budgetary pressures. The result will predictably be reduced services, higher tax burdens and larger municipal debt.

Third, a tendency to disrupt and overload the existing framework of municipal services by imposing a quantum of change that is beyond the limited capacity of the municipality to accommodate. Bill 108 is simply the latest example of a series of provincially imposed changes to local municipal program delivery that were unplanned, unanticipated and threaten to render dysfunctional an already over-extended system.

In reviewing the proposed Bill we have multiple concerns but have limited our comments, given the very brief amount of time allowed for response and comment, to those that follow.

Threats to Bio-Diversity
The consequences of global heating and the need for preservation of bio-diversity are of the utmost importance to our province and our country in the 21st century. Unfortunately, instead of increasing the strength of our protections for these crucial needs, Schedule 5 of Bill 108 makes it easier for plants and wildlife habitat to be destroyed. If enacted as proposed, Bill 108 would lead to significant delays and uncertainty regarding listing of species at risk, provide for more exceptions and mechanisms for escaping the prohibitions, severely limit the government’s actions to protect and recover species at risk, and remove requirements for the Minister to consult with species experts. The amendments would also allow proponents to harm some species at risk in exchange for benefiting others (through landscape agreements) and create a mechanism where proponents can pay a regulatory charge in lieu of meeting conditions on a permit designed to protect and recover species or its habitat. The new term “pay to slay” that is finding traction with constituents is an apt if somewhat grotesque label.

Schedule 5 will accelerate the decline of species. This is not a trade-off voting constituents are willing to support. Schedule 5 should be eliminated from this Bill in its entirety.

Shorter Timelines for Review of Applications
Setting shorter timelines for the review of development applications directly impacts the ability of municipal planning staff to deal with the comprehensive nature of applications, consult with the public, or seek collaboration with applicants. Instead of allowing for the community and parties to work together, shortened timelines will increase adversity. These are impractical timelines for staff and Council for even the most simple, straightforward applications. The result will be even more appeals for non-decisions, thereby defeating the desire to increase housing faster.

Return to de novo Hearings
While the LPAT remains, it will no longer evaluate appeals based on compliance with official plans and consistency with provincial plans/policies. Bill 108 returns it to the more adversarial OMB process and, as such, a return to de novo hearings. This is very disappointing for residents and municipal governments, as it takes final planning decisions out of elected councils’ hands. Historically, the use of a de novo approach to appeals has resulted in drawn out hearings, lags in decisions and a backlog of cases. The return to this process has no positive effect to speed up housing development. This aspect of Bill 108 has been characterized as a return to the substance (if not the fact) of the former Ontario Municipal Review Board. We agree and consider it a fundamental flaw of the proposed legislation.

Mountainside PArk

The funding of public park space is expected to undergo a significant change,

Parkland and Development Charges
A long-standing tenet of land use in Ontario, as established by the province and undertaken by municipalities, is for the building of complete communities – places where homes, jobs, schools, community services, parks and recreation facilities are easily accessible. As intensification and vertical housing become more prevalent, particularly in cities such as Burlington that are targeted for intensification, access becomes even more important.

For decades, the province has allowed municipalities to require parkland based on number of units being built, creating a direct relationship to the number of people living in a new development. If cities choose to keep a limited version of the parkland dedication by-law, they lose the ability to collect land or cash based on units built and are limited to require 5% of the land area of the new development. A 5% requirement on a small site being used for a high-rise development does not deliver a “park” space for residents that will contribute to livability in any manner. Our parks are critical pieces of infrastructure that not only help to alleviate the effects of global heating but also play a pivotal role in creating places where people actually want to live. Further, Bill 108 compels cities to spend 60% of the money they collect each year, thus making it harder for cities to save up funds for larger park projects and land purchases.

Not only does Bill 108 severely curtail the ability for cities to require developers to provide parkland onsite, it also removes the ability for those same cities to use development charges to collect money for parks and other soft infrastructure. The proposed new development charges amalgamate many of the tools cities have used for things such as affordable housing and turned them into either/or situations. These restrictions are exacerbated by a yet-to-be identified cap the government will announce at a later date.

No Answers to Affordable Housing
Bill 108 does not provide for any mechanisms to ensure that reduced development costs are passed through to future home buyers and renters.

In large part the development industry is permitted to build the product it most wants, wherever it desires and sell it at whatever price it chooses.

Allowing municipalities to utilize inclusionary zoning as one of a suite of tools to address and increase the supply and integration of affordable housing through private development represents a more effective manner with which to create affordable housing. By doing so, municipalities maintain the flexibility to utilize the tools most appropriate to the local context.

Bill 108 does not represent the government action voting constituents want from provincial leaders. The City of Burlington and municipalities like it across Ontario have well planned strategies for growth with specific areas identified for intensification and new development.

Reasonable timelines are in place to ensure professional review and assessment of development applications while providing constituents with a voice. The City of Burlington currently has in place an Interim Control Bylaw that has imposed a hiatus on development applications for one (potentially two) years. The bylaw was enacted as a necessary mechanism to cope with both the volume and the complexity of current development applications. This would override it and introduce virtual chaos into the evaluation and approval process.

We strongly urge you to pause Bill 108 in its entirety and work in tandem with the City of Burlington, the Halton Area Planning Partnership and like bodies across Ontario to attain plans and policies that reflect clarity, consideration and certainty in managing growth, delivering suitable development for our population and building infrastructure that works in favour of the people and the environment.

If the current government is truly “a government of the people” receiving its direction from ‘the people’, then it needs to both listen to their voice and permit them the time to articulate it.
Sincerely, We Love Burlington Executive

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4 comments to It hit the fan on Friday – we will be cleaning this mess up for years.

  • WeLoveBurlington

    WeLoveBurlington notes that both of our local MPPs, Jane McKenna and Effie Triantafilopoulos, voted along party lines and supported third reading of Bill 108 last Thursday. We have already asked Ms. McKenna , through social media and email, to provide her reasons for supporting the bill given its serious and, we believe, harmful impacts. We will extend the same courtesy to Ms. Triantafilopoulos. We are not trying to be confrontational or deliberately difficult but we believe that Burlington’s citizens deserve to hear why both our representatives felt that the bill deserved their support. We will report their responses, when and if we receive them, through our fb page and email updates. We will also compare their responses against official government media releases so we know whether actual thought has been put into their replies or simply ‘cut and paste obedience’

  • Gary Scobie

    Environment, climate change, citizen engagement, affordable housing, municipal budget issues – what me worry? Cities will figure it out.
    Tearing down what works – what’s the hurry? Oh yeah, your 4.75 month vacation time is waiting.
    It’s the important things in life that matter – like a buck a beer!
    Welcome to Apocalypse Doug. And that’s just the first year!

  • Alide Camilleri

    Burlington has to blame itself for being put into this position After all, it is Burlington citizens who did not heed the warning that Ford spelled trouble and voted in a Conservative MPP. Let’s hope they realize that if they vote for Scheer, they’ll compound the spiralling into chaos.

    • Phillip Wooster

      Yes, Alide, we should have reelected the Wynne Liberals with their TAX, SPEND, and BORROW policies that have the province with the largest subnational debt on the planet. You seem to forget that the Liberals “intensification” policies are at the heart of the problems we are facing here in Burlington, including gridlock.

      And of course, there’s always Horwath who would let her public sector union buddies run the show while making Wynne look competent. One commentator in the USA got it right in a statement that might well apply to Canada as well, “Too many politicians, no leaders”.

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