Cobourg Planning Department Calls New Rules Unfair

On March 30, the Ford Government introduced Bill 109 to reform the processes governing municipal approvals of new housing.  Comments were requested with a deadline of April 29 – however, the bill was fast-tracked through Parliament and received Royal assent on April 14.  But Cobourg’s Director of Planning, Anne Taylor Scott, was not happy with some of the changes and submitted a report to Council at Monday’s Committee of the Whole with the intent of meeting the April 29 comment deadline.  There are two main concerns: 1) late approvals will mean fees charged to applicants must be refunded (details below) and 2) the Provincial Minister will get more power to over-rule decisions by the Town.  Councillors were also concerned that the Bill specifies that Staff should make re-Zoning and Site Planning decisions.

The Bill tries to help with Housing supply although it seems to do nothing to specifically help with affordable housing.

As Anne says in her memo to Council, refunding the fees if approval is later than the new deadlines, is apparently intended to be a penalty.  In her report to Council, Anne says:

Planning Staff strongly disagree with refund of fees. This appears to be a penalty to municipalities for not issuing an approval within a prescribed time period. There are too many factors that impact time frames and much of the timeframe is not under the control of the municipality.

The Bill requires that a decision must be made on rezoning and site planning applications within specified timeframes:

Site Plan Applications

Approval Timeframe Refund of Application Fees
<60 days $0
60-90 days 50%
90-120 day 75%
>120 days 100%

Rezoning Applications

Approval Timeframe Refund of Application Fees
<90 days (120 with OPA) $0
90-150 days (120-180 with OPA) 50%
150-210 days (180-240 with OPA) 75%
>210 days (240 with OPA) 100%

Further, Planning Staff have assessed the impact to the 2021 Site Plans and 2021 Zoning By-law Amendments assuming the changes are in place.

Since seven Site plans remain active and two Zoning By-law amendments remain in process, in excess of the timeframes laid out above, refunds would be owing in the amount of $41,180 and $11,075 respectively. This would equate to a reduction to 2021 Planning revenues in the amount of approximately 25%.

According to Anne, the new time limits are unfair because:

 …. delays may not be attributed to a lack of Staff resources on the file, but rather the result of increasingly complex matters that impact timeframes and are largely outside the control of municipal planning departments, including the quality and timeliness of application material by the applicant and/or their consulting team.

Not said is that if approval is denied, applicants can appeal and then the decision and associated conditions are outside the control of the Town.

One item of low concern to Staff was the edict that a designated staff member should make planning decisions and not Council.  However, Councillors were not happy with this.  In response, Anne pointed out that By-Laws would still be required and these would still come to Council. It’s not clear if this is what the legislation intended.

Even though the law has been passed including Royal Assent, Council agreed to a resolution; a copy is below and it needs to be confirmed at next week’s Regular Council meeting.  The resolution expresses concern and will go to MPP David Piccini, Premier Doug Ford and AMO (Association of Municipalities Ontario).

Regulations for the new Law that describe the extended ministerial powers have not yet been established.  Some of the proposed changes would take effect July 1, 2022 while others would be implemented as of January 1, 2023.


Downloads of Cobourg Staff documents (from Cobourg News Blog)

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23 April 2022 1:37 pm

No wonder it was fast tracked. Fords ham-handedness is all over these decisions. The OMB was replaced by the LPAT (Local Planning Appeal Tribunal) as it was criticized for its broad powers and authority to override the Planning Act decisions of municipal councils, i.e. in the developers pockets. The LPAT is to have had a reduced scope and limited powers. Now we have a (?) Provincial Minister with the power to overrule Municipalities i.e. giving Ford direct authority over the Munis and their planning. That along with the obvious Ford-leanings toward developer buddies does not auger well for Munis. This type of authoritarian activity has to be stopped.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Gerinator
23 April 2022 1:48 pm

It is not just Ford. There are even locals who think that higher density and affordable housing are priorities.

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Ken Strauss
23 April 2022 9:38 pm


Would you clarify what you mean by your statement regarding high density and affordable housing. Surly you’re not against housing-affordable-to-all.

