The Smart Growth for Our Communities Act, 2015, also known as Bill 73, proposes to amend the Ontario planning system under the Planning Act and the manner in which municipalities can impose development charges under the Development Charges Act, 1997. Bill 73 received its first reading in the Legislature in March, 2015, and its second reading and debate in April and June 2015.
Bill 73 was developed in response to public consultations undertaken by the Province of Ontario from October 2013 to January 2014. The purpose of this endeavour was to ensure these systems are “predictable, transparent, cost effective and responsive” to the needs of the dynamic communities and stakeholders within Ontario.
MMM Group’s planning and environmental design team has reviewed Bill 73 in detail to determine the magnitude of the proposed changes to the planning and development charges systems in Ontario. The following is a summary of the key changes proposed.
Development Charges Act, 1997, Key Changes Proposed:
- Accountability – Municipalities will be accountable for the distribution of levies to capital projects that are sustainable over their lifecycle.
- Transparency – Municipalities will prepare an asset management plan, and will make financial statements available for public review.
- Flexibility – Municipalities will have the ability to develop several area-specific DC By-laws to address the infrastructure and servicing needs of local communities.
Planning Act, Key Changes Proposed:
- Extension of review requirements – The review requirement of the PPS and municipal official plans are extended to every 10 years.
- Restriction on certain OP appeals – Global appeals on new official plans are restricted, as are appeals of policies or projections that conform to provincial policy.
- Use of alternative dispute resolution techniques – provides a mechanism for extending an OMB appeal period to allow for alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation and negotiation, in an effort to avoid a hearing.
- Two-year Restriction on Amendments – imposes a two-year restriction on applications for amendment to a new official plan and a new municipal zoning by-law where the previous by-law(s) was repealed. The two-year restriction also applies to applications for minor variance subsequent to the approval of site-specific zoning initiated by the property owner.
- Alternate residential parkland dedication rate – proposes to change the alternate residential parkland dedication rate from 1 ha for every 300 dwelling units to 1 ha for every 500 dwelling units.
The following is a detailed overview of the noteworthy changes that have been proposed:
Development Charges Act, 1997
Development Charges to Become Area-Specific
Bill 73 would require municipalities to pass different, area-specific development charge by-laws that would apply to land within certain parts of a municipality. This would allow specific services to be identified and funded directly on a more local basis.
Asset Management Plan
The Bill would require municipalities to prepare an asset management plan in an effort to provide transparency with respect to the allocation and use of funds. This plan would identify the capital costs of services to be provided, and would demonstrate that these capital purchases are financially sustainable over their life cycle. Statements identifying the opening and closing balances of the funds and their capital allocation must be made available to the public.
No Additional Levies
Bill 73 would prevent municipalities from either directly or indirectly imposing development charges that are not prescribed by the Act. The Bill also gives authority to the Minister to undertake an investigation into the manner in which a municipality has charged levies.
Timing of Update to Provincial Policy Statement
The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) provides policy direction on matters of provincial interest related to land use planning and development, and it is prepared under the authority of Section 3 of the Planning Act. Currently, the PPS must be reviewed and updated every five years. Bill 73 proposes to amend this review and update requirement to every ten years.
Planning Advisory Committee
The councils of upper-tier and single-tier municipalities would now be required to appoint a planning advisory committee. The appointment of such a committee is optional for lower-tier municipalities.
No Global Appeal
In the case of a municipality that has adopted, or its approval authority has approved, a new Official Plan (OP), Bill 73 proposes to prevent the global appeal of the OP to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). That is, a person or public body that has participated in the OP planning process cannot appeal the whole of the OP, but is free to appeal a part of it.
The restriction on global appeals only applies, however, to newly adopted or approved OPs. If a council fails to make a decision on an OP amendment, then a person or public body is free to appeal it in its entirety.
No Appeal on Certain Matters
Bill 73 proposes to restrict appeals on certain matters, including a part of an OP that:
- is within the boundary of:
- a vulnerable area of the Clean Water Act, 2006
- the Lake Simcoe watershed of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, 2008
- the Greenbelt Area, Protected Countryside of the Greenbelt Act, 2005, or within the boundary of a specialty crop area designated by the Greenbelt Plan
- the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan Area established under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001
- conforms to forecasted population and employment growth as set out in the Places to Grow Act, 2005
- in the case of a lower-tier municipality, conforms to forecasted population and employment growth in the upper-tier municipality’s OP if the latter conforms to the projections of the Places to Grow Act, 2005
- in the case of a lower-tier municipality, the boundary of an area of settlement that reflects that set out in the upper-tier municipality’s OP and the latter is approved by the Minister
Alternative Dispute Resolution and Appeal Period Extension
Bill 73 proposes to amend the OMB appeal process to give councils the power to undertake alternative dispute resolution techniques, such as mediation and negotiation. If a council gives notice that it is undertaking alternative dispute resolution techniques, then the appeal period is extended from 15 to 75 days. Participation in alternative dispute resolution is voluntary.
Extension of Time Where No Decision Was Made
When an application for OP amendment is submitted to a municipality and no decision is made within 180 days, the applicant has the right to appeal for non-decision to the OMB. However, Bill 73 would only allow a one-time extension of 90 days to this appeal period. The extension can be requested by the applicant, the municipality, or the approval authority.
No Request for Amendment to OP for Two-Year Period
In the case where a municipality prepares a new OP, Bill 73 proposes to restrict any and all requests for an amendment to that new OP for a two-year period after any part of the plan comes into effect.
Extension to Comprehensive Review OP
Bill 73 proposes to extend the period within which municipalities must undertake a comprehensive review of an OP from every five years to every ten years.
No Request for Amendment of Zoning By-law for Two-Year Period
Similarly to the OP process, where a municipality repeals all of its Zoning By-laws (ZBL) and replaces them with a new ZBL, Bill 73 proposes to restrict any application to amend the ZBL for two years from the date upon which council repealed and replaced.
Greater Transparency with Density Bonusing
Bill 73 proposes that funds received through density bonusing agreements now be placed into a special account. Furthermore, the treasurer of the municipality would now be required to prepare, and submit, an annual financial statement containing such information as opening and closing balances as well as statements identifying the facilities and services funded by the account. These financial statements will be made available to the public.
Bill 73 would require municipalities to prepare a parks plan that “examines the need for parkland in the municipality”. The parkland needs are to become integrated within a municipality’s OP.
Parkland Dedication Rate
Bill 73 proposes to define “payment in lieu” to mean, “a payment of money in lieu of a conveyance otherwise required under section 42, 51.1 or 53”. The Bill also redefines the alternate rate that municipalities may adopt for residential parkland dedication purposes in their OP from 1 hectare for every 300 dwelling units to 1 hectare for every 500 dwelling units.
No Request for Minor Variance to a Site Specific ZBL for Two-Year Period
Where a ZBL was amended for a property in response to an application for amendment by the owner, Bill 73 proposes to restrict subsequent minor variances to the site-specific ZBL for a period of two years thereafter.