11/03/2015

Ontario Legislature Standing Committee on Social Policy Bill 73, Smart Growth for Our Communities Act, 2015. Association of Municipalities of Ontario Presentation and Recommended Amendments. November 3, 2015.

Remarks by:
Gary McNamara, AMO President and
Mayor, Town of Tecumseh
Tuesday, November 3, 2015, 4:00 p.m.
Standing Committee, Committee Room 1,
Main Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Standing Committee on Social Policy


(Check Against Delivery)

Thank you, for providing the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) with the opportunity to contribute to your deliberations. First, there is much to support in this Bill but also concerns.

In our package, you have a copy of my remarks as well as a list of all our recommendations and specific amendments, beginning on page 7. Today, given the available time, we will only be able to highlight some of the requested changes, however, I know you will seriously consider them all. Let me start with the land use planning part of the Bill.

A. Planning Act:

There are several positive changes that create stability in the local planning process, that create efficiencies and which improves predictability.

These include:

  • Limiting appeals to the OMB where the municipality has amended its planning documents to comply with provincial plan requirements;
  • Changes that scope appeal situations;
  • Going from a 5 year to 10 year review period for the Provincial Policy Statement; Instructing the OMB to have regard for municipal decisions as it considers an appeal;
  • Requiring those who appeal to provide greater detail on the basis of their appeal; and
  • Providing greater time and means to settle appeals.

We are making eight recommendations for amendments to the planning portion and will highlight four now.

1. Freezing the ability to make official plan amendments for two years after the plan is approved can have positive outcomes in more urban circumstances, where growth is anticipated and for which it is planned. In rural based areas, where there is very low or no growth, it is not seen as a positive approach.

Rural based municipal governments are largely dependent on single activity or lot based activity applications brought forward by an individual who sees an economic opportunity. Some have suggested the fix to this problem is to make rural councils the proponent. In most cases it will be difficult to rationalize. It is further complicated as there would be no planning fees to support planning research and reports which often done by consultants in rural areas. This will put even more pressure on the tight financial situations of rural governments.

The Bill’s one-size fits all approach will have different impacts and repercussions. An exception is needed for rural no growth/low growth areas and we believe the government must act on this recommendation.

2. Public engagement is integral to the planning process and municipal governments have deep experience in consulting with the public. Notwithstanding all the good consultation practices, some members of the public or applicants can be unhappy with a council’s decision. If their desired outcome is not achieved, then the problem must be with the process.

More process will not necessarily make for different decision-making outcomes but they will require new administrative requirements which will further strain municipal capacity.

Changes to process also offer a new area for dispute. For example, in order to provide evidence to the OMB on oral submissions, will the Bill be viewed as implying that municipalities are to record all meetings in order to have a record of verbal presentations? What will this mean for Municipal Freedom of Information and Privacy?

We ask that how oral submissions are to be accomplished should be the prudent choice of the municipality, based on local circumstances and not arbitrarily regulated by the province. Gathering information at public meetings is very helpful and summaries of that information are often included in municipal planning reports.

3. In the same vein, the requirement for an upper tier planning advisory committee (PAC) with at least one member of the public is an overreach. This idea of mandatory planning advisory committees was tried in the past and was abandoned. It created confusion as to the legislative role of councils and to what the accountability framework of public advisors is and again involves another administrative practice.

If the goal is for the public to understand how their input is used by the municipality, we submit that a member of the public on a planning advisory committee will not achieve this.
The mandatory PAC will create more issues than it resolves and we respectfully ask that it be deleted.

4. A key interest for AMO is to expand the use of planning tools to facilitate the development of affordable housing. An additional optional tool to facilitate affordable housing development is inclusionary zoning but it is not a panacea solution for all new affordable housing development. Inclusionary zoning is typically more effective at helping moderate income households rather than very low income ones.

A blanket policy approach that says secondary units are permitted throughout a municipality may create impacts notwithstanding the desire to accommodate more units. It could put residents at risk or put municipal governments in a position that means additional levels of service are needed. Fire service is one example, as is water and sewer capacity. And we know who will hold the liability if something goes wrong.

In planning for the housing system and enacting solutions, the Province should consider that there are different housing markets in Ontario which may require different solutions in different areas. In short, a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not the appropriate one. The language in Bill 39, Planning Statute Law Amendment Act, 2014, which has been referred to the Standing Committee on General Government, is much more attuned to the reality of intensification through inclusionary zoning.

Let me now turn to development charges.

B. Development Charges Act

For there to be any hope of moving to municipal fiscal sustainability, growth must pay for growth. There needs to be an end to the ineligible services list, an end to the discounts on certain services and an end to any service level calculation that looks 10 years back instead of forward looking.

I wish to cover four areas for this portion of the Bill.

Transit should not be a discounted service nor should the development charge be calculated on a rolling average of the previous 10 years. Only a formula that covers 100% of costs and future service levels will fulfill the objectives of smart growth. And to be very clear, the only DCA model that gets us to where we need to be on transit is the one the province used for the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension. The TYSSE approach was the right approach in 2006 and it is the right approach now, for all municipal governments providing transit service.

Developers know that they need this change too. The housing market is looking for transit. Families look for less time commuting. Experts speak to the loss of productivity as a result of congestion. Let’s get on with the future today.

1. Section 8 of the Bill is of critical concern. It refers to agreements not only under the Development Charges Act, but any other Act. Let me break this down a bit.

First, there are agreements related to services that are contained within the Development Charges Act, but which may have a mandatory discount or are ineligible. However, there are agreements, mutually negotiated and entered into that deal with these matters. It must be clear that any current agreements are continued and without any uncertainty. There must be a clear grandfathering clause.

Second, we strongly suggest that negating any new related agreements may not be helpful to developers who wish to accelerate their interests. You will no doubt have submissions from municipal governments that speak to this matter.

Finally, there other types of agreements between municipal governments and people who want to utilize land and build where there may or may not be development charge bylaws. For example, there are agreements for the maintenance and improvements related to solar and wind development. Are these types of agreements, generally done under the Municipal Act also invalid now or in the future?

The province gave municipal governments natural person powers to enter into agreements and this Bill seems to take it away. The province not only must make this section absolutely clear, it must leave all existing agreement intact and not impinge the future ability to enter into agreements under the DCA and even more so other Acts, including the Municipal Act.

As legislators, your job is to ensure the law is clear, that it makes sense in practice and anticipates and avoids unintended consequences. At this point, much greater analysis of this section and clarity is needed.

2. With respect to other municipal services that are on the discounted list in the current Act or listed as ineligible, we understand that they are to be moved to regulations.

With respect to the discounted services, we look forward to reviewing the regulation that will remove the 10% discount on recreation facilities, libraries and childcare to support fiscally sustainable community hubs. We were pleased, in August, and remain so with the government acceptance of Karen Pitre’s Community Hubs report and its implementation.

3. Section 6 of the Bill is problematic. It makes charges payable upon the first building permit being issued. It should be deleted. Our concern is that if this section is not amended, it may lock in lower DC rates and permit developers to not follow through on their building time lines to avoid increased charges.

There are a couple of additional requests of a technical nature related to area specific charges and asset management in the Specific Amendments portion of the document.

Summary:

In summary, we support much of what is contained in Bill 73. At the same time, there is need for some critically important amendments. We ask that the Committee give them serious consideration.

At the end of the day, long after the shovels have left the ground and the sod laid and the keys have been turned over, municipalities are called upon to deliver the services and keep them running well and also financially plan for their on-going maintenance and eventual future replacement. Over time, it is municipal governments which have to respond to their community needs.