The populist “buck-a-beer” Ford is all about more affordable housing which he uses to appeal to his base but has absolutely no idea how to make happen. His actions, including his attack on conservation areas and his proposal to build a 413 highway, demonstrate he favours sprawl instead of the more efficient and environmentally responsible use of land.

Within urban boundaries the latter will make possible efficient, frequent and affordable public transit as an alternative to the private automobile as well as reduce the per-dwelling cost of delivering municipal services.

The Provincial Policy Statements mandate the goals that municipal development should aspire to. The latest edition were approved during his tenure. Might help if he read them. Doug Ford has proved himself to be Rob Ford without the drugs and alcohol.

Last edited 9 months ago by Keith Oliver
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Keith Oliver
23 April 2022 11:06 pm

Keith, we have had this discussion in the past.

There is no such thing as “efficient affordable” public transit even in places as densely populated as Toronto and certainly not in my vision of a desirable future Cobourg.

Politicians obscure the true cost of public transit using a variety of stratagems — ignore the cost of the vehicles, ignore costs that are paid with grants from other levels of government, ignore the impacts of labour disruptions, ignore the costs of the ridership’s wasted time, ignore the pollution from mostly empty buses, etc.

Our current mixture of private cars, taxis, bikes and walking serves us well. Why do we need polluting public transit?

Previously I asked you for examples of Canadian cities with affordable and efficient public transit but got no response. Again?

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Ken Strauss
24 April 2022 10:39 pm


The North American city with one of the best daily riderships at 30% of the population and one of the lest subsidized with 2/3 of needed revenues being paid out of the fare box … is Toronto. For Cobourg, with it’s inadequate, infrequent and costly bus system, only 1/3 of needed revenues are generated from the fare box. The difference can be attributed to Cobourg’s continuation of post-WWIi sprawl type development.

You are right; we’ve had this discussion before. It included my conviction that the role of government is to ensure a basic quality-of-life is available to all. That includes basic health services, housing, food, education and transportation.

This is not charity, far from it. Time and time again it has been proven that experiencing such a basic quality-of-life frees the individual to participate fully in the economy and as a result pay their share of taxes.

Examples? In the US President Johnson’s Head Start program. Vienna, one of Europe’s most prosperous cities, ownes or controls the rent on 420,000 or 45% of it’s housing with many units successfully mixed with market-rent housing. Both London and Paris have eliminated 10s of thousands of central area parking spaces and imposed taffifs on those entering the centre by car.

You and I have a fundamental disagreement on the role of government in a capitalist free enterprise system and therefore I see little benefit in carrying on this discussion.

Based on my life and professional experience …I believe strongly in the value of the capitalist free-market enterprise system, but one tempered by Christian mortality. Ensuring a basic quality-of-life for all produces a society which is the most economically successful, democratic and stable.

Last edited 9 months ago by Keith Oliver
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Keith Oliver
25 April 2022 9:09 am

If heavily subsidized fares in Cobourg are not a form of charity then what is your rationale for continuing to fund inconvenient, noisy, polluting and mostly empty buses on our streets? Why do you mention that subsidized buses are required to ensure a basic quality-of-life for all?

Keith, as you noted our fundamental disagreements regarding the desirable extent of government interference and control of our lives is unlikely to be resolved in this forum. However, questions of fact can be addressed.

You claimed that fares for Cobourg’s transit system cover 1/3 of the costs. The reality is that less than 1/6 of the cost of our transit system is covered by fares. That is, our taxes pay for about 85% of the costs.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
25 April 2022 10:43 am

Keith & Ken,

Keith, you wrote “..For Cobourg, with it’s inadequate, infrequent and costly bus system, only 1/3 of needed revenues are generated from the fare box…”

This is total misinformation.

The Town’s 2018 and 2019 YTD actuals show that fares covered 14.25% and 12.7% respectively of the unsubsidized transit cost.
Or, if you prefer, 21.49% and 19.44% respectively of the subsidized transit cost.

