After reading about all the ways that the province has control over the City of Toronto’s planning and development process, it’s easy to see why our city is put at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to refusing development applications. Provincial policy is currently directing significant intensification downtown, which Toronto must accommodate under the Planning Act. The existence of provincial land use planning tribunals can take the final decision out of the hands of municipalities and helps heavily encourage both appeals and settlements.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Changing this is not possible without significant reforms that are outside of the City’s control. If it can be said that the development process favours developers, its roots lie in the provincial Planning Act. While there was an attempt at reform under the previous Liberal Government, the current Conservative government reversed those reforms and more. The current government has also expanded its use of Minister’s Zoning Orders, which can be used to skip both the public consultation process and potential to appeal to the tribunal.
Our community saw this happen in January 2021 when the province showed up on-site with the intention to demolish four 100+ year old heritage buildings on the Foundry Site in the West Don Lands after silently issuing three MZO’s. These MZOs - which bypassed the typical planning processes, including community consultation - were issued without notification to City Planning or the local Councillors’ offices. The Province’s intentions were to create a “clean slate'' for a future developer to redevelop the site without being burdened by necessary city approvals related to the heritage buildings.
The community rallied together in support of preserving the Foundry cites, and against the Province’s use of MZOs which bypassed proper community consultation. Only after a stop-work injunction was the province forced to temporarily pause their demolition. We shouldn’t have to fight to create a city that best reflects our needs. Local voices help build complete communities. #RespectLocalPlanning
What the City can and has tried to do is to create a strong local policy that can hopefully be defended at a provincial tribunal. Up-to-date zoning by-laws can assist in encouraging developers to not seek zoning by-law amendments, resulting in applications that reflect the City’s intentions in an area. It should continue to be advocated to the province that more weight be placed on municipal decisions so that City Councils--not a tribunal--are planning our communities.
It’s critical that if you want your voice to be heard, that your comments go to City Planning. City planners have a professional obligation to the public interest, which includes listening to feedback on planning applications. The City’s Application Information Centre contains information on current development applications, including their status and who with City Planning the file is assigned to along with their contact information.