Neighbours lose right to appeal

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Heather Wright/The Independent

If there is a new subdivision going up next door and you don’t like what is going on, you won’t be able to do much about it.

That’s the jist of the changes made by the Ford Government just before adjourning the legislature June 6.

The government pushed through Bill 185 just before its 19-week summer recess in its latest efforts to build 1.5 million homes by 2031.

Under the new rules, neighbours, individuals, companies and ratepayers will no longer be able to appeal development approvals. Only the owner of the property and a select few ‘specific persons’ will be able to appeal. That includes NAV Canada, airport authorities, aggregate and environmental compliance permit holders with sites within 300 metres of the development.

Any appeals which are on the books but didn’t have a hearing booked by April 10 will be automatically dismissed.

There are three cases before the Ontario Land Tribunal from Lambton that fit that category; two in Plympton-Wyoming won’t be affected by the rule.

Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Gary Atkinson is trying to be optimistic about the changes, particularly shutting neighbours out of the appeal process. He notes a conversation about a new subdivision on Egremont Road in Camlachie Monday was more constructive than he expected. Neighbours made suggestions and the developer, Brad Zantingh, while concerned about delays in the process, took action to address some of the neighbours concerns.

“I think we saw a very positive change, where the residents had an opportunity to share their concerns with council and council could listen to them and then have the opportunity to work with the developer to try to eliminate some of those major concerns that are out there.”

Atkinson admits that may not always be the case. “I think some developers will come in and just bully their way right through.

“I like to hope that we have the opportunity to work together to try to solve concerns and that helps everybody,” he says.

The new rules will also give municipal governments a tool to speed up development. Some developers have plans of subdivision approved then take years to turn the soil as they wait for the housing market to heat up.

Under the new rules, municipalities can develop a “Use it or Lose It” regulation for site plans and plans of subdivision, forcing development to occur within three years or the developer risks losing approval to move ahead.

Universities and colleges are now exempt from the Planning Act.

Schools, long term care homes and hospitals may also be exempt from planning regulations, with the approval of the minister.

The minister also has new powers to exempt housing from zoning or site plan control if some criteria are met – but no regulations have been provided yet.

The province has also eased up on some of its changes to the Development Charges Act.
Municipalities won’t have to phase in any increases to the charges over five years. Those phased-in rates will continue to apply to charges which were imposed between November 2022 and June 2024 – including Petrolia’s new development charges.