Tuesday 20 February 1996
Land Use Planning and Protection Act, 1995, Bill 20, Mr Leach / Loi de 1995 sur la protection et l'aménagement de territoire, projet de loi 20, M Leach
Sudbury East Property Owners' Association
Dr Richard Jarvis
Township of Ratter and Dunnet
Alex Dure, councillor
Sudbury and District Home Builders' Association
Celia Teale, past president
Townships of Cosby, Mason and Martland
Claude Mayer, reeve
Jody Lundy, chief administrative officer
Sudbury East Municipal Association
Claude Mayer, chair
Sudbury East Planning Board
Brian Carré, planner/secretary-treasurer
Regional Municipality of Sudbury
Bill Lautenbach, commissioner, planning and development
Sudbury Hydro-Electric Commission
Steve Watt, partner, Desmarais-Keenan
Sudbury East Property Owner Association
Linda Gautier, secretary
Nipissing Environmental Watch
STANDING COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
Chair / Président: Gilchrist, Steve (Scarborough East / -Est PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Fisher, Barb (Bruce PC)
*Baird, John R. (Nepean PC)
Carroll, Jack (Chatham-Kent PC)
*Christopherson, David (Hamilton Centre / -Centre ND)
Chudleigh, Ted (Halton North / -Nord PC)
Churley, Marilyn (Riverdale ND)
Duncan, Dwight (Windsor-Walkerville L)
*Fisher, Barb (Bruce PC)
*Gilchrist, Steve (Scarborough East / -Est PC)
*Hoy, Pat (Essex-Kent L)
*Lalonde, Jean-Marc (Prescott and Russell / Prescott et Russell L)
Maves, Bart (Niagara Falls PC)
*Murdoch, Bill (Grey-Owen Sound PC)
*Ouellette, Jerry J. (Oshawa PC)
Tascona, Joseph (Simcoe Centre / -Centre PC)
*In attendance / présents
Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:
Bisson, Gilles (Cochrane South / -Sud ND) for Ms Churley
Carr, Gary (Oakville South / -Sud PC) for Mr Maves
Galt, Doug (Northumberland PC) for Mr Tascona
Gerretsen, John (Kingston and The Islands / Kingston et Les Îles L) for Mr Duncan
Hardeman, Ernie (Oxford PC) for Mr Carroll
Smith, Bruce (Middlesex PC) for Mr Chudleigh
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:
Martel, Shelley (Sudbury East / -Est ND)
Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Douglas
Staff / Personnel:
McLellan, Ray, research officer, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 0858 in the Ambassador Motor Hotel, Sudbury.
LAND USE PLANNING AND PROTECTION ACT, 1995 / LOI DE 1995 SUR LA PROTECTION ET L'AMÉNAGEMENT DU TERRITOIRE
Consideration of Bill 20, An Act to promote economic growth and protect the environment by streamlining the land use planning and development system through amendments related to planning, development, municipal and heritage matters / Projet de loi 20, Loi visant à promouvoir la croissance économique et à protéger l'environnement en rationalisant le système d'aménagement et de mise en valeur du territoire au moyen de modifications touchant des questions relatives à l'aménagement, la mise en valeur, les municipalités et le patrimoine.
SUDBURY EAST PROPERTY OWNERS' ASSOCIATION
The Chair (Mr Steve Gilchrist): Good morning, all. Let me call this meeting to order and thank all of those in attendance here today. It's certainly our intention to try and get around to as much of the province as we can to seek input on the proposed changes in Bill 20, and to that end we're pleased to be here in Sudbury. Our first presentation this morning will be the Sudbury East Property Owners' Association, Wanup-Estaire region, Dr Richard Jarvis. Good morning.
Dr Richard Jarvis: Mr Chairman, good morning. Excuse me. I'm so nervous, permit me to have a little glass of water to join you in a drink and a toast to this great area of Sudbury.
The Chair: Certainly. We'll join you in that. Cheers. Dr Jarvis, we have 30 minutes for you to use as you see fit, divided between presentation and question-and-answer time.
Dr Jarvis: Ladies and gentlemen, members of this panel, Mr Chairman, Mr Gilchrist, on behalf of the Sudbury East Property Owners, we wish to thank all of you for coming today and we hope your stay will be interesting and rewarding.
To begin, we would like to stress that we've seen many, many good changes in Bill 20, and for these we thank the planners who have been involved in them. But the rural property owners of, I stress, the unincorporated townships of Sudbury east have identified one major concern, and that is the fact that there is no mention of lot creations for the unincorporated townships on a random basis.
It's important to maybe digress here and just stress what our concerns are, because we have sent several briefs to the honourable minister, Al Leach, we've sent letters, and we really haven't had any response from his office. The concern we have is that if land severances are discussed with the planners in Toronto, they will say to you: "Hey, all sorts of severances are allowed. Come on, what's the matter with these stupid people, these savages in northern Ontario?"
I would ask you to turn to, in your brief, near the end. You'll see a map with little black dots. The point we would like to make first of all, with the graph at top, is that in a 10-year period from 1980 to 1991, there were only 200 lot creations in the entire 1,000-square-kilometre tract of land. The planners in Toronto will say: "Look at that, 200 severances. That's great. I mean, look how generous we are." But if you look down at the little map below where it says number of consents, you will see that the major areas of consents are for the organized areas; the big one of course is Cosby, Mason, Martland and Scollard popped in there, because that is cottage country and that is where the majority of severances go.
You also see a big dot around Ratter, that's halfway up on the right. That is the village of Warren. They have been allowed severances. Then you have Casimir, which is also another organized area and has cottage country.
But if you look elsewhere, very few severances or lot creations have been permitted. I am personally from Cleland, and if you look at Cleland, which abuts the region of Sudbury, you will notice that in 10 years we've had something in the order of 50 severances; that's five per year.
We feel, "Hey, isn't that a reasonable severance policy?" Yet we are told by our planners in Toronto: "You are a great financial burden on the province. You savages from the north, who live in the country, are draining the provincial coffers, so it is up to us as planners to see this does not happen."
We entreat you to recognize that this is clearly false. In a personal communication with Dr Pamela Blais, the economist for the Golden commission, she disagrees with this belief as it relates to rural development. She states that there are no studies in Canada or the USA to justify this belief or assertion, Mr Murdoch.
The rural capital costs will be lower for the rural people because we, as individual owners in the country, bear the cost of sewage disposal, we bear the cost of water, we pay full equitable mill rate taxes for schools, education, and the province only grants $106 to the road boards per person for roads, so we are not a drain even on the road system.
Obviously, the unincorporated rural citizens are not the financial burden they are accused of being by the policymakers. We charge that the succession of ministers of Municipal Affairs have been misled over the years by the policymakers in the south about this issue.
I draw your attention to a document called A Strategic Community Plan at the back. There is no number; I'm sorry. We had computer glitches and all kinds of glitches. This is a document prepared for the Sudbury East Economic Development Corp. It points out very clearly -- these are directly from the document, by the way -- that there is a declining population, a great concern in our area, because of the negative impact the restrictive policies proposed by our planners in the south are causing on our community.
Our schools are only half-utilized. The planners in the south say: "That's great. That's a good reason we should close them all and send everybody by bus to Sudbury." We say, "But busing is expensive," and they say: "Yup, that's just what we said. You people are a drain on this province." That ain't true.
The economy -- the other day I spoke to a fellow at a large lumberyard and hardware store in the area. He said, "We're really facing hard times, because people just can't build houses. There's no room. They can't get severance. Dozens of people have tried and they simply are not allowed. They're closing this area down."
I hope I've made the point, the main point we wanted to make. I'll skip back to the start and just complete the recommendations.
We entreat this government to consider land use planning to be guided by public pricing policy. What we're saying here is that if we are unreasonably costly in any area to the province, let us bear this cost in the form of taxation or user fees instead of oppressing us with restrictive policies. We're willing to pay our way, and I'm sure Mr Harris -- it fits into his program and the program of our government to save money and to be self-sufficient and not a lien on the government.
We recommend that our planning board be increased from three to six members. If you turn to the back, there is a document called Excerpts from a Presentation Given to the Sudbury East Planning Board, given by three planning board members just before the official plan was passed. If you peruse this, you will see that they recommend there be greater input, more members, and also that the planning board be independent from the incorporated townships. Here's what's happening: We have an official plan, and that official plan says in essence that growth and development will be directed towards the municipalities, and obviously the municipalities are really happy about this. They're on the planning board and form the majority, so obviously they're going to vote in favour of their own interests. We need autonomy.
We ask that Bill 20 be amended to allow abutting lots, under the same ownership, to be registered once again as individual lots. There is no justification for the policy that exists, and this has been a source of anger for many years in this area and I believe throughout Ontario.
We ask that the provincial government, independent -- and this is important -- independent of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, conduct an economic study to evaluate the actual costs of rural development in northern Ontario. It is this continued belief of the ministry planners in Toronto that we are an economic burden. We want to prove we're not, so we can get on with more important things.
We ask that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, or Mr Hardeman, meet with the Sudbury East Property --
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): Thank you.
Dr Jarvis: Well, I've got to stroke you a little bit.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): You're better off meeting with Mr Hardeman, anyway.
Dr Jarvis: That's great. Mr Hardeman is probably a rural member.
Mr Gerretsen: He knows what's going on.
Dr Jarvis: Great. Well, we'd like to meet with him to discuss this brief in greater detail and we would like this group to give consideration to developing a bill of rights for Ontario so that it prevents further encroachment on property rights by the policymakers in the south.
In the back you'll find a letter from our august leader --
Interjection: August leader?
Dr Jarvis: September leader, whatever -- Mr Harris, who agrees, and says that maybe it is about time that we consider such a move.
On behalf of my association, I am most grateful for your time this morning. If you have any questions you have exactly -- how much time?
The Chair: I have just under 17 minutes.
Dr Jarvis: So you've got 15 minutes for questions.
The Chair: Just over five minutes per caucus, and the questioning will start with the official opposition this round.
Mr Gerretsen: You talk about a bill of rights. Do I assume you want property owners to basically be able to do with the property what they want, including putting in an accessory unit or a basement apartment or an extra unit for in-laws?
Dr Jarvis: First of all, what should be addressed is the fact that when you "buy" -- I use that word lightly -- a piece of property you really buy a lease for life, for eternity. You never really own the land. This has given the planners in Toronto more power, we feel, than they are entitled to in terms of, for example, severance, which I talked about.
If you look at it very carefully and if you read my brief over -- there isn't time to go into it -- we have set down certain parameters. We definitely want care of the environment. We definitely want ground rules in building structures, in quality of homes, in safety with fire and so forth. We've set those down; those are basic to us. We don't have any argument with that. But we object strenuously when policymakers make rules that have no justification and that are based on falsehoods.
Mr Gerretsen: But my question was that currently every single-family property owner has the right to build an extra unit within their residential premises, a basement apartment, okay? Now this bill's going to take this away. Do you agree with that?
