Proposed changes good for communities

March 6, 2015

plastic-bottles-115071_1280

The Ontario government is proposing changes to the Planning Act and the Development Charges Act. This is good news for municipalities and it is great to finally see the results of the extensive consultations that occurred over a year ago.

Municipalities collect development charges to pay for a variety of infrastructure – from roads to fire stations – to serve new homes and businesses.  This means the burden of funding this infrastructure does not fall on current homeowner and businesses but instead on those who the infrastructure is intended to serve – for instance a new fire station to serve a new part of a growing community.  It is not 100%.  Development charges only cover about 75% of the costs of the infrastructure included under the Development Charges Act as there are lots of exemptions and reductions.  However, it makes a big difference.

Waste management used to be included under the Development Charges Act but it was removed many years ago.  This has made it very difficult for municipalities to make much needed investments to divert waste from landfill.  I believe it has also contributed to making the right decisions on waste management highly controversial at the local level.  You don’t hear the same rhetoric around managing bio-solids (sewage).

The proposed changes will also help municipalities build better transit systems for everyone.

We can expect the development industry to vigorously fight any new inclusions under the Development Charges Act – which they refer to as the New Neighbour Tax – but it is something that municipalities have been calling for – for years.  This infrastructure is part of the cost of a new home or business in a community.

Some of the proposed changes to the Planning Act are aimed at reducing the involvement of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in local decision making.  When a planning application or planning policy decision is appealed to the OMB, the municipal council is no longer the decision making body – the OMB is.  This has been very frustrating for local governments and their citizens as well as very costly.