Just months after the Province of Ontario announced a review of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), the Ministry of Municipal Affairs held 12 public consultation meetings throughout the Province to draw input from stakeholders. Residents, developers, planners, architects and engineers attended the meetings. People are interested in giving their feedback, as land use planning issues are complex and affect day-to-day lives.
Created in 1906, the OMB is, “an independent, quasi-judicial, administrative tribunal responsible for handling appeals of land-use planning disputes and municipal matters.” The OMB’s scope has come under review as the Province continues its efforts to strengthen the land-use planning system, by clarifying policies and rules for the process, and identifying ways to provide municipalities with more autonomy in local land-use affairs.
Crozier staff attended the Oakville consultation meeting in November 2016. Round-table consultations explored the five themes that will guide the OMB’s potential restructuring, including:
- OMB’s jurisdiction and powers
- Citizen participation and local perspective
- Clear and predictable decision-making
- Modern procedures and faster decisions
- Alternative dispute resolution and fewer hearings
It is certain that the discussions will give rise to new ideas and mechanisms that will redefine the OMB’s duties and procedures. New initiatives explored include:
- Limiting appeals by preliminary screening of applications
- Shifting away from de novo* hearings
- Expanding the Citizen Liaison Office
- Introducing multi-member panels for hearings
- Investing more resources for amicable mediation
Meanwhile, the Province of Ontario has expressed the importance of maintaining an independent, tribunal body, such as the OMB, as an integral part of the larger land-use planning network. Its decisions take into account compliance with environmental and socio-economic factors, views of the residents, as well as conformity with provincial policies.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs is reviewing feedback received at the public meetings and commentary submitted to the Ministry. They expect to move forward on possible changes in spring 2017. Visit the Ministry’s website  for additional detail.
*de novo hearings: hearings that review the case as whole, as though no previous decision has been made.