Dr Jarvis: Do I agree with that? Yes, I do. I agree with it wholeheartedly, as long as certain parameters are maintained and cared for, yes.
Mr Gerretsen: So you agree that people should not be allowed to build basement apartments then?
Dr Jarvis: No, I agree that people should be allowed.
Mr Gerretsen: Should be, okay.
Dr Jarvis: I'm sorry, I'm old and stupid.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm from the south or from the east -- I'm fron the east, not from the south. Explain to me what happens from a practical viewpoint when an organized municipality wants to take over an unincorporated township. Are we talking about an amalgamation here?
Dr Jarvis: In our recommendations we have made the point that we would ask that this not be allowed.
Mr Gerretsen: I see.
Dr Jarvis: Principally because we believe that some plans are already being made by our planners in the south to merge four townships, of which my township is one, with the region of Sudbury.
Mr Gerretsen: I see. Do I understand it correctly then, and pardon my ignorance in this, that for every severance that is applied for in an unorganized territory or an unorganized township, basically the planning staff within the ministry in Toronto makes the decision on those things?
Dr Jarvis: Up until February 1 of this year, the planning board was what we termed a punching bag. They gave their recommendations either for or against approval, but the ministry, if they didn't like it, simply overruled our planning board and that was the end of it.
Mr Gerretsen: Your planning board currently is made up of three members?
Dr Jarvis: No, three members from the unincorporated and six from the incorporated merge into one.
Mr Gerretsen: All right, okay. So that's why you're always outvoted on these issues and you feel there should be equal representation on that board.
Dr Jarvis: I did not specifically say we are outvoted. I feel that initially we were outvoted in the initial development of the official plan. Subsequently, I would say no. We've got a very fine board and we have great respect for all members. I don't want to infer that there's any disregard for our planning board.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I am from about 270 miles north of here, a place called Timmins, you might have heard of.
Dr Jarvis: Oh, yes.
Mr Bisson: So I well understand what you're talking about. What I'm having a bit of difficulty following in the brief is that my understanding in working with property owners up in the Timmins area, basically people who own family farms that are no longer productive is what we're talking about in my area, is that the problem of not being able to sever off a piece of land is not so much a function of the planning board or the official plan, but more a function of the policy of the Ministry of Agriculture, that you can only sever a piece of agricultural land so many times. Isn't that really what your problem is?
Dr Jarvis: No, we have no problem with the Ministry of Agriculture because principally in this area we have no agriculture per se. You're in a unique position, that up north Mother Nature left you vast tracts of very rich land. In this area, it's rocks, rivers, swamps.
Mr Bisson: So you're not talking about agricultural land here.
Dr Jarvis: No, sir.
Mr Bisson: Okay, I thought what you were talking about was agricultural land and that's why I was having a bit of trouble following.
Dr Jarvis: No, agriculture doesn't even come into it as far as where we --
Mr Bisson: But you're talking about severing off land. That implies that people have a large piece of land they've owned for some time that they want to sever off and sell to either their family, friends or neighbours. How big are these tracts of land? What are they? Are they just estates, or what?
Dr Jarvis: We've come up with figures which were unacceptable to the planners in the south. We've come up with figures like acreages of 25 acres, 50 acres. One of our members has 350 acres.
Mr Bisson: What was that used for, that 350 acres?
Dr Jarvis: It is just lovely land. There is no lumbering on it, there is no agriculture and they want to sever off three lots for their children.
Mr Bisson: So it was 350 acres that was purchased some time ago --
Dr Jarvis: Twenty years ago, sir.
Mr Bisson: -- just as a piece of residential property; it had no other use.
Dr Jarvis: That is correct. But they purchased it because they had three young children at the time. The children now, 20 years later, are grown up and they want to move on to the farm.
Mr Bisson: Just so that I follow, because your problem here is very different from the one we're experiencing up in Timmins, what you're telling me is that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs won't allow that 350-acre lot to be severed at all -- once, twice. In agricultural land, I can sever off a chunk -- I think it's once or twice in the lifetime of myself -- and pass it on to my family or sell it or do whatever. Is it the same kind of problem you're having?
Dr Jarvis: You see, we're under what is known as growth and settlement policy, which evolved from the John Sewell commission. You will see if you look at the back --
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Yes, dear friend.
Dr Jarvis: Yes, my dear friend John Sewell. If you look at the back, John Sewell, the growth and settlement policy, New Planning for Ontario. There it is. There are the points that are hurting us.
Mr Bisson: But you haven't been able to sever this land for years, by the sound of it. It's not just a function of Sewell or Bill 163. I'm trying to figure out, because the problem here is different, but what you're saying is this has been a long-standing problem that no government has addressed up to this point. That's what you started off saying at the beginning. It implies that there's been a problem for some time.
Dr Jarvis: Once the Sewell report -- actually, before, I believe, in their draft stage, the planners in the south immediately imposed policy restrictions.
Mr Bisson: I understand that part of it. What I'm getting at is, prior to Bill 163, were you able to sever off that -- the guy who had the 165-acre piece of land, could he sever it off prior to Bill 163?
Dr Jarvis: Prior to 1992, yes.
Mr Bisson: He could have severed it. So it was a function of Bill 163 that --
Dr Jarvis: Well, no, it was Sewell. Bill 163 came in just last year, 1995.
Mr Bisson: The other thing you talked about -- I think I need a little bit of explanation -- was you want less reliance on government as an individual and as an organization, but you're talking about increasing your representation on the planning board from three to six. That sounds like more government, not less, to me. I wonder if you can explain that.
Dr Jarvis: If you look at the planning board members, they're not paid. They're volunteers and they're local, as opposed to more interference by ministry personnel.
Mr Bisson: But the point I'm getting at here is that if you've got a municipality that makes up 90%, 95% of the total population of the area, to give the outlying areas an equal number of say, don't you see some sort of problem there in regard to and towards the representation?
Dr Jarvis: I think you have to understand that what we're asking for is representation of the people. Right now, eight or nine unincorporated townships are represented by one person, for example. Another person on the board really has interests in the French River community even though this person represents the unincorporated townships. We're saying that we're not getting representation of the other townships. If you look at the map at the front --
Mr Bisson: Yes, I was looking at that.
Dr Jarvis: For example, I don't know whether you can see, but if you look around, there's Markstay, there's Hagar. In that area there, there really isn't somebody representing us.
Mr Bisson: So there's nobody representing that area. Do I have time for one last note?
Mr Hardeman: Thank you for your presentation. I recognize the problem that exists in the unorganized territories as it relates to planning and having Queen's Park being the planning authority for the area, but I just want to make sure we clarify that the policy statements as they relate to Bill 20 are in fact going in the direction of giving more opportunities in the unorganized territories than were previously available in the policy statements for Bill 163. You realize that.
Dr Jarvis: That's where I'm concerned, sir, because if you read very carefully, what happens is that, yes, for the unincorporated there is, "You can sever." You can. You can sever if you want to live in strip-mall type of development; if you want to live in a little settlement area, you can; if you want to go into the municipalities and live in the village of, say, Warren, you can, no problem. What we want also to balance out this is to be able to live and have severance, lot creations, on an irregular basis throughout the land. We don't want to be packed into strip-mall type of development.
I'm sorry; I get emotional.
Mr Hardeman: Just to make sure I've got it clear, you're not suggesting this is being more restrictive than the former policy statements. You're suggesting we should go much further than we're going.
Dr Jarvis: Just a tad. Just recognize the unincorporated townships. Listen, let's look at the perspective. We're talking no more than 20 severances a year. The planners in the south will have you believe that the whole region of Sudbury is going to rush out to Wanup to live. That's not the truth. We are losing. We've got a population decline.
Dr Jarvis: Yes, that's right.
Mr Murdoch: Thank you for your brief. I certainly appreciate that. I don't know if you know, but in my position as parliamentary assistant for Northern Development and Mines I've been travelling in the north, and this is a problem all over in the unorganized or unincorporated townships. I'm surprised my friend from Timmins doesn't understand that when talking about farm severances. But yes, this has to be incorporated, this has been all over, and I agree 100% with you about what the planners say in Toronto; they've been doing it to rural Ontario for years.
Dr Jarvis: Thank you, sir.
Mr Murdoch: Unless they change, and that's our job, to change their minds, and if we don't we'll have to do something else, maybe hit them over the head with a two by four, because they certainly need that. I agree 100% with what you're saying.
All over northern Ontario we've had this problem. I was in Dryden and that area last week, same problem: "Oh no, you can't develop out there, you'll be a burden on somebody in Toronto, sitting down in Scarborough or somewhere." We've really had this problem, and I won't blame only the last government; it has built up over the last 10 years and maybe even before that. But Sewell did screw up everything. He didn't understand. He'd never been out of Toronto in his life. They gave him a bicycle and told him to head north and he ended up in Sudbury one day and he said, "Cool."
I'll tell you, that was a real disaster in the planning area and we've been living with it ever since and we have to change it. That's one thing we're going to have to change, our policies for the unorganized or unincorporated municipalities in northern Ontario, because they're having a hell of a time. I agree with you 100%.
Dr Jarvis: I really appreciate that.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Thank you for the presentation and recognizing maybe we should have gone a little further with Bill 20 rather than the opposition saying no, it's all wrong.
I was interested in and compliment you on your supply-demand type of balance that you're suggesting looking at. I would like you to expand maybe a little more on the concern about the cost of development in the north, the concern in the south about the cost of development in the north. This is a new twist. Sitting in Toronto for five days of hearings, this certainly never came forward. It's one of the reasons we're on the road. Could you give me just a little more feeling as to what's going on there, what you think should happen or how a study should be carried out.
Dr Jarvis: In my estimation, from talking to Pamela Blais, a relatively inexpensive study would mean maybe $30,000 just to merely show that development in the unincorporated townships is in fact a bonus to the province. I contacted, for example, the Ontario Provincial Police, and the cost per person to police our areas is much lower, principally because there is very little crime in our area and their job mainly is patrolling the provincial highways and accident investigation and traffic control.
We've talked to our roads boards. We've done assessments. The government only gives us $160 per person for our roads, but if you talk to the ministry personnel, they throw out all kinds of figures. They say: "Well, my God, you guys are demanding that these roads are paved. What happens if two more families come on your road? Well, we might need another school bus." All kinds of blue-sky bad omens that we're saddled with.
All we're saying, Dr Galt, is, hey, we'll pay our way. If that's the problem to give us democracy, we'll pay our way; no problem.
Mr Galt: You don't need a study. Just listen to the people from the north and it'll be quite all right.
Dr Jarvis: Well, the figures are there for common sense.
Mr Galt: Similar to rural Ontario, a lot of comparisons.
Dr Jarvis: Yes.
The Chair: With that, our time is up. I appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation before us, Dr Jarvis.
