A Minor Defence of the OMB

Today we learned the Ontario government will likely replace the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) with a new body called the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT). 

There has been some good coverage of this.

But much of the news media, especially the Toronto Star's, has framed this a 'win' for residents and repeats the claim that the OMB often rules in favour of developers.

The public has long been fed this line, again mainly from the Toronto Star, that the OMB is a heavy-handed, in-the-pocket-of-developers, quasi-corrupt tribunal that approves everything that no one wants. But it's worth remembering the OMB (and, I assume, the future LPAT) is there to ensure provincial planning legislation is followed, and that municipalities follow their own official plans (OPs).

It's not very often that a developer will sink money into a project that will meet certain death because they have not conformed to provincial legislation or the OP. Instead, what often happens is that the municipal council faces backlash from residents and doesn't approve a development even though it conforms to the legislation and the OP. So, the developer takes it to the OMB who sides, not with the developer, but with the legislation and the OP.

And today we have a great example of this in Kitchener. The developer has the support of 'staff' (aka city planners), the proposal conforms to legislation and the OP, but council takes the side of some residents and denies the development - so, of course, it's going to the OMB and they will very likely win. If Kitchener did not want this type of development, they would need to put that in their OP. And it would read something like, "do not allow multi-residential units for students in areas well-serviced by transit and/or near major colleges or universities." Of course, that would be ridiculous.