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Burlington Post Publishes Point-Counterpoint Columns on the LPAT in Ontario

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NOTE: Last week, The Burlington Post published online two columns (one from me and one from Burlington MPP Jane McKenna) on whether or not Ontario needs a Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). I took the ‘no’ stance and MPP McKenna took the ‘yes’ — the column I submitted is below, with a link to MPP McKenna’s column.

DOES ONTARIO NEED THE LPAT? BURLINGTON MAYOR MARIANNE MEED WARD SAYS NO

Tribunal undemocratic, expensive and slows development of housing: Meed Ward

OPINION | Jul 30, 2019 | by Mayor Marianne Meed Ward | Burlington Post

Here’s where we agree: we all want to deliver more housing, faster and cheaper. But the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) stands in the way.

The LPAT involves expensive, weeks-long hearings with lawyers, experts and witnesses. It can take 18 months or more to get a hearing. Bill 108 reverts to the former Ontario Municipal Board “de novo” hearings that start from scratch, repeating the planning analysis already done by council, staff and the applicant. The tribunal effectively becomes the planning departments for over 400 municipalities in the province — not efficient, cost-effective or timely.

COUNTERPOINT: Ontario needs LPAT, says Burlington MPP

In one recent case, 92 Plains Rd. East, the appeal made in April 2018 won’t be settled until September 2019, even though all parties have agreed to an amended project. Without the tribunal, a council decision could have been reached in 2018.

Burlington has spent approximately $660,000 in the past three years on active hearings, excluding completed files or those handled by staff. Halton and its municipalities have collectively spent over $5 million defending plans already approved by the provincial government. Those costs are added to the price of housing.

The tribunal is fundamentally anti-democratic. One unelected official can overturn decisions of elected councils. Our council has spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars updating our official plan (OP), but it’s all for naught if the tribunal can set it aside — as it did with the 26-storey Adi development at Martha and Lakeshore that is up to six times the four to eight storeys in our plan.

Burlington’s OP was updated with provincial government intensification targets in 2008, which haven’t changed in recent provincial government plans. Our city has achieved our population growth of 185,000 residents by 2031 — 12 years early — with 183,000 residents, as of the 2016 census.

The tribunal is not citizen-friendly — not one citizen appeal in the past decade in Burlington ruled in its favour. Bill 108 limits third-party appeals, including by citizens, who are also potentially liable for court costs — a major risk and deterrent. A citizens group abandoned its appeal of a 22-storey building at Brant and James.

Communities are successfully built across our country without this additional layer of bureaucracy to overrule elected councils and their communities. This costly, time-consuming and undemocratic system is not serving anyone. It’s time to end the LPAT and empower Ontario’s cities to make the best decisions for our residents about how we continue to grow and evolve.

Marianne Meed Ward is Burlington’s mayor.

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