TOWNSHIP OF RATTER AND DUNNET
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the corporation of the township of Ratter and Dunnet. Good morning.
Mr Alex Dure: Good morning, honourable Chairman, ladies and gentlemen. This morning I would like to discuss with you our main concerns with respect to Bill 20 and its intended provincial policy statement.
I'm representing the township of Ratter and Dunnet, which is a small municipality of approximately 1,250 people located about 65 kilometres east of Sudbury on Highway 17. The community is comprised of two village areas, Warren and Hagar, as well as rural sections in each of Ratter and Dunnet townships. We do not have any major industries, like most small, rural northern municipalities; therefore we must rely heavily on our residential assessment base to provide the resources needed to remain self-sufficient.
Our main concern involves the provincial infilling and minimum distance separate policies. The following will highlight our position:
(1) Rural areas have historically been perceived as the country, which is the opposite of urban living. The privacy and distance are what attract people to rural areas. The provincial policies make it extremely difficult for our small communities to offer and provide this way of life.
(2) It is our belief that the infilling policy will create new settlement areas, which is not what the rural areas were intended for. Such settlement areas will ultimately begin requesting services such as sewer and water and so forth, and the other urban services that the municipalities simply cannot afford.
(3) We also believe that by keeping rural development to settlement areas, we leave the property owners with the potential of contamination from a neighbour's septic system. If such properties were more separate and a septic system were to leak, then the leakage is more likely to remain on their own property rather than contaminate anyone else's.
(4) The definition of residential infilling means the creation of a residential lot between two existing non-farm residences which are on separated lots of a similar size and which are situated on the same side of the road and are not more than 100 metres apart. Why does a new lot have to be on the same side of the road as the other developed lots? The plow plows both sides of the road, the school buses pass by both sides of the road, and even rural route mail travels up both sides of the road.
The second part of this policy relates to the maximum distance between two lots. Let's take, for example, a road which is 1,000 metres in length and has four lots within the first 500, and one lot at the end of the road, 500 metres away. According to this policy, no new residential lots can be created after the first 500 metres because there would be another 500 metres to the last lot on the road. The municipality plows this road and a school bus travels the entire road to transport children to school. If such services are already being provided, how can you deny another lot for residential construction?
(5) Such policies have and will continue to restrict growth in our community. Our village areas, where development is permitted and encouraged, are landlocked by land that is privately owned and not readily available for development at an affordable price. Even if it was, we have had no interest for the urban development. Rather, the interest lies in the rural and country setting. We have many retired farmers and property owners who wish to sever and transfer a portion of their lots to their children. We cannot provide these people with such an opportunity and we cannot increase our assessment base because the policies restrict the very development that would provide the increase.
Our other concern involves the housing policy that provides for facilitating residential redevelopment in parts of built-up areas that have sufficient existing or planned infrastructure. We are concerned, again, with the restriction of growth, as the only area that has sufficient existing infrastructure is our village area. We have no planned infrastructure, as there are no financial resources available to provide such services. I ask then, where is the room for our municipality to grow? How do we increase our assessment base or financial situation with such restrictions and policies?
With regard to Bill 20 itself, we applaud the changing of "be consistent with" to "have regard to." We hope that this will solve some of the problems that we have been experiencing since the adoption of the infamous Bill 163.
We have noticed that the township of Pelee has received consent granting authority under section 28 of the bill. We strongly believe that consent-granting authority should be handled by a local level, especially here in the north, as it is not a provincial matter. How can a bureaucrat in Toronto be more knowledgeable about the needs and decisions of the north? The province's new overall policy has been to transfer its many responsibilities to those who really should be handling them. We hope that consent-granting authority will become one of them. We are in fact hoping to receive such authority in the near future.
The people in the north like the quiet, rural country living. We do not want to become cities, as we do not want to live like those in the south. However, we do need a larger assessment base to maintain the minimal services we currently provide, especially now since the provincial government has reduced or eliminated various grant programs. We feel that the aforementioned policies are too restrictive and prohibit growth in the north. How can the north boost its economy with such restrictions? It is time to treat the north as the north and not as the south. We have different interests and different lifestyles. We urge you to either change provincial policies or let us develop our own policies that will allow us to maintain these lifestyles.
On behalf of the township of Ratter and Dunnet, I would like to thank you for taking the time to hear our concerns.
The Chair: Thank you. You've left us approximately seven minutes per caucus for questioning. The questioning this time will commence with the third party.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Thank you for your presentation. I'm from the south so I'm listening as intently as possible to details of your concerns because I don't have a natural understanding of it in terms of my own personal experience. But I'm a little confused, and maybe you can help me, with regard to the position that you do not want the policy decisions to be made in the south in the ministries, in the government, in Queen's Park because, if I'm understanding correctly, your feeling is they don't truly understand what your needs are and you've got someone who is foreign to your way of living making decisions that affect your lives. Then you also make the point that you don't have any planned infrastructure, for good reason: You don't have the money. But you don't have any planned infrastructure and you point that out as a weakness, and I find that somewhat contradictory. Can you help me?
Mr Dure: There's no planned infrastructure in the village of Warren at this particular time. We have lots that could be sold. We have sewer and water in Warren. But people don't want to move from, say, Sudbury or Sturgeon Falls or North Bay to Warren to another small lot. What people are asking for is some acreage so they can have a horse or something. This is not prime agricultural land I'm talking about; it's rock and hummock and brush and so forth. You could put a nice house on it and live there and have some acreage.
Mr Christopherson: Okay. I guess my question, though, is, if part of your concern is that you don't have planned infrastructure up here because you don't have the financial resources, which I fully understand --
Mr Dure: No, no.
Mr Christopherson: No, that's wrong? Or no, you don't?
Mr Dure: No, we don't have any planned -- you mean for the outlying areas?
Mr Christopherson: I'm just reading from your brief. It says, "We have no planned infrastructure, as there are no financial resources available to provide for such services." That's fine, because then you go on to say, "I ask, then, where is there room for our municipality to grow?" I derive from this that you think there needs to be some kind of planned infrastructure. I guess I'm questioning, if it's not happening here because you don't have the resources, yet you feel that is an effective tool you need, and it doesn't get done at Queen's Park because you don't want someone who doesn't live up here making those decisions, how does it happen?
Mr Dure: We've got to have Queen's Park, there's no doubt about that, but we would like to have input anyway to these decisions. We were whacked with a lot of restrictions all of a sudden in the last few years: You can't sever your lots, you can't do this. It's a very negative idea, the whole thing. Before, we were able to sever lots, you could build houses. Several have been built, and people are very happy there. Then all of a sudden we could do this no more. They brought in the Sudbury east planning board and from then on it was no, no, no, no. We hardly got any consents at all. Last year, I guess there was one or two, that's about all, the whole year.
Mr Bisson: I'd like to follow up on what my colleague Mr Christopherson talked about. In your brief, your other concern "involves the housing policy that provides for facilitating residential redevelopment in parts of built-up areas that have sufficient existing or planned infrastructure." Are you suggesting that housing density should be encouraged to be built where you don't have planned infrastructure?
Mr Dure: This is where we're looking. With the present in-filling policy, if you have a house here and a house there and 100 metres in between, you can put one.
Mr Bisson: No, I'm going off your brief here. There is a policy in the province that basically says that if a municipality is going to allow residential development of one type or another, apartments or whatever it is, you do that within an area that is serviced by water and sewer or an area that will be serviced by water and sewer. I take it that what you're saying here is that this should be discouraged. I see that it could cost us a lot of money in the long run.
Mr Dure: We're not going to discourage it. But we've got lots of water, and everybody could have their wells.
Mr Bisson: Oh, okay.
Mr Dure: If you put them close together, the wells are liable to get contaminated and this and that. If they're far apart, there's no danger of that.
Mr Bisson: So you're talking about country living.
Mr Dure: Country living only.
Mr Bisson: You're not talking about developments of housing around built-up areas?
Mr Dure: No. No, not at all.
Mr Bisson: In regard to the change of policy itself, where the government is now going to you have to "have regard for" provincial policy versus what we had put in place, which is a consistency provision, I have a bit of a concern. I can understand why the government is doing it. I don't agree with it, but I understand their logic. They want to allow more autonomy at the local level in order to allow planning to happen. We understand what they're trying to do there.
But isn't there a danger? For an example, I've worked with a lot of developments up in the Timmins area, where developers have wanted to invest money somewhere in northern Ontario, they don't know where initially, so they go around shopping. If you allow municipalities to change the requirements according to what's happening within the local economy, aren't you sort of encouraging a ratcheting down of standards that would be set in regard to what makes good planning and what makes good construction, so one municipality would be sort of competing against the other by lowering its standards or lowering its requirements? Isn't there a danger in that?
Mr Dure: I don't look at it that way at all. We have the building code to go by. The people will have to put up nice buildings and everything.
Mr Bisson: Building codes are not so much the issue; the issue is the provincial policy. For example, there are policies around woodlots, where one developer may say, "Well, I have $1 million that I want to invest between Timmins, Sudbury and North Bay." They find a piece of land, let's say, around Sudbury that's a woodlot, but provincial policy might not allow them to do the kind of development they want, and the municipality would have the ability to say, "We just have to have regard for this policy, we don't have to be consistent with it, and we'll do something a little bit different to make it work," to where you would be forcing municipalities to lower their standards in order to attract the investment.
Isn't there a danger in that some of the areas that we are concerned about as northerners -- as you are, I'm concerned about making sure that the environment we've inherited up here is still there for our children and our grandchildren. Are you worried that could be put in danger?
Mr Dure: I don't see very much danger of it right at the present time. Maybe over a number of years it could be, I don't know, but at the present time I can't see it.
Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): Thank you for your presentation. I just want to pick up on a point that my colleague had raised, and that's with respect to the government changes from "consistent with" to "have regard to." I think over the last week we've heard a number of groups argue that we've tipped the balance in favour of development and at the expense of the environment. You've adequately argued that you're supportive of that change, based on the ability to have increased flexibility in your decision-making, and I think that's very positive.
In your brief, you alluded to some other concerns that you had with the "infamous Bill 163," to use your words. Perhaps you could share with the committee the types of challenges that you faced with respect to that legislation and how you see the changes in the bill moving us away from those encumbrances.
Mr Dure: We have had a number of people wanting severances. They had quite a bit of land, say 360 acres or something like that. They wanted to leave it to their children or grandchildren or somebody, give each a lot. We couldn't sever that for them. I believe this bill should allow that. If it does, that's a great boost for us.
Mr Smith: I think, certainly from the last presenter as well, what you're saying is you're looking for the ability to make some decisions in the consent process. Interestingly enough, you're arguing against the consolidated growth pattern to some extent. I think you want some flexibility there, not to be confined.
Mr Dure: That's right.
Mr Smith: I think that's really what we're trying to achieve with the bill. In your view, how do we address or bridge the problem? We're seeing distinctions between north-and-south, Toronto-Sudbury types of solutions. Where do we find the solution to that problem?
