The City of Toronto this week announced it had established an independent appeal body to “provide quick and efficient hearings on appeals of land use decisions made by the Committee of Adjustment” — and in doing so, replaced the much-maligned Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in matters of minor variance and consent.
The Toronto Local Appeal Body (TLAB) will, as of May 3rd, bring local planning appeals back to the city. Its members “live in Toronto and understand Toronto’s unique character and communities,” according to Councillor David Shiner (Ward 24 Willowdale) in a release.
Shiner also said the city would offer a mediation process for discussion of issues prior to appeal hearing “without the need for expensive professional consultants.” It has long been one of the most common criticisms lobbed at the OMB that private citizens can’t hope to compete with the very much deeper pockets of developers; however, TLAB is responsible only for minor variance appeals such as small changes to building setback, not rezoning, such as land use changes or significant increases in building heights.
Appeals regarding official plan amendments and site plans will likewise remain with the OMB. Also, the TLAB appeals process remains a bureaucracy-stuffed political undertaking with all its attendant legwork. The mediation process is available only after a Notice of Hearing has been received, so it’s not going to alleviate much of the copious amounts of paperwork to be filed (digitally speaking that is; TLAB is designed to be paperless), although it would do away with the witness-questioning, cross-examining and submission of evidence that is part of a hearing, so it may be a less daunting prospect for your average resident.
A TLAB member would mediate solely with the parties involved in an effort to reach an agreement. If the dispute goes unresolved, the matter proceeds to hearing. Hiring of legal counsel may not be required, but you can bet you’ll fare better, and the whole process will take far less time than if you go it alone.
TLAB members are nominated by a citizen-member nominating panel and appointed by City Council, although TLAB is meant to operate independently; members will serve four-year terms. The current board, which will sit until 2020, consists of chair Ian Lord, a litigator and teacher at Ryerson, York and the Ontario Professional Planners Institute, four other lawyers, a professional planner and the executive director of The Housing Help Centre non-profit who formerly served on the city’s Committee of Adjustment.
It doesn’t sound like TLAB is going to significantly impact major development disputes, but if you’re itching to build a too-large shed in your backyard and you’ve already been turned down by the Committee of Adjustment, I suppose it might be just the thing.
Is the real estate market already taking a breather?
Could the province’s 16-point Fair Housing Plan already be cooling the market? Some realtors say so, according to the Toronto Star. Although bidding wars and well-over-asking prices were to be expected even three weeks ago, agent Louise Sabino told the Star she recently saw something she hasn’t seen in months — an offer presentation that amounted to a single bid, complete with conditions for financing and a home inspection. She says she’s already talking to her sellers about pricing listings at genuine market value and taking offers as they come in. Another agent told the paper she hadn’t seen any slowdown in strong offers but that some agents were reporting fewer showings.
If the Plan is aimed particularly at condo speculation, it — at least anecdotally — hasn’t done much yet. The president of Daniels’ in-house brokerage recently reported submission of 2,500 forms with client preferences for just 250 available units in Lighthouse East Tower at Daniels Waterfront – City of the Arts.
It is certainly too early to tell, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on the market, so stay tuned!