This is significantly lower than the 33% (1/3) you claimed.

The net fare revenue per ride is $1.29 and $1.09 respectively due to the deep discounts offered for passes.

Ken indicates that about 85% of Cobourg’s transit cost is paid by taxes (property and other) For 2018 and 2019 the proportions are 85.75% and 87.27% respectively.

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Ken Strauss
25 April 2022 8:53 pm


I’ve clearly stated public transit systems are heavily subsidized. Toronto and Cobourg represent the two extremes. Dithering over the numbers is a distraction.

The problem is you and Bryan don’t recognize the benefits. Every well run business justifies costs against the benefits produced. Either you don’t recognize the benefits or care about the needs of “others”.

Let them use bicycles you say? When Marie Antoinette was informed that the peasants had no bread she said “Let them eat cake!” and you know what happened to her!

As to your first paragraph; do you not understand that many Cobourg residents can’t afford a car? That frequent, well planned and affordable transportation is essential to being able to access all a community has to offer; “amenities” needed to achieve a basic, acceptable quality-of-life like food at a reasonable price, educational/job opportunities, entertainment, enjoying our waterfront, even the church you want to join and actively participate in..

Evidence proves a car, depending on miles driven and condition, costs at least five to ten thousand dollars a year. Many families in this community barely have 5,000 dollars annually with which to buy food.

Projecting StatsCan figures for Ontario onto Cobourg, at least 8% or 1,600 Cobourg citizens are low income, possibly more since the number over 65 living in Cobourg is one of the highest in Ontario.

It’s strange that you’re happy to have taxpayer dollars spent on the roads you drive your car on but not the means of transport others need to enjoy the same “privileges” as you do.

We’re going around in circles and in full disagreement on fundamental values and the role of government. I’d love to debate these issues with you in a full, properly advertised and moderated public forum.

This is all I have to say.

Last edited 9 months ago by Keith Oliver
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Keith Oliver
25 April 2022 10:06 pm

Keith, of course not everyone can afford an expensive car but owning a car is not the only alternative to our heavily subsidized and inconvenient buses. A cab ride is similar to the actual cost of a bus ride and vastly more convenient. You ignore the healthy choices of walking or using a bike. Why not consider the affordable alternatives to buses?

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Ken Strauss
26 April 2022 7:19 pm


By this post you clearly demonstrate that you have no idea of the needs of others.

You have not answered my question (among others) as to whether or not you believe that decent secure housing should be affordable-to-all.

You have confirmed that you have little or no understanding of the economic diversity of the community in which you live.

All your comments are founded on your passionate conviction that you are over taxed (which I believe you can well afford), and nothingelse. You have no concern for the well-being of the community-at-large in which you live.

If I’m wrong, correct me. Otherwise we have nothing more to say to each other.

Last edited 9 months ago by Keith Oliver
22 April 2022 2:01 pm

The Problem as I see it would revolve around the Towns Planning and various team contributors
ie Engineering ,having to be at the Top of their Game ., Performance and knowledge of the Town and its services would be Key No more of this Last Minute stuff and Stalls from these departments while they have to look into it or check it out over the next 3 or 5 months with out accountability . They need to be up to date and hopefully have been designing and Engineering for the future over the last decade No more Holding up Developers with large investments , at Ransome you might say to provide design and engineering for the Town out side of their property that this Town has failed to do or knows nothing about ,.,.
Lets Face it Time is Money that they the Private Property owners or Developer has had to swallow around here for years now, with No wright of recourse other than another addition to the Expense or Bottom Line of Costs to Affordable Housing and Construction.
I also believe that the idea of Ministerial oversight is a Great idea other wise Nothing and No one around here will step in to investigate and move things along . Ask your Councilors they will tell you Planning will not answer to them they have No authority So who else can do it .

SW Buyer
Reply to  Sandpiper
22 April 2022 4:04 pm


You wrote “… Ask your Councilors they will tell you Planning will not answer to them they have No authority So who else can do it…”

I agree somewhat. The CAO is responsible for operations and should be “kicking ass” if things are not getting done in a timely proper (cost effective) manner. As you noted, individual councilors have no authority to direct staff or hold them accountable.
However, Council can and should direct the CAO to look into matters (specified) and report back in a timely matter with a resolution action plan and timeline for each issue.