Mr Dure: That's kind of a difficult question. Down in that area, it's built up all over and there are many, many people; here we're very sparsely populated, and when somebody wants to do something, we've got to let them do something or we've got nothing; whereas down there, if they don't do it, it doesn't matter, really, there are so many more. But here we're very thinly spread out, and when someone wants to do something, if it's within reason, I don't see why he shouldn't be able to do it.
Mr Hardeman: I'd just like to go to the issue of your infilling problem. I think it does relate somewhat to the difference between northern Ontario and southern Ontario. As I read the policy, in southern Ontario, where we do not encourage strip development and developing along all the roads, this discourages that and says that you cannot develop a lot unless it is between two existing lots. The people in southern Ontario generally would tend to believe that's an asset, that that's one place they can get a severance, where they may not be able to get it on other occasions. We come to northern Ontario, and the first thing we hear is that this is perceived to be a detriment, not an asset, that that's where they would have to build.
One of the concerns, and I think you dealt with it somewhat in your brief, deals with servicing the development that exists or future development. Do you not see even in northern Ontario a problem, if you do not put some kind of control on strip development, that the day may come when you have large strip developments that do require servicing and it becomes financially impossible to service that area because you've allowed or have done the development along the road, as opposed to a confined area? Do you not see that as a problem for our future generations?
Mr Dure: Oh, not for a long, long time, because the lots we would like to see would be lots maybe of 80 acres or something like that, not close by. If you have the infilling policy, then you could run into a big problem like that. But if they're not neck and neck like many places in the south, we've got good water and lots of it, and I don't see any danger of that for a long time.
Mr Hardeman: You perceive the policy statement to say that the infilling is the only development that would be taking place in your municipality?
Mr Dure: Right at the present time, pretty close.
Mr Hardeman: I would suggest that the intent is not to limit development to infilling. Infilling is based on encouraging full use of the land as opposed to leaving blocks between the two.
So I think there are opportunities beyond that in the other policies that would allow other types of development that wouldn't be restricted to strictly infilling development. Obviously, when a municipality has a house or a structure on both sides of a municipality, everything in between becomes infilling at one time or another.
Mr Dure: Oh yes, at one time or another.
Mr Hardeman: I would encourage you to look at that, and I think there is room for further development other than just infilling within the policy.
Mr Dure: Yes, there would be. Sure. Whatever comes, we need it.
Mr Hardeman: And we want to help you get it.
Mr Gerretsen: Just to follow up on that for a second, you're saying there's so much land out here that if somebody wants to build on an 80-acre lot, they should be allowed to, and if somebody wants to live in one of the little villages on an infilling lot, they should be allowed to as well.
Mr Dure: Sure.
Mr Gerretsen: And the province shouldn't direct it either one way or the other.
Mr Dure: That's right.
Mr Gerretsen: And so far, they've been directing it towards the infilling side, which is what people don't want because they don't want to live on small lots, because if they did, they'd live in Sudbury.
Mr Dure: Exactly.
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): Does your township have its own planning board or official plan?
Mr Dure: It did; we have our own official plan. We were under the planning board and we opted out of the planning board the first of the year.
Mr Lalonde: I'm surprised to hear that when you talk of infilling lots, construction is allowed on one side of the street and it's not allowed on the other side. I could see your comments here that are justifiable, that buses, school buses are going on that same road, the snow plowing is done at the same time. But I don't know; like my colleague John Gerretsen just said, if you cannot sever a piece of land of 80 acres, I'm really surprised. It must be quite different from the south or the eastern part of Ontario.
One thing I notice, though, is that it doesn't always pay a municipality to have a lot of residential settlement within the municipality, because if you don't have the commercial-industrial base, every time you build a house it adds your expenses to the municipality; recreation, everything adds up together at the end. But sometimes infilling lots for your family and all those relatives is something that should be considered.
I'm surprised to see that it is the province that controls the severance in this area. I thought the whole thing was done by a local planning board according to the official plan that is prepared for your corporation or your municipality.
Mr Dure: We have our own official plan, and our own official plan isn't bad.
Mr Lalonde: The government always comes up with some guidelines, but it is left to the planner, whom the municipality hires, to prepare the official plan to meet the requirements of your municipality.
Mr Dure: We've had problems.
Mr Lalonde: Not here. It is controlled by the province.
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I have a very brief question here. You mention septic tanks and the possibility of leakage. Is that a common occurrence in this area?
Mr Dure: Once in a while it will happen and it may have to be maintained. People have to maintain their septic tanks, yes.
Mr Hoy: I'm not familiar with the amount of topsoil in the township you're talking about, but how much would you have there? Adequate, or are we talking about very shallow amounts of topsoil?
Mr Dure: It's got to be adequate or they're not allowed to put a septic system on it. The Ministry of Health looks after that.
Mr Hoy: They would look into it. Are these septic tanks known as raised-bed septic tanks, or do you know what they call them?
Mr Dure: Raised beds.
Mr Hoy: Are they above ground or below ground?
Mr Dure: All below ground. The tank itself is below, everything is below ground. The tile field and everything is below ground.
Mr Hoy: In my riding we have a problem with septic tanks ongoing, and I've been talking to the minister to try and make some changes to help them out. The septic tanks in my area either leak, don't work or freeze. I wanted to ask you about this as well, because certainly the minister will be looking at a provincial aspect, no doubt. I thank you for your comments.
Mr Gerretsen: Do any of these planners from Toronto ever come down into your township?
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Come up.
Mr Gerretsen: Come up, come up, yes. Do they ever come up and take a look around to know what they're talking about?
Mr Dure: I don't know. We've had some people in from the ministry and one thing and another. They all had the same idea, from what I heard anyway.
Mr Gerretsen: What is that idea? That they want to develop it like the south?
Mr Dure: Bill 163 was the order of the day and we couldn't do anything.
The Chair: Thank you, Councillor Dure. We appreciate your taking the time to make a representation before us here this morning.
Mr Dure: Thank you very much for your time.
SUDBURY AND DISTRICT HOME BUILDERS' ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next presentation will be the Sudbury and District Home Builders' Association. We have 30 minutes for you to use as you see fit, divided between presentation and question-and-answer time.
Ms Celia Teale: Good morning, and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to comment before you. My name is Celia Teale, and I am past president of Sudbury and District Home Builders' Association. I currently sit on the executive committee for the Ontario Home Builders' Association as secretary.
The Sudbury and District Home Builders' Association represents 68 member companies and is one of 35 locals represented in the province. I understand that this committee has already heard from our local in Toronto and from our provincial association.
Among the presentations already made and those to follow, it should become clear that the amendments contained in Bill 20 are changes that our industry support. This theme of support should be evident. However, I believe there are a couple of issues that I should take a few moments to focus on.
There is a strong need for change within the planning system towards a more streamlined approach, and Bill 20 goes a long way to identify many of our areas of concern.
First of all, the change in philosophy back to the "have regard to" provincial policies will go a long way in promoting the responsible planning we have all come to expect. Planning should be a process of balancing competing interests.
If interests compete or are in conflict with one another, then it becomes difficult to make decisions that are consistent with such policies. Responsible land use planning has to, and must, address a wide range of interests. The "have regard to" framework will allow planners the ability to balance interests. For example, common sense tells us that the more you restrict and limit development, the more expensive land becomes. As the price of land increases, the goal of affordable housing becomes more difficult to achieve. This does not mean that one goal should overshadow the other. It simply means that interests should be balanced. The "have regard to" framework will allow planners the flexibility to establish developments that will best serve the needs of their respective communities.
Secondly, the elimination of public hearings for subdivisions will help to increase the efficiency of the planning system, something our local is in strong support of. Public hearings are required for official plan amendments and zoning bylaws. Plans of subdivision cannot proceed without proper zoning and conformity to an official plan. Any concerns that would need addressing would have been taken care of at this stage in the process. Therefore, another costly public hearing is just not warranted at the subdivision stage.
The need for shortened time frames is also addressed in Bill 20. There are two problems that exist with the current time frames. The first problem is that the time frames have no regard for the pre-consultation phase of the application. Under the current system a developer consults extensively with various review agencies and the public in an attempt to deal with potential problems before submitting a complete application. The time frames in place today have no regard for the work that goes into an application before it is formally submitted. For this reason, the time frames in the current system are too long. The time frames outlined in Bill 20 allow plenty of time for the approval authority to make a decision and should be maintained.
We also support the elimination of prematurity as a grounds for dismissing appeals. Although our industry welcomed attempts to screen out frivolous appeals, the prematurity scenario in the current system is not what we anticipated, nor is it required. Under the present system a municipality can refuse to refer an appeal and the Ontario Municipal Board can dismiss an appeal without a hearing on the basis of prematurity. I submit to you that ample safeguards are present in the system to ensure that development does not outpace essential services. The issue of prematurity is a fundamental planning issue and should not be decided without the benefit of an appeal.
I would now like to focus on one issue that needs further attention in Bill 20, the concept of draft approval. Since 1989 the province has stated an interest in ensuring that there is a sufficient supply of building lots on stream to meet demand. The problem our industry is facing is that draft approval now does little to ensure that draft-approved lots will actually become building lots. Over time, draft approval has become less meaningful. Draft conditions of subdivision can be changed right up to the time of final approval. The rules that everyone started out respecting can change at a moment's notice. This means that the time and energy expended in getting a plan of subdivision draft-approved can be wiped out with one change to the draft conditions. We stress that limits have to be placed on the changing of draft conditions. Changes should be limited to the land owner and should relate to the initial conditions attached to the draft approval.
Comments relating to the planning amendments of Bill 20, in my opinion, have now been addressed. I would now like to take a moment to comment on the amendments outlined in Bill 20 relating to the Development Charges Act.
Since the act was passed in 1989 our industry has seen and predicted the negative impacts such legislation would have on our industry, home buyers and tenants. The policies associated with the formation of development charges were formulated in a time of unprecedented growth. These policies are out of sync with market conditions today. Many municipalities, including some within our region, have tried to rejuvenate the housing market by taking measures to reduce or eliminate development charges. The amendments outlined in Bill 20 provide the groundwork for a fundamental review of the Development Charges Act, something our industry is in strong support of.
Thank you for your kind attention. I would be happy to answer any questions.
The Chair: Thank you for your presentation. Questioning this time will commence with the government.
Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): Thank you very much for a very clear brief; you did a terrific job of putting it together.
You talked in the beginning about the balance that's needed between the different interests. Is it your association's feeling that this bill has struck that correct balance?
Ms Teale: Yes. Number one, we strongly believe that under Bill 163 there were so many conflicting policies, and the "be consistent with" did not allow the opportunity for municipalities or developers to know the rules that they could play by. Number two, in our opinion, responsible planning is a balancing of interests, and by achieving the "have regard to" framework, going back to that, you can do that because it provides a little bit more flexibility.
