OMB RESIDENT QUESTION OF THE DAY:

“Mr. Shore,

As a resident of Markham, I am disgusted at your motion, seconded my Mr Kanapathi seeking to abolish the Ontario Municipal Board.

The OMB is the only low cost option available to citizens to protest decisions made by City Council.

By seeking to eliminate the OMB, what you are in fact, attempting to do, is short circuit democracy by making the only option residents have to appeal Council decisions, costly litigation.Where Ontarians can go to challenge a municipal or provincial planning decision at little or no cost.

What is your agenda Mr Shore for attempting to abolish our democratic rights.

You Mr Shore need to stay focused on what is right for the residents of this City and not for special interest groups and or builders or bullies..?????

Concerend Markham resident

MY RESPONSE:

Thank you for your note.

I understand your concerns.  If you were to research some of the battles residents have had to wage against development applications, you would find that they are terribly expensive propositions, sometimes running into the tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.  One such example is the fight by a group in Richmond Hill to oppose development of the David Dunlop Observatory.  I’ve attached the link for your convenience below, but you will note that their president (of the residents’ group) suggested they would have to raise approximately $100,000 to hire lawyers, consultants, planners, etc.

http://www.yorkregion.com/news/article/1283392–it-costs-big-bucks-to-defend-nature

As for the OMB being “the only low cost option available to citizens to protest decisions made by City Council.”, this is simply not correct.  Filing a Motion to a Master of the Superior Court costs $127.

This Motion most definitely does provide for appeals of decisions made by local municipalities – on matters of substantive law.  In that regard, I am suggesting one of two alternatives:  either that such Appeals be to the Courts or, were the OMB still in place, require ‘leave to appeal’, which means that any party would be required to demonstrate to a Master of the Superior Court, that there is at least, on the face of it, an issue of law to be considered.  This is already in place for other types of civil procedures and is expedient and very cost effective.  If the Master agreed that a question of law really did exist, then the matter could proceed to an OMB Hearing. 

Democratic rights.  Frankly, I simply don’t agree that an unelected, unaccountable, politically appointed Board, which may or may not have any legal expertise whatsoever or familiarity with the challenges of the local municipality, let alone a particular neighbourhood, is in any way ‘democratic’.  It should be noted that the criteria to become a Master include the following:  “an individual must be a lawyer who has practised law for at least 10 years, is proficient in the law and has the personal qualities, professional skills and abilities and life experiences that are appropriate for an individual to undertake the role of a judge.  The candidates are vetted by the judicial advisory committee and makes recommendations to the minister of justice”.

Elections however, are democratic.  The ballot box is democracy in action – people voting on whom they wish to represent them on local and town-wide issues and every four years having the opportunity to decide whether they deserve re-election.

Under no circumstances am I suggesting that Appeals of a Council would be prohibited, rather, to whom they would be directed and under what particular circumstances, i.e. issues of law.  I stand by that.  That, in fact, is with a view to levelling the playing field away from the bias it now has towards developers.  To suggest that this Motion is in any was pre-disposed toward “special interest groups and or builders or bullies…” is just plain wrong and unfair.  The only special interest group I truly care about are the residents of this Town, such as the those in German Mills who faced a three year long, uphill battle against a developer with very, very deep pockets intent on a massive re-development of a local shopping plaza.  If you were to research this issue, you would find that Council unanimously rejected the developers’ application.  Frankly, the developer began the Appeal process to the OMB, before any decision had been rendered by Council. 

I respect your position, but the facts just don’t support your contention.

Regards,

Howard

 

OMB Resident Question of the Day

“Sorry I do not believe abolishing the OMB is the way to go!  It only leads to NIMBY. We need a not only local by city wide review! Certain items are for the general good but not for the immediate location which that approach will lead!  Short sighted!”

My answer:

Thank you for your note.  The intention of this Resolution is in fact, that any appeals, city-wide, would be the purview of the local municipality.  This would certainly not be something which looked at any particular Wards or areas of Markham differently.  That said, the demands, challenges and priorities, from one municipality to another, differ widely.  What may work at Yonge and Eglinton, may not at Don Mills and Steeles. 

 Experience.  Is it appropriate that a single individual who sits as Chair of an OMB Hearing, who may have no direct experience with the surrounding area and not have the essential planning or legal background make decisions which affect local residents?

Nimbyism.  You are absolutely correct that we must guard against the ‘Not In My Back Yard’ (NIMBY) position taken from time to time.  There are, of course, quality projects and developments, which make good planning sense, which should not be rejected on a whim or NIMBY attitude or out of political expediency.  To be clear – I am not anti-development, rather, the current process is legally and financial stacked in favour of the party which comes to the table with the most resources, which is almost always the developer. 

Fairness.  I believe we need a process which allows for Appeals where the issue is a matter of law and such Appeals should be to the Courts, not, in my view, unaccountable political appointees.  Alternatively, if the Province were not to abolish the OMB, at the very least one should be required to seek leave to appeal to OMB via a Master of the Superior Court.  With either of these two approaches, a party must establish there is an issue in law which is being challenged. One could easily cite numerous examples of residents who had quite legitimate reasons to oppose a development application (or the size and scope), but were out-gunned and out-spent by the weight of professional consultants (lawyers, engineers, planners, traffic consultants, etc.) required to what amounts to waging a legal war.