There are two key component in this: a Council that listens to the residents and has the “balls” to take meaningful action, and a CAO capable and willing to implement Council’s directions.

Last edited 9 months ago by SW Buyer
Wally Keeler
Reply to  SW Buyer
23 April 2022 9:23 am

There are two key components in this: a Council that listens to the residents and has the fecund “balls” and/or “ovaries” to take meaningful action, and a CAO with “eggs” capable and willing to implement Council’s wise directions.

Reply to  SW Buyer
24 April 2022 8:26 am

Have you ever tried to reach the CAO let alone get a response
that even resembles the concerns you raised .
In a timley fashion

Reply to  Sandpiper
23 April 2022 9:35 am

“No more Holding up Developers with large investments” please source this comment. You and I can see many ‘big’ developments siting idle. Whose fault is that? the development on Elgin next to the “Y” stood still for 35 years, was that Planning’s fault?

Again I will tell you, I know you don’t want to hear it, but the provision of development services is a developers responsibility not the Towns. Don’t blame planning for what is obviously “big developers” trying to get around established rules. They know the rules when they decide to develop.

If you want to see how a “big developer” used the rules to get what they wanted in an irresponsible location check out how Walmart did it all those years ago and in record time considering they had an OMB hearing to contend with.

Last edited 9 months ago by ben
Keith Oliver
22 April 2022 9:49 am

Unless I’ve misunderstood, one obvious solution to a developer or builder submitting insufficient information, or misinformation with the intent of running out the time allowed until fees are reduced or eliminated, is for the planning department to reply in delail as to what the deficiencies are … and then to reset the clock.

If the applicant disagrees, he can appeal to a special committee for a final decision, possibly a new subcommittee of the planing advisory committee whose decision would be submitted to Council for final approval. This would increase the time before shovels could go in the ground which is an anathema for most developers.

Is there any reason that the power of the planning department to rest the clock would not solve the potential abuse of this new regime of specific timetables?

Last edited 9 months ago by Keith Oliver
Merle Gingrich
Reply to  Keith Oliver
22 April 2022 9:58 am

Kieth, is not part of the problem, you keep tomany hands in the mix, speed up the process.

Merle Gingrich
22 April 2022 9:44 am

This is all from the Council’s decision, but what about the developer’s persecution? Let’s see what they have to say.

Reply to  Merle Gingrich
23 April 2022 9:37 am

Hey Merle prove your case about ‘developers persecution’

Cobourg taxpayer
21 April 2022 6:26 pm

In previous blogs some commenters have alluded to the Town of Cobourg planning department as being very slow in approving applications. There are apparently many parts to a complete development and or rezoning application. It seems more planners have been hired so that side of the process should be up to speed. Perhaps the new planning director could comment on the length of time from a development application to shovel in the ground on a few ongoing projects around town. For example the hotel application on DePalma Drive. I commented on landscaping concerns years ago and there is still no hotel. Is this a stalled developer or stalled planning department? Same question for the condominiums planned for the nw corner of Queen Street and Darcy. Also the residential development planned on Queen St in the old curling building/auto parts store. These developers negotiated purchase of the parking lot across from the post office, were given 2 years to get going then requested an extension on that agreement which if I remember correctly involved a financial penalty. I believe a previous blog mentioned this. It appears to me in particular the latter development that the lengthy process is the developer’s choice. In that case there should be no refund of money. Somehow this process must determine whether the planning department is slowing the process or the developer. A small town like Cobourg can not afford refunding these fees or how else can the continued hiring of staff be partially covered?

21 April 2022 4:36 pm

Warning this hypothetical speculation!

OK so I am an unscrupulous developer with an idea to get cheaper planning with a dodgy application.