Mr Carr: Your association, what would you like to see happen in terms of the development charges? What should the government do?
Ms Teale: In terms of the development charges, we would like a complete reworking of the whole act. Prior to development charges we had what was termed lot levies, which were more related to hard services. What has happened under development charges is, fees kept increasing and increasing, adding to the cost of new housing, just making it totally unaffordable. So what municipalities are faced with now is a lower tax base because they're not getting any new housing.
In the Sudbury region alone, we experienced half of the housing starts in 1995 that we did in 1994, and 1994 was a terrible year. So municipalities are trying to fight for tax dollars and they're not getting the tax dollars, and they're not getting any revenue from the development charges to begin with. Nothing from nothing is nothing. So you're better off trying to rework that whole act and see if some balance can be struck there.
Mr Carr: You also commented a little bit on the draft approval, and I just want to get a clear sense of what you'd like to see in that area. You made some comments. How would you like to see that changed?
Ms Teale: What's happened with draft approval over the years is, a developer in the past could go to the bank with draft approval and basically say, "I've gone this far in the planning system. I have draft approval," and it would mean something. Today what has happened is it's very difficult to finance draft-approved lots simply because sewer and water capacity can be stripped away from them. The rules of draft approval can change. Conditions can change on a daily basis right up until the plan is deposited and registered in the registry office. So there's no guarantee any more that the four or five years you've spent going through the system have gotten you anywhere.
Mr Carr: Just in the broad sense, with some of these changes plus what's happened in the economy and so on, what do you see happening to your industry over the next little while? Are you confident, or what do you see coming up over the next little while?
Ms Teale: I think that with the changes that are proposed within Bill 20 a lot of the problems that Bill 163 brought about will be addressed, and I think that the environment for our industry will become a little bit better. Hopefully with the review of the Development Charges Act, that will help us as well.
Mr Carr: Thank you very much and good luck.
The Chair: Forgive me; I neglected to mention there are seven minutes per caucus for questioning in this round.
Mr Hardeman: I want to go back to Mr Carr's comments about your position on the development charges and what you think would be appropriate. I think, from your presentation, the underlying part you are putting forward is that maybe presently the development charges are too high and on too many entities and so forth. Could you tell us what you would perceive the appropriate development charges to be, not in dollars, but in where they should be levied and where they should not be?
Ms Teale: I think in times such as these, where we're under extreme fiscal restraint, we have to look at priorities, and to me priorities should be the basic services. I don't think we should be going out and buying furniture for public buildings or supplying libraries if there isn't a need there or a tax base to support that. We should go back to the philosophy of, let's get sewer and water to people who need it and let's address the concerns over roads or whatever, more of the hard services, and strip away the soft services.
What's happening is it's just doubling up and doubling up. Under the Planning Act, a developer gives 5% parkland dedication, but under the Development Charges Act they're hunting for more money in terms of arenas, you name it. There's a whole gamut of things that are included in the Development Charges Act that in our opinion just shouldn't be there.
Mr Hardeman: One of the other problems or one of the things that has been brought to our attention is that under the development charges, not only may it be charged on too many entities, but that there's also a problem with how the money is spent at the end of the day. You mentioned buying furniture and so forth. Do you see it as a problem, does your organization see it as a problem, that there is not enough accountability, that even though it was collected for libraries, the right type of library and the right type of service is built in the appropriate place? Do you think there's a need to strengthen the accountability for municipalities, or do you feel that's fairly well covered off?
Ms Teale: I think there's a need for more accountability, because you can ask the question of where the money's going, but you have no guarantee of where it is actually going and how it is being spent and if it's being spent in the right areas of town.
The Chair: You have one minute left.
Mr Hardeman: Again on the same thing, do you believe it's important that it is actually spent in the area of town that it was charged for rather than in the total infrastructure of the whole municipality?
Ms Teale: I think you have to determine need and access and location for certain facilities, but where a library is located or if furniture is bought for public buildings or things of that nature, I don't see a net benefit across the board to taxpayers. I just feel there is an extreme burden placed on new home buyers because they're paying for what they get today. The developer is putting in all the services. They're getting brand-new services. They're paying for their lots. They're paying for the house they're in. Their tax bill is higher in general than older areas of town, so they are paying for what they are getting today. They're paying for repairs that might have to be made in another area of town, but they're also putting money in the bank for the future to be spent at a moment's notice somewhere down the line. To me, that's just an extreme burden to place on any home buyer, and it's placed on tenants as well. It doesn't stop at the new home buyer, because any new rental buildings that are built under development charges are subject to that as well. So the cost of housing is just skyrocketing with no control.
The Chair: Next is the official opposition.
Mr Gerretsen: Well, that's of course where the irony is. This government says that it wants to give municipalities more local autonomy. They're basically doing that because they're no longer giving them the same grants as they have traditionally done. Yet they won't allow municipalities to, in effect, set their own development charges.
What we're really talking about, I mean, assuming that local councils are accountable -- if we can't agree on that, then there's not sense talking about this -- and they make the best decisions possible for their community, which may be a library, which may be more water and sewer, which may be building a new road or whatever -- okay? -- what it really boils down to is whether or not the people who move into the houses, because of the development charges that have been levied against your organization, are going to pay slightly more or whether or not those services are going to be paid over the general tax base in a community. What you're basically saying is: "Don't bug our industry with it. Get it from the general taxpayer." That's the bottom line of the whole thing, isn't it?
In the long run, it really doesn't matter whether that money is spent right in that subdivision or right in that neighbourhood. I mean, presumably the councils, if they weren't to take that money and spend it in that subdivision, would take some other municipal money and do that.
I have some great difficulty with your argument here, especially when you admit that in order to rejuvenate the housing market, some municipalities have already eliminated some of these development charges. So I come to the viewpoint that if a municipality realizes none of the lots is selling and being developed because the development charges are too high, they're lowering them. It's a question of supply and demand, isn't it? I can't understand how the Conservatives, who are great believers in supply and demand and letting the marketplace determine the price of a lot, can possibly be against it.
Ms Teale: There's a whole gamut of things that you can look at, whether you want to go to a user-fee system where people pay for the certain services they get or you even it out across the tax base. I just don't understand that -- like, for years and years tax revenue was utilized within a municipality and services were met.
Mr Gerretsen: And there were no development charges specifically.
Ms Teale: No. Whatever was charged was charged simply for hard services which were, in my opinion, a priority. Now what's happening is, people are forced to amortize $8,000, $10,000, $12,000 into the life of their mortgage to pay for a development charge, which is a tax, in my opinion, that's totally unfair.
Mr Gerretsen: And you're saying it should be shared by the whole tax base?
Ms Teale: Yes.
Mr Gerretsen: I can understand that. Let me ask you this --
Mr Carr: Are you convinced?
Mr Gerretsen: No, but that's the main argument. What the industry is basically saying is, "Don't saddle us with it." We could agree with that or not agree with that. At least, I can understand your viewpoint. I don't necessarily agree with you.
The other question I have, though, deals with the real time lags in the whole development process. That's the thing that I keep coming back to, and I'm sure that the committee is sick and tired of hearing about it, but where there are 20 days for appeal, 30 days for appeal, 60 days to react, 90 days to react, isn't it a fact that in most developments, when you take the time that it takes an application to go through the planning staff and the board and city council and the various ministries in Toronto -- I know; I used to phone them and three months later, after they'd received the file, they still haven't opened one up and looked at it -- isn't that where the real time lags in the development industry are? They've got nothing to do with the time restraints contained in the act; it's more the administrative delays. Wouldn't you agree with that?
Ms Teale: There are administrative delays, but if you give the province 180 days to comment on something versus giving it 30 or 60 days, it makes a big difference. I believe strongly that part of the problem is that planning should come down to a more local level. To me, for an official plan amendment for any part of this region to end up in Toronto when there's somebody there who doesn't live with the local conditions and is going to comment, of course it's going to take him longer than it would somebody right here and now. That's one problem; it should become more localized. And if the time lines were more condensed, we wouldn't be facing five or six or seven years to get things --
Mr Gerretsen: I think it would also help, especially since we're going to use the one-window approach now, if the protocol that exists between the various ministries in reporting to the Ministry of Housing were clearly set out so that everybody -- the general public, the municipalities and the development industry -- would know what that internal process is, because a lot of people have concerns about that.
Finally, I want to ask something very briefly about subdivisions. The rezonings are handled in different ways. In some municipalities, when a rezoning is done there are some very great detailed plans and at the public meeting people would know what's coming. In other municipalities, I would suggest, when an official plan amendment is made and a rezoning is done, it is done in a much looser fashion whereby the general public, especially the public in the immediate area, really doesn't get a clear look at what the actual development proposal is for a piece of land, which you only get when you get a subdivision plan.
I don't know what the practice is here in Sudbury, but in my area around Kingston, you've got two completely different municipalities doing it in totally different ways. One wants very detailed plans at the rezoning; another does not. I'm just wondering how fair it is to the public in cases where those rezoning plans aren't that detailed, if you didn't have a public meeting at the subdivision process.
Ms Teale: The majority of concerns, from my experience locally anyway -- I work for a developer, and before we submit an application, we go to the public and we have a plan and we go through it. But the level of detail that goes into a plan of subdivision I don't think has broad-ranging, sweeping concerns for the whole community. Whether you have 10 50-foot lots or 12 50-lot lots, it's not going to have an overall impact on that neighbourhood. Most of the concerns raised are at the official plan stage and the zoning bylaw, because the density and everything else is addressed at those stages. To me, to tack on another public hearing at the subdivision stage just is not warranted.
Mr Gerretsen: But on the other hand, you do agree that the developers should go out and meet with the general public in that area as quickly as possible, and usually that's a very positive experience because you know exactly what the public is thinking about it before you get too deeply into it.
Ms Teale: I think that occurs in most of the cases, I really do. If you own a piece of land and you want to get through the system as quickly as possible, you're going to make darn sure you're out there in the community and letting everybody know what's happening and what you want to do.
Mr Gerretsen: You must work for a good developer, then, because it isn't always done that way.
Mr Bisson: Just for the record, because it was just a nod rather than an actual yes, you're saying that rather than having the development charges for soft services be borne by the mortgagee, the person who buys the building, you would rather see that in the form of tax, through the broader-based assessment of the tax system.
Ms Teale: Tax or user fees or things of that nature.
Mr Bisson: A user fee would be a development charge, would it not?
Ms Teale: Not to the same extent.
Mr Bisson: Anyway, what it comes down to is that you're saying that as a developer you shouldn't be responsible for that, that it should be a function of the municipality and put it over the tax base. Rather than me putting it in my mortgage for 15 or 20 years, whatever my mortgage is, we spread it out over the base of the tax system.
Ms Teale: That's how we've done it for years.
