OMB VS US
THE OMB VERSUS US
Brampton Council is mad at the Ontario Municipal Board and we should be too. The OMB allowed Royalcliff Developments and Lake Path Holdings to almost double their high rise residential units on a site that was zoned 30 years ago. The land in question is a 9.9 block that fronts on Conestoga Drive and Sandalwood Parkway. The hearing officer set the OMB ruling on a collision course with the City of Brampton over a decision that allowed the developers to increase high density residential units from the zoned two 18 storey buildings with 419 unit to 834 high density units in four 20 storey highrise buildings, a 12 storey building and an 18 storey building.
After reading the decision, one can easily recognize the fascinating logic that piles up, as the city and residents raise issues and developers counter, till finally, on most issues, the hearing officer finds for the developer. The hearing officer’s considered opinion says the OMB takes into account the reality of folks who live in Heart Lake. But the decision doesn’t do that at all and if the OMB decision stands then watch out because infilling will be to the developers delight at densities allowed that will make your head spin. This OMB ruling is a precedent that needs review because not only can it apply anywhere in this city but it also takes away the city’s right to plan intensification zones.
When people moved into Heart Lake, they knew that the site was zoned for two 18 storey buildings with 419 units. Local residents understood that these two buildings were part of a town centre that had been planned since 1973. They knew that the zoning on this site was confirmed by several Official Plan Amendments 1979 and 2006 and they trusted that whoever developed the land would abide by that decision. It would be naïve to blame the developer for trying to maximize their land holdings. After all, the developer comes to a community, develops to the maximum, and then moves on plying their trade elsewhere. So the weight of this decision falls straight on the OMB and the apparent lack of usefulness with which the OMB had for the position of city, regional staff and Brampton city council. No wonder Councillor Paul Palleschi says that “it’s just a slap in the face” because it is.
No one would dispute for a moment that people and companies have rights but what happened to the common good? Where in the 20 page decision is there a concern for the common good? In the decision, it is obvious that the hearing officer relied on provincial policy to populate the decision. One is struck with how the provincial government’s policy statement, Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe 2006 is used to justify how intensification fits the Loafers Lake site. In the decision, the hearing officer says “The City chose to designate and zone the site for high density development over thirty years ago. The increase in density proposed by Royalcliff is entirely consistent with provincial objectives to make the best use of existing sites in the absence of impact”. The Growth plan says that intensification can happen but wisely leaves it to the municipalities to decide where.
The OMB decision fails to take into account the necessity for the city to decide where intensification should go; not where developers think it ought to go. After all city council represents the people of Brampton and the planning process allows for the people to have their say where things should go. The Growth Plan doesn’t give the OMB the right to thwart the will of the people. But what does all this say about the reality of a piece of vacant land that has been vacant and zoned for over thirty years. It says that any one can come along and put a proposal forward to increase the zoning, call it intensification and apparently the OMB will rule in your failure. So Royalcliff Developments and Lake Path Holdings can now build four 20 storey buildings , one 12 storey and an additional 18 storey buildings and that has prompted the City of Brampton in a unanimous decision to go to war opposing this plan and the OMB decision.
The city is wasting its time though asking the OMB Chair to review the decision of the hearing officer. That’s not going to happen! So, the city must push ahead seeking leave from the Ontario Divisional Court for judicial review of the OMB decision. City Council is right to take up this cause because if the OMB decision stands than all of us are affected. This is a city wide matter! It is no wonder people question whether the OMB is a useful arm of government adjudicating planning matters. There have been many confrontations with OMB decisions from municipalities over the years and maybe it points out the need for a thorough review of the mandate of the Board. If the OMB hangs on provincial policy being a mandatory factor in their decisions then they should also hang their decisions on sound municipal planning especially when it is compatible with that Province wide planning policy. The question here isn’t the provincial policy of structured planned growth, it is OMB’s interpretation of that policy and the OMB’s failure to uphold Official Plans of municipalities. The Ontario Municipal Board needs to do a 360 review of their policy and their relationship not only with the province but with the municipalities of Ontario as well.