  • Submit a proposal that will not meet the timelines because of the need to have expert approvals
  • Do most of the approvals and then drag my feet knowing that I cannot comply with the ‘onerous’ standards that I have to meet. Don’t laugh this is why the “Legion Application” went to the OMB because the time ran out
  • By running out the clock I get my money back with a nearly completed application
  • Refile with most of approvals in my pocket and finish inside the timelines

Problem is with this the stated intent of cutting ‘red tape’ has unintended consequences! Thank you Doug Ford

Last edited 9 months ago by ben
Reply to  ben
23 April 2022 1:33 pm

There is no doubt in my mind that the consequences are very much intended. Command and control are not just military terms.

21 April 2022 2:40 pm

I commend our new Planning Director for taking a pro-active approach and being decisive on the matter. With that said, we elected a Provincial government that has a majority mandate and is making all the rules without shame….(A recent case-in-point?: Wesleyville…)

Friends–the drums are beating louder…..How long will it be before an MZO is rec’d for the ‘de-commissioned’ Brookside property and our MPP appears at a ribbon cutting telling us how lucky we are that a high-density developer has miraculously been found for that property by the Province? That Fordnation has acted to save our Town from the expense of having to buy it ourselves? That the Province is saving us from our own slow-moving, Planning process?

It’s coming….

They will build here because they can and seniors from across the Province will continue to flow in while the working age families and their employers, get pushed elsewhere.

Reply to  Dunkirk
21 April 2022 4:40 pm

I would like to take you to task, even if you were writing ‘tongue in cheek’. The one thing that has riled me to the point of exasperation is that our Province has accepted the death of the Conservative Party of Ontario by re-labelling it “FordNation”. I have a provincial government not a collection of yahoos dedicated to following the Leader who happens to called Ford!

Last edited 9 months ago by ben
Reply to  ben
21 April 2022 7:35 pm

Ben–I can’t say I disagree, but, no apologies here….. Fordnation is the title of the book authored by our Premier…..Fordnation is the name of his personal social media accounts…..It would seem to me like the leader of the PC Party in Ontario actually cultivated the widespread use of the reference–with the intention of some separation from the old PC Party. No?

With that said, if you are compelled to make a campaign contribution, I am pretty sure if you make your cheque payable to ‘Fordnation’ it probably won’t be accepted….PC Party of Ontario is probably a better bet.

Pete M
Reply to  Dunkirk
22 April 2022 10:02 am


First of all, working age families need jobs here before they can even consider living here.
I know a 21 yr old trying to get an apprentice position here. No luck. Went to a manufacturer in Quinte area and was offered a position within 48 hrs.

As for housing we have supply and demand issues. This is compounded by the fact that people see housing as the best way to get a substantial return on investment. Too much money chasing too little product.

Further exacerbating the problem is that both the current provinical government and previous Liberal government have dictated that housing densities have to be increased on both new and infill projects-not only Toronto but Province wide.

So when looking at Brookside this presents an opportunity for an infill project of townhouses and low rise residential, mix of rent geared to income and market value (900 sq ft or less)

But what I do know is the NIMBY groups will be out in full force demanding it remain green space at best or single family homes at worse.

Protect the Cobourg Country Club

Reply to  Pete M
22 April 2022 10:44 am

Pete M–I don’t disagree. If we had any success in economic development over the past 3 decades, our population would have grown. It hasn’t. We are one of only 2 regions in the Province with negative job growth. But our Police force has grown; our school boards have grown; municipal government & administration have grown……$$$…(and taxes have grown..)

Today–the numbers show that our predominant wealth generating economic activity is building homes for 55+ . The numbers also show as in your example our young workers having to move to where the living wage opportunities are.

I have no idea what that really means on the topic of ‘planning’. What does jobless growth look like? Maybe the Province is getting ready to tell us…?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dunkirk
22 April 2022 12:28 pm

Dunkirk, our population has grown over the last 3 decades: from 15079 in 1991 to over 19440 today. That is about 1% per year which is very close to Cobourg’s annual growth rate for the past 150 years. Why do you feel that a faster population increase is desirable for our current residents? Growth means more traffic and probably an even greater growth in police and municipal government spending. Adding housing valued at less than the current average assessment will mean that all of our property taxes will increase. Why is that good for current residents?