Mr Bisson: One of the things that bothered me in your presentation was the whole question of accountability. I must have misheard you, and I just want you to clarify. You were citing the example of a new subdivision being developed and the concerns about the development charges on soft services being applied for the construction of things like arenas or libraries and stuff. You worried about the accountability of the decisions about what type of facility needs to be built, how big it has to be, what kind of furniture a parliamentary assistant needs to go in it etc. You're worried about accountability. I wonder if you could elaborate on that.
Ms Teale: The one thing the Development Charges Act tried to do was create accountability, because before that there was no accountability. What's happened now is that every time you want some form of accountability, they'll just say, "Well, 20% was spent on roads, 15% was spent on furniture," or what not. There's really no accountability for how that money is spent.
Mr Bisson: But I would argue there's an extreme amount of accountability at the local level. That's why we elect our aldermen and our mayors, to make those decisions as a municipal council about where the municipal tax dollars are going to be spent, either levied through development charges or levied through a property tax. If local people in an area think a library is too big and the municipal government blew its wad building a library, people have the right to agree or disagree through exercising their franchise and voting. Would that not be the case?
Ms Teale: Often it's too late, at that point.
Mr Bisson: That's the problem I have, and this is not directly out of your presentation, but you sort of speak to it. There's this sense that we would be better served by moving away from a democratic system where local politicians make decisions to a system where the private sector makes those decisions. There's a hell of a lot more accountability from somebody who's elected than from some developer, whoever it might be, who's not accountable to anybody but his or her shareholders. I just wanted to clarify that.
Another thing you talked about -- Mr Gerretsen touched on this -- is the whole question of public hearings on the development of subdivisions. One thing I've learned in this business, and I'm sure members who have been around here for a while or who've served at the municipal level understand, is that where the public tends to get upset in development is when something comes out of the blue and they don't know what hit them. Then the accusation is made at the developer or the council that all of this has been done behind closed doors, that there's some sort of hidden agenda here, that the subdivision is way bigger than what it actually is going to be. All kinds of rumours fly. Both you as a developer and the local politicians and the local planners end up running all over trying to assure everybody -- that is, the way it was done under the prior act -- trying to assure people of what the development is actually about.
It seems to me it would be a strength of the system to keep in Bill 20 the provision that you have to have public hearings when you're developing a subdivision. The more information you can give the public, I find, people are pretty reasonable when it comes to this kind of stuff. If you put the information in front of them and you clearly demonstrate what you want to do, people tend to take a look at that and make decisions that are pretty supportive, I've generally found. I find it curious that you support the government's zeal to take that out of the legislation. What do you have to gain out of that? I think you have more to lose.
Ms Teale: In my opinion, the zoning and the official plan for an area deal strictly with density. Here, you can't develop anything less than a 50-foot lot under the official plan. That basically tells you that when you have an R-1 zoning and --
Mr Bisson: But what I'm getting at is that when you're developing an official plan, the people living in my area, in Melrose subdivision, who might have a new part added on to the subdivision, were not involved at all through the official plan process and neither did they care. You only care when the development's about to happen.
It seems to me it's a strength for the developer, because it gives you the developer the opportunity to say to the people in that neighbourhood, "Here's what we plan on doing." People can come in, they can see what you want to do, they can look at your plans, you're able to answer questions. Then people leave with information and there's less rumour-mongering. I think to take that process away really in the long run would give you a harder time than helping you.
Ms Teale: I guess that's a matter of opinion. I'm not going to belabour the point. If you go out and you're rezoning a piece of land, chances are you have the development there. It's being handled at that public meeting anyway. You're addressing the concerns.
Mr Bisson: That's not always the case. A mining company did a project in downtown Timmins some years ago which is now called the E.R.G. hole. Basically, we've got this great big hole in the middle of the city of Timmins that's filled with slime and water because things were allowed to happen that shouldn't have happened. There were provisions by the Liberals when this all happened that there be public meetings and that people find out what's going on, and the mayor and council tried to do the same. Because people understood what the company was given -- and assurances were supposedly given -- people's concerns were not that great going in. The problem is that the bonds that were supposedly put up for this weren't actually materialized. The company went broke and the taxpayers were left on the hook.
The point I'm getting at is if that had been done behind closed doors, the public would have gone nuts, rightfully so. But because there was an openness on the part of the company, the municipality and the province to explain to people what was going on and to try to assure them that their concerns would be met, there was a lot less problem for the developer. I would say that project went ahead because of that process. If it hadn't been for that, that project would have never gone. I wonder sometimes if we would have been better off the other way.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Teale. We appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation before us today.
The Chair: Our next presentation is from Heidi Ralph. Good morning.
Mrs Heidi Ralph: Good morning, Mr Chair. I'm a resident of Secord township, an unorganized township and part of the Sudbury East planning area, and I was recently appointed to the Sudbury East Planning Board. I've been interested in the planning process for Sudbury East for about seven years.
We recently had an official plan authored, and I sat through many meetings with the authors of the plan, ministry officials, and had some supposed input into what was going to go into the plan. However, when it actually came into effect, it was quite different from what the public had thought was going to be in the plan. We organized and did get a few minor changes made, but I think people first of all didn't understand the government policies and, second, were not very happy with it.
Most people now, though, do understand that development should mainly be promoted in the municipalities and that the outlying unorganized townships are not going to be having the same kind of development a municipality has. I think that is understood now by most people.
However, the new regulations, which really must be looked at also with the provincial policies, have the effect that it actually closes down development in the unorganized townships. There will be no more severances now in the unorganized townships, and that is unacceptable for most people who live there.
We feel that our official plan only allows for very limited development only under the infill provision of the plan, which is very restrictive and is self-limiting.
Subsection 3(5), which changes the context to "having regard to" from "being consistent with," at first seems a lot like it actually allows some flexibility, which people had been hoping they would get under the new government. But that by itself is very deceptive, because you can't look at that as standing alone. You have to look at that with provincial policies, which simply will not allow for any more rural development.
We feel that for the survival of the rural areas, it would be necessary to have some growth. We're not asking for unlimited development, but we do think we need to have some new severances, some growth, in order to stay viable.
Costs are always thrown at us as a reason for hopefully emptying out the rural areas. We're always being told, "You're too expensive; you cost more money than anybody else," but I have yet to see an independent study that actually supports that government argument. After all, we have almost no services. The roads are plowed. There is no garbage collection. When my well goes dry, I have to drill a new one. No government that will give me a subsidy to drill a new well, or if my field bed isn't working right, I pay for it myself. The schools -- that's another cost that's thrown at us, that the schools are more expensive, the small schools. However, when Wanup had its own school board, the school had no debts even though it ran the second-longest bus route in Ontario. When it was turned over to the Sudbury school board, school taxes went up by 500%, 600%. If the cost is higher, it's simply because they don't run it as efficiently as the people in the area did when they ran it themselves.
Other costs created that I feel have nothing to do with rural residences is that there's no coordination between the different government agencies. For instance, there was a study going on that was going to straighten the road I live on. Every part of the road was surveyed and people were asked to comment on it. I suggested that if they were going to take off the front of my lot, which had the field bed on it, maybe it would be better to take the other side of the road, and they said that would be a good idea. However, that was about six or seven years ago. In the meantime, somebody has built on that piece of land and has put their field bed in front of their house, so now either way, they're going to be making a new field bed for somebody. That wasn't necessary because they could have made a provision that when somebody built on that property, they could have put the field bed somewhere else. These are the kind of costs that are then checked back to rural residences, which really could have been prevented by better organization of the government's own policies.
I'd also like to comment that it mentions in the changing of subsection 3(5) that all people in the know know what it means. Well, the interpretations of these kinds of statements change depending on who you talk to. You could be talking to one official who says, "This means a certain something," and then the next time you talk to someone else, and they say: "No, no. That guy didn't know what he was talking about. This is what it really means." I've come across this now quite a number of times. If you're going to make changes and then not really define them properly, that becomes kind of meaningless to people.
I'd like to see a little more autonomy for planning boards. We have recently been given the authority for severances. In the official plan, there are some changes it would be nice to have done, and if planning boards could make their own changes, I think that would be a good idea. Who's better informed as to what changes should be done to an official plan than a planning board that administers that plan? They can see where the weaknesses would be in the plan and they could see where some changes need to be made, having regard to the provincial policies, if that is well defined.
I'd like to see that flexibility that is talked about, but which I don't see materializing for the unorganized township, to actually materialize and to give the planning boards the flexibility to administer that plan in a more even-handed manner. I'd like to see the planning boards able to make their own official plan amendments.
The message that seems to come across from the changes in the bill and the new provincial policies is that the government has drawn a line across a map of Ontario which makes development and growth easy for the south but closes it up for the rural areas in the north. That is an unacceptable thing for the people in the north, and I'd urge the panel to take that into consideration and allow the people of the north some self-determination.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We have seven minutes for each caucus for questioning. Questioning at this time will commence with the official opposition.
Mr Gerretsen: I enjoyed your presentation. I'm just trying to get a handle on the problem with severances here in the north. I must admit, before coming here I wouldn't have thought this would be any problem at all, with the land mass you have here and the few people. I'm totally amazed. In your official plan, what does it say for a severance policy? What's the minimum acreage you need?
Mrs Ralph: The severance policy only allows severances in an infill provision, which means you have to have two separate residences on two separate lots and the homes can be no more than 150 metres apart. So you have to have two fairly small parcels.
Mr Gerretsen: Another gentleman earlier today addressed this as well. He was basically saying that there is an attempt to have infilling take place when in a lot of situations people basically leave the city so they can live on large tracts of land that they want severed from other tracts of land. Does it not say anything about what the minimum severance requirements are in areas that are not infill areas?
Mrs Ralph: There is no other policy for severance because you cannot sever any other area except in the infill. It is the policy of the government to allow as little severance as possible, and this is a way of limiting severances. You can build on a lot of record; you might be able to buy a 100-acre parcel and build something on that, but you cannot sever this 100-acre parcel into two 50-acre parcels.
Mr Gerretsen: If I had a 200-acre parcel?
Mrs Ralph: You cannot sever it either. You can have 500 acres and it cannot be severed.
Mr Gerretsen: Maybe I misunderstood the earlier gentleman, and I'd like to -- I don't believe he's here anymore. When he talked about 200 severances taking place in the area over a 10-year period, was he talking about infilling or was he talking about --
Mrs Ralph: We've only had this official plan now for a year. Previous to that, nobody really knew what the policies were, and that used to be one of the main problems. We used to complain, "We don't know what the government policies are in regard to severances."
Mr Gerretsen: What are people being told if they own large acreages of land and they want to sever 50 to 100 acres? There's no hope at all?
Mrs Ralph: No way. That point has especially been driven home to us that there will be no severing of large parcels, that it is the government's policy not to sever large parcels of land.
Mr Gerretsen: Mr Chairman, I wonder if we could have a document given to us as to what the government policy actually is in this area. I'd be interested to know what written documentation the ministry has with respect to severance policies in the north. I get the impression that it's almost the same as in the south, where the land mass and the numbers of people are totally different.
