So how might this affect me, say fellow Lowertowners? While you might be under the impression that when a neighbour decides to build a high-rise condo adjacent to your property, or the city, a freeway through your tomato garden, that your elected representative at the city of Ottawa will consider the issue and make a sound and responsible decision to settle the matter. And that's the end of it. Wrong! In a few cases, your fellow neighbours and developers have argued in front of the OMB to challenge City of Ottawa decisions. Here is a link to one such challenge in 2014 from residents for a proposed development of the old Union du Canada building (now the Andaz Hotel), and another more recent one in 2016 from developers on the development of two towers located at 151 and 153 Chapel Street. For those interested, you can see more OMB decisions and search through those in your neighbourhood here.
The city of Ottawa can and does make decisions on disputes that require minor variances from the Committee of Adjustment.
The city's Planning Committee, with its Chair appointed by the Mayor, can and does issue recommendations based on arguments from residents, the city's own planning department, developers and other stakeholders on all development and planning issues including zoning designations, community planning, site design requirements and affordable housing.
The Planning Committee makes its recommendations to City Council on issues occurring anywhere within the urban boundary (in Ottawa, that's a huge area and even that was argued in front of the OMB) of the city. A vote is then passed and modifications are made to zoning By-laws and sometimes the Official Plan.
The OMB comes in where either the developer or residents are unhappy with a COA or PC decision and wish to have another set or independent, un-elected ears hear the matter. Residents can argue with developers, developers can argue with the city, and the OMB refers to provincial legislation such as Land Use Planning and makes a decision. As it also deals with Expropriation, they can even offer you compensation!
The OMB has not been without its fair share of controversy, in fact the city of Toronto and Mississauga have argued for it's abolition as recently as 2012 as stated here in a Municipal World article.
The OMB is once again under review and now taking your comments on what changes could be made to make it better. The initiative is being led by Ontario's Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and Minister of Municipal Affairs Bill Mauro.
You have until tomorrow, December 19th to submit your comments. We encourage you to do so here!
Here are some further readings on the matter.
- Tobi Nussbaum's take on OMB reform
- Central Ward councillors letter to Yasir Naqvi and Bill Mauro
- The Association of Municipalities Ontario Recommendations
- The Federation of Community Association's resource page with more links including media links on the issue
- The city of Ottawa's November 23, 2016 Council vote on what to recommend on OMB reform