Councillors warn developers will hijack city planning process under reinstated OMB
Helen and Irene Zongos can just about touch the towering new condo tower that shadows their family home from their back window.
“The sun used to come through,” Irene Zongos said.
The pair has lived in the house since 1972, and when neighbouring properties were purchased by a developer they were the only hold-out—insisting they would not sell.
Two 34-storey towers that were originally refused by the city, which said they would set an undesirable height and density precedent in the neighbourhood, were later approved on appeal by the former Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
The OMB was replaced by a new appeal body under Kathleen Wynne, dubbed the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. The new appeal body was compelled to assess whether development applications met the criteria outlined by local planning rules. But the Progressive Conservative government now hopes to reinstate the OMB rules.
“By Doug Ford returning the planning process to developer-friendly OMB, it means that the developer lobbyists are going to get their way,” City Coun. Josh Matlow told CTV News Toronto.
Matlow was among a group of councillors who announced Monday they would be fighting the province’s proposed development changes, saying the reversal would undermine city hall and put too much power in the hands of developers.
“They love it, they’re drooling, they’re dancing in the streets,” Councillor Mike Colle said of developers.
Under the former OMB model, officials could overrule local government decisions on development proposals without considering whether infrastructure and social services could support the growth. Councillors warn that reverting to those appeal rules could lead to unrestrained density, putting services at stake in neighbourhoods and driving families out of Toronto.
The province insists the OMB rules would spur development, therefore easing the city’s housing shortage and importing affordability.
“To simply allow developers to have a free-for-all and build high-price luxury homes doesn’t actually fix the supply we need of affordable housing,” said Matlow.
The province says the appeal body would still be called the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. ‘
City councillors say they have been given 30 days to respond to the province and vow to make city control of the planning process an election issue if they can’t convince the government to change course.
The Zongos, meanwhile, are baffled that the province wants to reinstate the appeal body that approved the towers next door, saying they still blame the OMB for their “nightmare” neighbour.
“They allowed them to come so close, and so high,” said Irene.