Mrs Ralph: You must understand that we're talking about unorganized townships. The municipalities have their own rules, I think five acres, but that does not apply to the unorganized.
Mr Gerretsen: But I would assume, and maybe you can correct me if I'm wrong, that even fewer people live in the unorganized townships than --
Mrs Ralph: Yes, it's very sparsely populated.
Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Mrs Ralph, I was curious to hear you say that you felt, and correct me if I'm wrong, that the Tory changes that are planned for moving from "consistent with," which was in our Bill 163, back to "have regard to" will in your opinion not allow for development in rural areas. I was very curious, because certainly that's one of the reasons the government is moving it forward, because it thinks that will be exactly the effect. Maybe you can just explain that a bit further for all of us.
Mrs Ralph: When you look at this, you say: "Right. This is what we've been looking for. We're going to gain some flexibility." But this is not the only document as it relates to land use. You have to also look at this one. We're not here to discuss this, but we're always being pointed to here and it doesn't even address rural severances. They're not in here. Why are they not there? If it's not there, I say you don't have it.
Ms Martel: Mr Leach, as I understand it, is reviewing provincial policies now?
Mr Murdoch: Right.
Ms Martel: But they are not prepared, so obviously Mrs Ralph doesn't have the benefit of looking at those at this point to determine whether --
Mrs Ralph: What I have is a draft plan of the new provincial policies.
Ms Martel: It might have been helpful if they had been here so people would have known. What you're concerned about is that currently, as the act is written and it appears before you, you don't see any change, which is certainly a reason a number of people voted for the Tories in the first place.
Mrs Ralph: We see a change for the worse.
Ms Martel: Right. Well, that's very interesting.
I want to go back to the role of the planning board. Obviously, the role of the planning board could or might change, given whatever legislation is in the end passed by the Conservatives. At this point, for the unorganized area at least, do you have any sense from Municipal Affairs officials now what will happen with some of the other authorities that Toronto was still dealing with? Right now you can deal with severances, but other issues the planning board deals with still go to Toronto and may yet continue to go to Toronto, especially under the unorganized areas, so you're not going to be in any different shape than you were under Bill 163.
Mrs Ralph: No, we're not. The only difference -- and this is something that had already been planned previous to the government changing -- is that the decision-making with regard to severances has gone to the board rather than being in Toronto. But changes to the official plan and amendments still have to go to the minister, which to me doesn't make sense, but that's the way it is right now.
Mr Hardeman: Good morning. First of all, I want to go to the issue of the flexibility and the wording change from "shall be consistent with" to "shall have regard for." I find your comments somewhat interesting, that you do not feel it provides more flexibility. The opposition members have consistently suggested that changing that wording is the same as telling municipalities or the planning boards that they no longer have to pay any attention to provincial policy statements, that having had regard for them, they can put them in the drawer and forget they're there and then go on and do as they see fit. You don't see that as the case.
Mrs Ralph: We're not dealing simply with that one little wording; we're dealing with provincial guidelines. If they say you can't do it, you can have all the "regard to" that you want. I don't see how you can possibly do it.
Mr Hardeman: It's been told to this committee by some presenters that if you've had regard for, you don't have to do it, that all you had to do was have regard for. But you still feel that "have regard for" implies that you still have to do what the policy statement says.
Mrs Ralph: If it says you can't do something, I say you still can't do it.
Mr Hardeman: You suggested in the beginning of your presentation that this would not allow any more severances in the unorganized territory. Are you suggesting that this will allow fewer than the policy statements under Bill 163?
Mrs Ralph: Yes.
Mr Hardeman: I guess I have some trouble with that. What part of the bill do you see that has changed, or are there policy statements that have changed, that would allow fewer than 163 and the previous policy statements would allow?
Mrs Ralph: I would find it hard to pick out the particular section in the bill that would make the changes. I would have to point to the provincial policies, which are not being reviewed here today.
Mr Hardeman: We accept that they're not being reviewed. I have a copy of them too, and I just want to point out --
Mrs Ralph: It doesn't address rural severances in this policy.
Mr Hardeman: I just point out that the government's intention is to somewhat give more local autonomy and let the decisions be made locally. The section that deals with that in the policy statements is that we will be focusing development activities in territories without municipal organization on "resource and resource-based recreational activity, with the following restrictions" --
Mrs Ralph: Well, it mentions resource-based, it mentions recreation, but where is rural residence there? It isn't there.
Mr Hardeman: I would just point out that the former one didn't have that either. It's not making it more restrictive but in fact opening it up so it's not as prescriptive.
Mrs Ralph: Well, I'm very leery of that. If it doesn't mention it, I'd say it can easily be used to -- I've been through some of these processes. I know how this is being interpreted by ministry officials. Believe me, if you think there's flexibility, they will very quickly -- they've told me: "Forget what the politicians say. They don't know what they're talking about."
Mr Gerretsen: Who is that person? What's his name?
Mrs Ralph: I don't recall.
Mr Murdoch: I'm glad you brought this up, because you're right on, and it's the problem we had with the first presenter too. It's the mentality we have at Queen's Park with our planners down there, and they probably would say that. I agree with you. We're going to have to straighten that out, and I see what you mean. And we may have to look at the policies, which can be changed, and I'm glad you brought that up, that maybe there needs to be some change in the policies where rural residential houses will have to be allowed in the unorganized townships.
I think, though, with this bill it will give you more flexibility. I understand what you're saying, it's not in there, so that's a good point to bring up to this committee and we're going to have to certainly look at that.
Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I would just like to reiterate one of the points Mr Hardeman made, and that has to do with the "regard to" and "be consistent with." Throughout the hearings, whenever somebody decided to talk about that who had a choice of interests, which may not be taking into the full picture all of the considerations, the "have regard to" was accused of being more free or more flexible and giving that autonomy to the local decision-makers.
I don't disagree with that. I agree that "regard to" does bring it back. It also gives the local planning boards -- I think you mentioned that you recognize the local planning boards have more autonomy.
So I would first of all I guess question why you're saying it's more strict or more stringent when you're agreeing that the local autonomy makes a decision because it's here and it knows and that "have regard to" opens it up a little bit at least.
Mrs Ralph: It does give that appearance, but I'm very leery when I see a provincial policy statement --
Mr Murdoch: She's been dealing with the bureaucrats in Toronto. That's her problem, and that's our problem.
Mr Bisson: The bureaucrats are an endangered species.
Mrs Ralph: -- because the interpretation that is put on that then is not what we all assume it to be when it comes right down to wanting to do something. Then they point to provincial policies and say, "Well, here it says, `Go to a municipality and build there.'"
Mrs Fisher: Okay. The other question I have is that there seems to be some confusion over this organized, unorganized and the rights of and the non-rights of.
Mr Gerretsen: Mr Chairman, would you get the government members in line?
The Chair: Get both members in line, yes.
Mrs Fisher: It comes to I guess a matter of choice -- and I appreciate that, and that's everybody's right -- where one wants to live and within what parameters. Why would one choose unorganized as opposed to organized and still expect the same services when they're not paying for that except for through education taxes?
Mrs Ralph: We do not. We do not expect the same. There are no services provided.
Mrs Fisher: Except for water and sewer. What else? You still have access to all the soft servicing. You still have police provision, you have fire provision. You're paying for education, that's a fact, but that's another thing you have access to. So my question would be, why would one not want to be organized? Tell me the reasons. I just want to understand the reasons why one would not want to be organized.
Mrs Ralph: The government will not allow new organizations. We can't just say, "Oh, we'll just organize into a municipality."
Mrs Fisher: Through this opportunity of restructuring which is out before us right now, would this not be the opportunity? I think it will allow it. Would this not be an opportunity now to fit into the same desirable applications of planning by having an organized area, called restructured, and then have access to the same things that you're asking for?
Mrs Ralph: We have been told quite plainly that they would not allow any new municipal organization.
Mrs Fisher: But through restructuring, I think you have an opportunity now to include yourself in one that might provide what you want. Would that be a reasonable option?
Mrs Ralph: There are two municipal organizations in the Sudbury East area. One is approximately 50 kilometres away; the other one is probably about the same. We are only about maybe 15 or 20 kilometres away from Sudbury. So to join one of those other municipalities seems really unwieldy.
Mrs Fisher: I don't know, you might be right and maybe that's not the preference of the people, but then I guess you make that choice. Then when you live with unorganized, you live with unorganized for that reason. Again, it's to the people's choice.
But in my riding, for example, we're looking at 30 municipalities and there's a spread of a two-and-a-half-hour drive, so whatever mileage, and an hour east, for example. So some of those people are looking at restructuring. Now, they happen to be organized, so that wouldn't come into consideration in their debate here. But in a case where you are, 30 miles is not an extremely long distance when you're looking at perhaps access to the things that you want.
Mrs Ralph: I don't think the people there absolutely don't want to be organized, or "I choose to live in an unorganized township to have access to free services." Anyway, if the government feels it is too expensive, it has the ability to raise the provincial taxes that we pay to --
Mrs Fisher: But then everybody would benefit from that. You see, everybody would expect to benefit from that.
Mrs Ralph: They do have the opportunity, though. If money is an issue, then they can raise the taxes in order to pay for those services that they feel we're using.
The Chair: Thank you, Mrs Ralph. We appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation before us this morning.
Mr Gerretsen: These people just want to be left alone. They just want to be able to build a house out along the highway.
Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order, Mr Chair, on a point of privilege: Could we have at some point in time from the parliamentary assistant the existing policy statement relating to severances in unorganized areas?
The Chair: Mr Hardeman?
Mr Baird: Is that a point of privilege, Mr Chair?
The Chair: Well, it's not a point of privilege.
Mr Gerretsen: It's a request for information, so we can make an informed decision.
The Chair: If the member is making a request for information, I will accept it.
Mr Hardeman: If I could, Mr Chairman, there is no provincial policy statement on the severances, but I'm sure there is a policy that the ministry uses in reviewing those. We will look into that and see if we can provide that for you.
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from Mr Edwin Jylha. Mr Jylha, we have 30 minutes for you to use as you see fit, divided between presentation and question and answer period.
Mr Edwin Jylha: Thank you, Mr Chairman. Board members and ladies and gentlemen, I don't know if I'm even at the right meeting.
Mr Galt: We don't either.
Mr Jylha: By the sounds of it, it's very confusing. I was standing instead of my sister on this particular -- and it was only three days ago that I received the good news that you're it. What I'm about to present to you is basically -- I didn't have a copy of Bill 20, but I had the official plan of our new planning board, and most of my comments are basically maybe directed at it but in conjunction with Bill 20. I think it goes hand in hand.
