Development industry outlines importance of OMB

GREATER TORONTO, April 17, 2014 /CNW/ - Representatives of the land development and home building industry presented a series of facts on behalf of the industry, its members and new-home buyers, once again supporting the significant role of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in the province's planning approval process.

The Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) and the Ontario Home Builders' Association (OHBA) appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs to add clarity to the conversation surrounding the proposed Bill 20, An Act respecting the City of Toronto and the Ontario Municipal Board.

The Private Member's Bill was proposed by NDP MPP Rosario Marchese, and suggested removing the City of Toronto from the OMB's jurisdiction.

"In our current planning system, an appeal to an independent, non-political, unbiased decision-maker is essential to ensure that any municipality, community, ratepayer association and non-profit agency, along with the landowner has an opportunity to present and test the merits of an application against sound planning principles," explained BILD chair Steve Upton. "This is the essence of the OMB's role."

The OMB provides an impartial adjudicating tribunal that is removed from local political pressures and renders decisions in accordance with the Planning Act.

The building industry is concerned that the current planning disconnect between municipal and provincial policies would be strained by the proposal, and would further politicize the planning process while ignoring potential reforms to improve the rest of the public planning system. 

"The point of the OMB is to take the politics out of planning," added OHBA CEO Joe Vaccaro. "Removing the City of Toronto from the jurisdiction of the OMB will reduce our public planning process down to cold, hard political calculations by local councillors and would not serve the public's interest."

He explained that the land-use planning system is much bigger than the OMB, and many communities across Ontario, including Toronto, have zoning by-laws which are decades out-of-date and ultimately lead to unnecessary appeals to the OMB.

"Despite what you may read, today, many of the Board's decisions have resulted in celebrated and award-winning projects across the City of Toronto, which are enjoyed by residents and neighbourhoods alike," said Gary Switzer, chair of BILD's Toronto chapter. "What are some of the common elements that you hear with all of these projects? Transit, parks, community centre – they are all good, sound and encouraged planning principles. These projects are all built where it makes sense to build, and where provincial plans tell us to."

The representatives pointed out that this decision will not only affect the economic prosperity of the City of Toronto, but will act as a precedent for all future discussion surrounding the OMB in municipalities across the province.

The building and development industry is a critical partner with the provincial government and municipalities in the creation of quality, complete communities that will support the implementation of the provincial policy statement, the Growth Plan and many other significant provincial plans.

"The OMB is an essential component to assist in upholding the principles of these plans," Upton added, emphasizing the importance of working collaboratively with government to create a vibrant, world-class city.

With more than 1,400 members, BILD, formed through the merger of the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association and Urban Development Institute/Ontario, is the voice of the land development, home building and professional renovation industry in the Greater Toronto Area.  BILD is proudly affiliated with the Ontario and Canadian Home Builders' Associations.

SOURCE Building Industry and Land Development Association

For further information: Aonghus Kealy, Manager, Communications, 416-391-3452 or 416-543-3903, akealy@bildgta.ca; Andrei Zaretski, Manager, Marketing & Media Relations, 416-391-3450 or 416-843-4898, azaretski@bildgta.ca