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:
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)
- An overview of Bill 109 – Memo from Anne Taylor-Scott explaining issue and expressing concern
- Appendix A – Summary of Bill 109 (by Planning Staff – with major concerns highlighted)
- Appendix B – Draft Resolution – Council approved this resolution – to be confirmed next week with the addition of Doug Ford and AMO to the circulation list.
- Explanatory Note by Ontario Government about Bill 109 More Homes for Everyone Act, 2022.
- Town of Cobourg Planning Applications