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Council opposes proposed sweeping provincial powers

UPDATE: Both resolutions were passed unanimously by council.

Prince Edward County council will join municipalities across the province in telling the provincial government that two proposed bills are not in the best interests of local government, and the people it represents.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, councillor John Hirsch presented a resolution stating council does not support several aspects of the More Homes Built Faster Act (Bill 23).

Concerns shared by this council and other municipalities are that the new provincial housing legislation would allow developers to pave over wetlands, sell conservation lands and make it more difficult for municipalities to focus on planning housing.

Bill 23 will be subject to committee review and further readings by the legislature and may be amended through that process. However, municipalities are stating many of these proposed changes are highly consequential for the development community, municipalities and landowners.

Bill 23 recently passed second reading in the Ontario legislature and written comments are now being accepted by the standing committee on heritage, infrastructure and cultural policy at ola.org/en/apply-committees until Nov. 17. Further comments welcome as shown on the AMO website until Nov. 24. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has requested to present at the committee and is submitting written comments.

Hirsch seeks approval of his resolution to be submitted in the formal comment process and notes be made that council also supports submissions by the Quinte Conservation Authority and Conservation Ontario. He would also like it shared with all 444 municipalities through the AMO and others.

Provisions in the bill aimed at spurring more home building across Ontario, as written, limit the conservation authority’s role in assessing flood risks and other environmental factors in build projects – and makes it unnecessary in some cases to obtain watershed agency approval for developments in floodplains or other hazard lands.

As written, the bill also limits third-party appeals of planning matters to the Ontario Land Tribunal by community and advocacy groups or nearby residents. The government states this measure is meant to eliminate “Not in My Backyard” (NIMBY) efforts to slow down needed housing developments.

Another concern is the legislation’s provision that would allow builders to develop wetlands if they build artificial, off-setting wetlands elsewhere. The conservation authority notes wetlands are homes for wildlife, and also provide cost-effective flood and erosion protection for neighbourhoods, adding, there is no guarantee any artificial wetlands would do the job as effectively.

Hirsch, in his resolution, states the following elements of Bill 23 and its proposed regulations are not in the best interest of the County:
• Provision regarding inclusionary zoning for affordable housing has a proposed
limit of only 5 per cent of units in a subdivision of 10 or more units which should be
increased to 15 per cent to be effective. (e.g. to insist on affordable housing.)
• Provisions regarding the Heritage Act which would have the effect of forcing
municipalities to quickly make designation decisions on all properties currently on
the heritage register. (County has a long list and would be forced to make decisions quickly)
• Provisions relating to the Conservation Authorities Act which would have the
effect of removing the Conservation Authority from providing effective and
necessary comments on planning applications.
• Provisions relating to the Conservation Authorities Act which would allow
development in certain wetlands on an offset basis.
• proposed changes to municipal development charges, parkland, dedication
levies, and community benefits charges that may contradict the goal of building
more housing in the long-term

Councillor Brad Nieman is presenting a resolution opposing the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act (Bill 3) which amends powers and duties of heads of council of Toronto and Ottawa and is to be expanded to include other growing municipalities.

“This Bill will give mayors additional authority and powers, and correspondingly take away authority and powers from councils and professional staff, which include but is not limited to giving the mayor the authority to propose and adopt the municipal budget, determine the organizational structure of the municipality, establish, dissolve and assign functions to committees, and veto decisions of council,” states Nieman’s resolution.

He adds that a new section to the Municipal Act “provides that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing may, by regulation, designate municipalities to which the strong mayor system will apply, thereby eroding municipal autonomy and independence while creating instability for council and municipal administration.”

Nieman notes these are surprising and unnecessary changes to the historical balance of power between a mayor and council, and which historically gave the final say in all matters to the will of the majority of the elected council.

He asks council to agree to direct the clerk to send the resolution opposing unnecessary changes to the Municipal Act and Municipal Conflict of Interest Act to the premier, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, MP Ryan Williams, all 444 municipalities.

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  1. Debra Marshall says:

    At Tuesday night’s council meeting, councillor John Hirsch presented a resolution stating council does not support several aspects of the More Homes Built Faster Act (Bill 23).Prince Edward County council will join municipalities across the province in telling the provincial government that two proposed bills are not in the best interests of local government, and the people it represents.

    I was pleased to see council take this stand, however, I noted no objection in the resolution put forward by Council of the the Bill 23 statement:

    – “Changes are proposed to remove the public meeting requirement for draft plans of subdivision.”

    -Third Party Appeals

    -Changes are proposed to limit third party appeals for all planning matters (official plans, official plan amendments, zoning by-laws, zoning by-law amendments, consents and minor variances). Third party appeals are generally appeals made by someone other than the person who made the planning application.

    -Appeal rights would be maintained for key participants (e.g., applicants, the Province, public bodies including Indigenous communities, utility providers that participated in the process), except where appeals have already been restricted (e.g., the Minister’s decision on new official plan).

    -The proposed limit on third-party appeals would apply to any matter that has been appealed (other than by a party whose appeal rights are being maintained) but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing on the merits of the appeal by the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) on the day the bill is introduced.

    Site Plan – Exemption for Development up to 10 units, Architectural Details and Landscape Design

    -Changes are proposed to exempt all aspects of site plan control for residential development up to 10 units (except for the development of land lease communities).

    -Changes are proposed to limit the scope of site plan control by removing the ability for municipalities to regulate architectural details and landscape design.

    WHERE DOES COUNCIL STAND ON THESE ISSUES?

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