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The Big Review has landed!

With the arrival of this spring came a fundamentally new landscape for planning and growth management in Ontario.  On May 18, 2017 the Province’s Coordinated Review process culminated in the release of the updated Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and Niagara Escarpment Plan.  Plans come into force on July 1, 2017, with the exception of the NEP which came into effect June 1, 2017.  At the same time, Bill 139 received first reading on May 30, 2017, directing transformation of the OMB/land use planning appeal system process and tribunal. This is all in conjunction with the Province’s commitment to reduce Greenhouse Gases by 80% percent below 1990 levels by 2050, as outlined in the Climate Change Action Strategy (climate change is now officially a Provincial interest).

A truly robust and ambitious set of updates and reforms are now before us.  Big changes include: greater emphasis on Municipal Comprehensive Reviews, increased and expanded targets to promote compact growth, stronger alignment between transit investment and Strategic Growth Areas, and a more refined approach to employment lands, including Prime Employment Areas. There is also a focus on promoting the viability of the agricultural sector and expanding of the Greenbelt by over 10,000 hectares.  Still to come from the Province are detailed mapping of agricultural and natural heritage systems and prescribed guidance for land budget methodologies.  Required municipal conformity by July 2022 sets an ambitious path ahead.  Finally, and critically, with this strong set of Provincial policies in place, Bill 139 brings forward reforms that lessen the role of the OMB in planning decisions, in particular, where Provincially-approved policy frameworks are in place.

The suite of Provincial Planning Reforms includes:

  • Climate Change Action Strategy (2016)
  • Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic Framework and Action Plan (2016)
  • Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2017)
  • Greenbelt Plan (2017)
  • Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (2017)
  • Niagara Escarpment Plan (2017)
  • Bill 139, Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017

Three characterizations come to mind in an overview of the 2017 suite of Provincial planning reforms:

High levels of consistency and alignment that now exist between the multiple Plans, policies, regulation and approvals processes are a positive outcome of a truly coordinated review processIn the spirit of alignment, strong incentives have now been placed on upfront planning for Strategic Growth Areas, including Major Transit Station Areas, by removing the appeal right to the OMB where municipal plans have been brought into conformity with new Provincial policies.

A significant raising of the bar is a clear indication of the Provincial intention to move forward on a policy-led approach to promote compact and complete communities integrated with transit investment.  The ongoing tension between policy direction and market preference in built form and location will continue to be tested through the next decade.

Imposed clarity and direction from the Provincial government in terms of delineation of GGH-wide mapping for core assets such as natural heritage and agricultural systems but also land budget and density target methodologies will also create greater certainty but may limit contextually appropriate application. More to come as these guidelines emerge by the end of 2017. 

Over the course of the summer, Urban Strategies will be blogging about the significant suite of growth management strategies released by the Province of Ontario. Our intent is to share our team’s understanding of the most salient components of the Plans and observations about what they will mean for the way we plan, invest, design and development our communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe over the coming decade and beyond. Look for future blog articles throughout the summer which will cover more detail on the following topics:

There is no doubt this is a complex and complicated suite of policies and legislation.  At Urban Strategies, we are here to help you.  If you need to know more about these Plans and what they mean for you, your land, or community, please contact us:

Melanie Hare, Partner, mhare@urbanstrategies.com, 416-340-9004 x 215

Pino Di Mascio, Partner, pdimascio@urbanstrategies.com, 416-340-9004 x 210