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County working to avoid more taxes and planning headaches in More Homes for Everyone Act

While the buzz words of the provincial government’s new ‘More Homes for Everyone Act 2022′ are what many people want to hear – more homes, more choices – Prince Edward County’s planning department is learning the new rules could negatively affect the taxpayer’s pocketbook, and could have the opposite effect by causing delays in the construction of homes.

Council, at Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting, also noted it can find no evidence in Bill 109 that supports builds to be affordable.

Provincial policy trumps local planning powers and a one-deadline-fits-all approach is of concern when every development application is different, and are sometimes delayed out of the municipality’s control, by applicants, public or provincial agencies.

Bill 109 was released in response to the provincial task force on housing affordability with laser focus on increasing supply by speeding up approvals, requiring greater density, and curbing public participation to the legislated maximum.

As of Jan. 1, 2023, new rules in the Act will force the municipality to refund planning application fees if it misses approval deadlines and that could place an additional burden on taxpayers if they have to cover the shortfall.

Half the fee is to be returned it it fails to rule within 90 days, three-quarters of the fee if there’s no decision within 150 days and the full fee after 180 days. Site plan application fees are to be refunded by half after 60 days, by 75 per cent after 90 days and 100 per cent after 120 days.

“Although the timelines for zoning application approvals have not been tracked historically, County staff are of the opinion that the timelines established within Bill 109 for zoning application approvals should be met in the majority of cases, assuming there are no complex issues,” states Charles Dowdall, executive director of housing, in his report to committee of the whole.  “The concern is that this unfairly penalizes the municipality for not approving applications.”

The County anticipates $372,130 of planning fee revenue in the 2022 budget. The municipality anticipates a reduction of $175,736 would be the worst-case scenario if every application approval was not completed within the timelines prescribed with Bill 109. This loss would result in taxpayers to incur a deficit.

The legislation also gives the municipality the authority to refuse to accept, or consider a site plan application until it has received all the necessary information, material and fees.

County staff recommend that, beginning Jan. 1, 2023, all site plan applications will be required to undergo a comprehensive pre-submission consultation with County staff, agencies and stakeholders so that the 60-day timeline for review of the application does not commence until a completed application with all necessary supporting documents is on file.

This shifts the onus to the applicant to ensure that all necessary consultations have been completed prior to proceeding with the countdown clock on submission of an application.

Also required by the act, the County has approved a bylaw to delegate authority to the chief administrative officer or director of development services to make decisions on site plan applications made after July 1, 2022 – instead of municipal councils or committees.

While the review period of site plan application is extended to 60, from 30 days, Dowdall notes there is concern from staff, based on prior site plan application reviews, that ancillary assessments required are not always provided with the site plan.

Dowdall notes the province has not outlined potential recourse if a site plan application has not been deemed complete in the timeframe.

Municipal staff are to return next month with with a complete submission bylaw for zoning amendment applications and site plan application. That document may be shared with other municipalities within the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus and Quinte Conservation Authority.

The establishment by the province of what can or cannot be required as a condition of subdivision approval is also of concern.

“Each development is unique therefore a one-size-fits-all approach as suggested is not effective or respectful of the decision making autonomy and differences among all 444 municipalities,” said Dowdall.

County staff have concern that 12-storey buildings are expected to be expedited for approval in Ontario and it will cause direct impact to fire and emergency services.

“Tall buildings require specialized firefighter knowledge, skills and equipment. County firefighters are not currently trained for this level of service and dependency on volunteer firefighters may impact the ability to provide fire protection services in these purpose-built buildings,” said Dowdall, adding there are also issues with single means of egress buildings when the size and access limits the fire department’s ability to create a secondary means of egress with aerial operations and prevents occupants and firefighters with escape options.”

The Bill also calls for provincial/federal funding to reward municipalities that support change, and reduce funding for those that do not – with a goal of building 1.5 million homes in 10 years.

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  1. Lizzie says:

    If Bill 109 is Provincial and so controversial and problematic,
    which of our representatives will intervene on our behalf at
    Queen’s Park?

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