Bill 108: risks as to how we grow

On May 27 agenda there is Staff report reviewing the implications of the Province’s proposed Bill 108 called “More Homes, More Choice Act.” This Bill, if passed as is, has significant impact on how our communities evolve:  what is built, how it is built. More specifically, density, services, amenities and property taxes for both current and future residents.  In addition the enormity of the proposed changes to current legislation the Bill is very concerning as there is such limited time for feedback and there has been such limited consultation. I strongly urge you to at minimum read the Staff report; here is link to the Act.   Its my opinion that
this Act seriously undermines good planning which could deliver strong inclusive communities, a healthy  environment and enough housing for all.

Most of us are not well versed in the subject of development charges:  how they are determined, what they cover. Its complicated.  But, they are extremely important.  A often used cliche is that “growth does not pay for itself.”  With Bill 108 it will even pay less and the costs will go up.  The portion paid by municipalities (i.e. current and future tax payers) will go up and the absolute costs will go up if we want to maintain the quality of our communities.

The Staff report from the municipality of Whitby explains this well. “Although much of the financial impact on municipalities will not be known until the regulations have been passed, the proposed changes resulting from Bill 108 appear to have significant financial impacts on municipalities and future debt levels by shifting costs from developers to the taxpayer.” For instance, changes to the Development Charges Act (Schedule 3) download costs to municipalities, place restrictions on how growth related funding may be used and limits future parkland in cities.  LPAT changes also affect taxpayers and homebuyers. LPAT hearing are expensive, often costing millions of dollars.  Developers recover hearing costs through development charges (passed onto homebuyers, adding to the cost of new homes). Municipalities also incur substantial costs in LPAT, OMB hearings. Taxpayers fund municipal participation at the OMB. There are further changes under Bill 108 that require municipalities to defer payment of development charges for commercial and industrial developments. This policy would allow developers to benefit at the expense of taxpayers since Bill 108 would require municipalities to finance the obligations of developers over five years.”

Conservation Authorities’ scope is being reduced under Bill 108 with objective of focussing them on their “core service” of flood management, protection of hazard lands etc.  I certainly agree that this core work is necessary but it is not at all clear how their critical role of providing expert advice to municipalities  for assessing development applications will be fulfilled.  How will it be funded?

Specifics on how excess soils are to be managed are scarce but I believe there is reason for grave concern.  Per the Staff report the objective of the changes is to reduce construction costs associated with managing and transporting excess soil.  The latter is already a high risk issue for King and our large areas of open space.  For the last several years effort has been put against implementing processes to ensure that contaminated soils from elsewhere are not dumped on the Moraine and Greenbelt.

The “undoing” of changes made to LPAT (formerly called OMB) process are very concerning.  As indicated in the Staff report it is very premature to be making such changes as there has been little time to assess the efficacy of changes made.  One of the goals of the changes made in 2017 was to speed up the process.  The motivation of Bill 108 amendments is the same.  When one compares the extensive consultation done by the former Province to make the changes approved in 2017 to the hasty process preceding the tabling of Bill 108 the real motivation for the changes is highly suspect.

Bill 108 also proposes changes to the Planning Act. These changes coupled with the LPAT amendments again suggest that the real motivation for change is not better planning and timeliness.  e.g.  It is incomprehensible to think that we would be able to make quality decisions on Official Plan Amendment applications within 120 days (per the proposed changes to the Planning Act in Bill 108); and accordingly there could then be an appeal based on “no decision.”

Changes to the Ontario Heritage Act are concerning.  Per the proposed amendments decisions made by previous Councils to designate properties can be undone.  The proposal allows only 90 days for assessing such important requests.  Also concerning is that appeals to local Council decisions on heritage matters will be adjudicated by LPAT (as opposed Conservation Review Board) and judgments will be binding.

I cannot believe that there will be anyone who does not have development interests will not be greatly concerned about many aspects of Bill 108.  If you do have concerns I urge you to contact your MPP.  Also let your local Council members know your perspective.

 

One Response to “ “Bill 108: risks as to how we grow”

  1. Hans Martin Ph.D. says:

    Developers are individuals who wish to use land in such a way as to derive the maximum profit from their temporary ownership of the land. They are not obliged to understand the history of the land and the wishes or legacies that the current owners have. Perhaps most importantly, developers are temporary owners of the land with no interest in its long-term management and custodianship. Indeed, once developers have ‘used’ the land, they generally dispose of it as quickly as possible and move on to other projects without residual responsibility or accountability for the changes that they have made. There is generally no intentional inclusion in this process of individuals, non-owners, living around the designated developers project, those who may have historic or cultural interests in the demise of the property. This does not seem right.

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