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Published on Monday, January 29, 2018

Bill 139 gives planning power back

Rules need to be retroactive to May 2017, Mayor Burton says

Bill 139 gives planning power back
Oakville Mayor Rob Burton
By Mayor Rob Burton, Oakville Beaver

Oakville will have more control over how and where our town will grow and what we can preserve, thanks to the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act (Bill 139). This bill received Royal Assent Dec. 12 with all-party support.

The new law overhauls the province’s land use planning appeals system and replaces the Ontario Municipal Board with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal — but not yet. The government has posted draft regulations that will delay implementation of the new law until April.

Under the new appeal system, council decisions that comply with our provincially-approved official plan will be more respected. Developers will no longer be so easily able to disrupt our community’s provincially-approved official plan that guides our growth.

As much as we can applaud these reforms, we could applaud more if the changes were effective as of the date of First Reading of Bill 139 — May 30, 2017, rather than next April.

Oakville town and Halton regional councils and I support the government’s intent to provide a balance between applying new rules as soon as possible and ensuring “fairness for matters already in the current system.” However, there is a need to clearly define what “already in the current system” should mean.

Ever since May 30, 2017, municipalities all across Ontario have seen developers file “strategic” or pre-emptive appeals at the OMB. There have been six major appeals in Oakville alone.

Our councils and I maintain the fairness cut-off date should be May 30, 2017. Any application after that date had fair notice of the proposed changes and should not be allowed to avoid the new reforms.

I have expressed this position in every way available: in a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, in testimony at the hearings on Bill 139, in comments on the proposed regulations, and in resolutions by Oakville town and Halton regional councils.

The public interest requires that applications should have the benefit of the latest provincial planning policy improvements. Call or write your MPP to ask the government to better protect the public interest by making Bill 139 effective May 30, 2017.

Rob Burton is the mayor of the Town of Oakville. He can be reached at mayor@oakville.ca.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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