The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is independent arbitration body that provides a public forum for appeals on local land-use planning matters and it is an important part of the checks and balances that make our land-use planning process fair, transparent and accountable.
While it plays an important role, the OMB is an organization that people love to vilify. The government is currently conducting a review of the OMB, and some people have voiced concerns about how the OMB functions and others have called for its outright disbandment.
Although we believe that an independent appeal body like the OMB is absolutely necessary, there is always room for improvement and we believe there are some valid concerns that should be discussed. For instance, the OMB could hire and train more experienced mediators and it could provide planning resources to ratepayer groups to facilitate mediation and settlement.
Too often people mistakenly blame the OMB for the intensification that we are experiencing across the GTA and most especially in downtown Toronto. The reality is that intensification is the result of the provincial policy and the OMB is just doing its job.
The OMB makes decisions based on provincial plans and policy, including the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, using submissions made by experts in land planning and development. Introduced in 2006, the Growth Plan mandates intensification and requires that a significant portion of all development occur within existing communities.
Toronto and other parts of the GTA are intensifying as required by the Growth Plan. If municipalities, local politicians or members of the public feel there is too much intensification in the GTA, then the remedy lies with the Province and its policies, not with the building industry or the OMB.
Often cases end up at the OMB due to the lack of municipal decision making. Sometimes municipalities don’t want to make difficult decisions, and look to the OMB as their solution. The absence of Council making a timely decision means our members have no choice but to go to the OMB.
The OMB also provides protection against NIMBYism. One of the few things that can counter the “not in my backyard” reaction to a new development is the OMB appeal process.
We already have a housing supply crisis in this region. Demand is outstripping supply and our industry is struggling to meet housing needs while complying with provincial intensification policy. It would be next to impossible for us to build the housing this region requires without an independent appeals board like the OMB.