Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Provincial land use planning reform is on the table - let's ensure it happens.

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One of the biggest issues in Kitchissippi is development. How our community grows will be one of the most important debates of this coming term of Council. Balancing Ottawa’s growth requirements within the constraints of provincial policy with the obvious impacts of thoughtless intensification is critical.

I was very pleased on March 5 to read the bill proposed by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to introduce greater certainty and resident input into the planning process (see release here).

Our MPP, Yasir Naqvi, has been consulting with some of our most engaged and informed residents for quite a while now about what communities need to have a greater say over how we develop. The proposed reforms will go a long way to addressing some of our systemic problems.

One of the most important measures – something for which I advocated during my campaign – is a new community planning permit system. This is a new name for what is also called a development permit system. The basics are that municipalities can undertake planning exercises for neighbourhoods and in theory cast in stone the zoning. Development applications that meet the plan would see streamlined approvals. Those that don’t would be rejected with limited right of appeal.

The actual bill is scant on details, and a working group will figure out the implementation. Toronto is moving in this direction and I’ve admired their chief planner Jennifer Keesmat for her ambitious efforts to change their Official Plan and test the system in fast-growing neighbourhoods. We should do the same once the legislation is in place.

The devil will be in the details. Planning permit systems can create imbalances in appeals rights, for instance. It’s important that the government’s working group include Kitchissippi residents familiar with the appeals process.

Another major proposal in the bill is to work on clearly defining a “minor variance”. Nothing so infuriates residents as the steady stream of approved “minor variances” at the Committee of Adjustment that seem to create anything-goes planning with respect to infill. Variances that allow a single, two-storey home on a single lot to become two three-storey flat roofed semis don’t strike most residents as “minor”.

The Province is also proposing to clarify the consultation process. This may or may not end up being a huge help to us. Almost any major development in our ward has always had multiple open houses, opportunity for comment, a public hearing and rationale for staff in favour or against applications. However, I know the frustration that many feel these are too often pro forma. It will be a challenge to codify meaningful consultation, but we should absolutely try.

There are other elements of the bill that are also important – limitations on appeals of the Official Plan, for instance, and a proposed alternative dispute resolution option for OMB appeals. And, there are likely more reforms to the OMB to come. We need to continue to press for those.

So what help can we provide? These are some of the most important planning reforms that will come around in a long time. I’m asking you to write to Minister Naqvi, Minister McMeekin, and copy me to support the new legislation. Let the Ontario government know that you support:

* A community planning permit system that is balanced and creates certainty for neighbourhoods;

* A definition of “minor variance” that prevents abuses

* Codifying meaningful community consultation on planning changes

* A rich consultation on these changes that involves informed and engaged Kitchissippi residents 

* Further reform to the Ontario Municipal Board to protect cities' ability to plan

Write today to Minister Yasir Naqvi ( and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Ted McKeen (, as well as me ( to express your views. Thanks for your help.

Posted March 8, 2015
The province wants to reform land use planning in the neighbourhood. Greater zoning certainty and more meaningful consultation could be just two of the positive outcomes. I need your help to support the legislation.