Last edited 9 months ago by Ken Strauss
Reply to  Ken Strauss
22 April 2022 3:15 pm

If population goes up 1% every year for 30 years, how much did our taxes go up? 1%?…probably closer to 3% compounded…or more…
What I am saying is that, if a level of government like the Province starts mandating our growth, with in the type of housing you suggest —without accompanying employment growth, then there should be no local cheerleaders for that. Should there?
Isn’t that what Bill 109 is saying though? isn’t that what is happening?

Reply to  Dunkirk
22 April 2022 4:47 pm

David Blakely reported previously on some employment reports from the Workforce Dev Board in Peterborough.

David summed up a Feb 2022 WDB report noting that Northumberland County has lost over 2,000 jobs since 2018 in 3 sectors: Agriculture, Construction, and Manufacturing. With that, there has been a departure of 2,276 working age citizens 25-45 yrs. 491 to other Provinces and 1,785 within Ontario (presumably to wherever the jobs are).

Further, as others have noted, the employment growth sectors are “government, education and health” requiring more money from the public purse.

The WDB site ( ) has numerous reports and studies. the ones in the NEWS, PROJECTS, RESOURCES and LABOUR MARKET are well worth reading.

Last edited 9 months ago by Bryan
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dunkirk
22 April 2022 5:11 pm

Dunkirk, I assume that your 3% annual growth in the levy comment was intended as humour. In 2019 Cobourg’s Council approved a levy of $23,985,529. The latest forecast of the 2024 levy is $36,975,680 for an increase of 54% over 5 years or a compound growth of about 9% annually. And that is before anyone considered the impact of recent inflation numbers!

I don’t believe that I suggested any particular “type” of housing. However, low density and higher priced housing is highly advantageous to our current residents. Greatly increased development charges would help to ensure that Cobourg grows slowly and sustainably with energy efficient homes on family friendly lots rather than the low quality and high density that Sandpiper appears to favour.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Ken Strauss
23 April 2022 9:43 am

our population has grown over the last 3 decades: from 15079 in 1991 to over 19440 today.

What is the demographic of that growth? Senior citizens who largely consume rather than produce anything the greater demographic wants. Lots of geriatric services will increase. Those with ambitions will avoid the cultural bore-hole of Cobourg and go to where families can flourish both employment-wise and culturally. Cobourg has become Lawrence Welk culture with all the excitement and energy that entails. Cobourg will become a geezer ghetto where penny-pinchers will howl for better quality incontinence products and services. There will be an increase of citizens with cognitive deficiencies like a mumbling, stumbling, bumbling Biden. Long live the infirm! Cobourg is a great govt employer to provide the needed geriatric health services — thereby increasing the burden of taxes, to pay for wiping all those butts of the elderly.

Last edited 9 months ago by Wally Keeler
Reply to  Wally Keeler
24 April 2022 1:31 am

A “geezer ghetto”!

Welcome to Cobourg, Ontario’s “geezer ghetto” town.

Thanks for the laugh, Wally.

Reply to  Pete M
22 April 2022 1:46 pm

Pete M,

You wrote “..So when looking at Brookside this presents an opportunity for an infill project of townhouses and low rise residential, mix of rent geared to income and market value (900 sq ft or less)….

The problem, as Ken S pointed out, is that the developers want to build “senior” units and not family suitable units. Similarly, they have little interest in building “for rent” units. Geared to income (subsidized) rental is not done by the private sector…this is the County’s turf, paid for by, you guessed it, the tax payers.

Lemon Cake
Reply to  Pete M
24 April 2022 8:22 am

One thing to note: Quinte is in an absolutely desperate employment situation due to a lack of affordable housing. Ask any business owner. My brother owns a business in Belleville and his would be apprentices and mechanics can’t get housing – he’s working around the clock. Same issue throughout the County where the growing hospitality business can’t get staff. Affordable housing is critical right now.