I'm Ed Jylha, owner of the north half of lot 2, concession 6, Secord township. This is basically a personal presentation on behalf of my sister and I, who own the property jointly. We inherited the property from my father, who, along with my mother, under the Homestead Act in 1932 during the Great Depression went into Secord township and after many years of hard manual labour was able to clear enough land to be able to patent it. They operated a small dairy farm on it for some time, until modernization took over and to ship milk it had to be in stainless steel containers and better refrigeration. For a small operator, virtually it was impossible to be able to afford this, so most of the small dairy farms in the Wanup district, and I dare say all over, just had to close up. It was literally only left to the large establishments that could afford to make all the changes.
Basically, in 1960 my father passed away, leaving the property to my sister and myself, with the thought that we'd look after mother. We have kept the property, as sister still lives there, and with the hope that some of our children or grandchildren might want to build there or, in the case it was necessary, to sell off a parcel in order to be able to place mother into a nursing home at some stage, because it's very expensive to do so nowadays.
But upon reading the official plan for the Sudbury East planning area for unincorporated townships, I find that property severances may be denied. I refer to a section of the planning board minutes. During "Settlement Patterns," it states that Secord township is predominantly a summer residence location when in fact it's not. Permanent residences are three to two in ratio. The other statement is that Secord township is among the less accessible in the study. This I find strange when in fact the Secord Road, which runs 0.4 kilometres in Dill township, 5.6 kilometres in Secord and 2.4 in Burwash township, was once the original highway from Sudbury to the French River before the incorporation of Highway 69. That was the main road through the district, along which at the moment the majority of the permanent residences of Secord township are built. But apparently this wasn't considered, and I fail to see why not.
I would like to suggest that the eastern quarter, lots 1, 2 and 3 of Secord township, be included with the six more concentrated, populationwise, townships in the report. This should be reflected in the minutes of 4.17.22 on page 62.
Burwash township, the neighbouring, is also along the Secord Road, and the official plan recommends that there be infill on Secord Road, but even infill is denied in Secord township. I find it strange that you would apply a certain thing to one township along the same road and not the other. I sort of feel discriminated upon in being in the middle.
A little bit of history: The Finnish people who originally opened the lands and built in the Wanup district welcomed rural living and along with their neighbours maintained the roads and built schools for their children. Community pride is very strong and, like all parents, they desired that their children, when grown up, would live near them. But unless property severances, or lot creation, be allowed, these dreams are dead. Not only dreams will fade, but our schools will close due to the lack of children, descendants of them.
Just an example of community caring was recently displayed by one of the forefathers who helped open up the Wanup district. In his last will and testament he left the school board $30,000. An act such as this is only seen in rural communities.
The statement in the official plan for the Sudbury East planning area in section 1.2.7 states that services to scattered developments are more expensive to deliver and are heavily subsidized in the unincorporated areas by the province. This has not been proven to be true, not at least in Dill, Cleland, Burwash and Secord townships. We may be even saving the province money by the use of our volunteer fire brigade, which attends vehicle fires and accidents along the provincial highway. Also, the volunteer brigade assists the provincial ministry in fighting fires. As the community is basically a user-pay for services, the province does not have to pay for water, sewer, garbage pickup or fire protection, plus other services that are required in urban areas. Therefore, the cost to the province has to be less, not more, as is stated.
In closing, I would request that the eastern quarter of Secord township be included with the six more populated townships and that severance rights, lot creation, be included in the land use tables, following specific guidelines. There have to be regulations for everything.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Jylha. Recognizing that you haven't had the advantage of seeing the bill, still I think you've raised some issues that are within the purview of this. I just ask the members to keep that in mind when they question Mr Jylha. The questioning this time will start with the third party, and we have bang on seven minutes per caucus again.
Mr Bisson: First of all, thank you very much for taking the time and coming to make your presentation. Obviously, by the sounds of about two or three of the presentations now, this is an issue that a lot of local land owners are concerned about and want some work done on.
I just want to try to explain this in my own words to make sure I understand what the issue is here. What it really comes down to is that some years ago, when the land was purchased or the land was acquired back in the 1930s, the question of severance was not so much an issue because they were young families who came into the area or who were already here, who picked up the land, in some cases turned it into a farm or a dairy farm, as your parents did, or maybe the people just lived on it. There wasn't really a whole bunch of pressure being put on municipal or provincial governments to sever the land while their families were younger. But as the families grew older and their children got married and moved away, there was an increasing demand by the family members, the children of the people who owned the land, in order to be able to sever the land so that they would be able to live out there and stay close to home and live in the place of their choice. That's basically what this is all about.
Mr Jylha: Yes.
Mr Bisson: It's somewhat similar to what has happened up in our area, but would I be correct in assuming that what happens is that as time goes on there are going to be more and more pressures for severances to happen? Let me reword that another way, so you know where I'm coming from: It wasn't so much an issue 15 years ago, because it wasn't as much of a pressure to sever the land as it's becoming now. Would I be correct in assuming that?
Mr Jylha: At one stage of the game it could be severed, but then don't forget -- I don't remember the exact year when it was closed completely.
Mr Bisson: Yes, 1967. But what I'm getting at is that 15 years ago there would have been less pressure to sever this land than there is now. I'm correct in assuming that?
Mr Jylha: Yes.
Mr Bisson: Severances were allowed to happen prior to that, but really they happened on a haphazard basis.
Mr Jylha: Exactly.
Mr Bisson: In my area, even outside the agricultural land that we talked about before, it was really up to the local planner. In some cases, because Bill Murdoch knew the local planner, he got a severance for his family, but Doug Galt, who didn't know the planner, maybe didn't get it -- and they lived on the same road. That's sort of the way it operated before.
Mr Jylha: Exactly.
Mr Bisson: Just so that we put that into some context. The problem I see that you have is that you're looking at Bill 20 as the solution to your problem. You're saying, "We're looking to Bill 20 because we didn't see in Bill 163" -- in fact, you saw it as more restrictive when it came to severing off land. You're looking at the Conservative government and you're looking at Bill 20 in order to allow you to sever the land. That's really what you want to happen here.
Mr Jylha: Right.
Mr Bisson: But the problem is the bill doesn't do that.
Mr Jylha: I haven't read the bill, so I don't know; I'm just going by the planning board minutes, which follow the guidelines of what was set out for them.
Mr Bisson: But I want you to be clear here and I want your residents to be clear here -- and this is no swipe at the Conservative government, because I'm sure this is not an issue that they really thought about as they were preparing Bill 20. Well, it is a swipe at you, Bill, on second thought; I just had a look at you and my eyes went blue. But the point I'm getting at is, this bill does not respond to the concerns that you raised or the concerns that other people have raised when it comes to severing off land.
It seems to me as a legislator that you've got to find a balance here. On the one hand, I would be opposed -- and I'm not going to hide my position here -- that severances happen haphazardly, that we go back to the good old days that you talk about where if you knew the planner you got the severance, if you didn't know the planner, you didn't get the severance. I take it you would not support that either.
Mr Jylha: No. We recognize that there have to be guidelines for everything. We've got to look after our environment, our waterways etc. What we would like is just the right to present our plan and have it either rejected or passed, but to be able to do it. We're being denied that.
Mr Bisson: But the message I'm trying to give here, and I'm trying to assist you so the government clearly understands, is that what you're saying, or I understand you saying, is that you're prepared to be a responsible land owner and if severing the land in your case means to say that you would not be doing something that's good when it comes to some of the provincial policies that exist under this legislation, you wouldn't be happy, but you would understand that maybe you should not be allowed to sever. But what you're saying in the end is, "Make it clear in the legislation that if I meet all of those guidelines as set out under the provincial policies, I be allowed to sever my land," the long and the short of it.
Mr Jylha: Exactly. I've got 150 acres doing nothing. In fact, it's a burden because of the taxes. If I can't do anything with it, how much will the government give me back if I turn it back to you?
Mr Bisson: The other thing is that -- and I take it most members probably understand this, but just to make it clear again -- I was raised on the type of land that you're talking about. I lived by a lake with about three families and nothing but 100 miles from either side of us. But the reality is that there are no services by the municipalities in most cases, when it comes to services that you get. You may have garbage pickup now, I would imagine.
Mr Jylha: We pick up our own and bring it to a recognized site.
Mr Bisson: So the only thing you have is a local roads board that does your road.
Mr Jylha: That's right.
Mr Bisson: And the bus that comes and picks up your kids.
Mr Jylha: Right.
Mr Bisson: Then you pay a whack of taxes to the municipality.
Ms Martel: To the school board.
Mr Jylha: One lady just said --
Mr Bisson: Oh, to the school board, I should say, sorry; I should rephrase that. My colleagues may have some questions. I just wanted to clarify what the issues were.
Mr Hardeman: Good morning, sir. I appreciate your presentation based on the review of your official plan as opposed to Bill 20 because I think it does point out the problem that exists as to discussions we had earlier when you mentioned you didn't know whether you were at the right meeting because confusion seems to reign.
I think that it's important to recognize the policies, and it was requested by a member of the opposition about what the criterion is that's used to judge or to review an application for a severance. As you pointed out, the criterion that's used, both by the ministry for review and by the local planning board, is the official plan of the area. As you referred to, presently there is a new official plan prepared for your area that's being approved by the local planning board, so it's a local decision that the severances will be based on.
That document, of course, is being prepared using the policy statements and the guidelines set forward by the province. I'm sure under the plan that you're referring to, the guidelines that are being used are the policy statements as they relate to and are directed by Bill 163, the policy statements that went with that. Under the new regime, it will Bill 20 and the policy statements that relate to that, recognizing that those policy statements have been shortened down and hopefully clarified to make it simpler to understand and easier to deal with.
But I do want to question you as to your involvement with the preparing of the official plan that you're referring to. Have you been to the meetings or have they held meetings to discuss the issues?
Mr Jylha: I attended one meeting that was called at the community centre, and it was to give us what was going on, but it was very short. Actually, the input from myself was negligible, the one meeting that was called that I was informed of. I went to another meeting but that meeting was called off because of not enough people attending. So the participation as far as I was concerned, on my part, has been very, very limited. My sister's been involved with it more, and she got called to work here suddenly, so that's why I'm trying to fill in; not very adequately, mind you.
But anyway, some of the thoughts that I thought were pertinent to the local people like myself in particular -- with 150 acres doing nothing, and the day is coming very shortly where I might have to put Mother into a nursing home. She's 84 and managing quite well, but for how long? This is property that my father left so we could sort of look after Mother and now I find that I can't use it.
Mr Hardeman: In the official plan, what designation does the plan actually put on your property? What is it designated as?
Mr Jylha: The assumptions in the plan are wrong in the first place. They are saying that it is, like I mentioned, seasonal residence, and it states in the land use that for Secord township -- I'm trying to think of the exact wording that they use -- severances, even infill, shall be discouraged. I can understand that for the west part of the township, but the east half is the original highway and that's where all the major permanent residences are. One township can do it and Secord, in the middle, can't do it. So that was my objection to it.
Mr Murdoch: I'd like to thank you for coming here too. I think it shows that we do have a problem, all of the people who have been coming here. It's not only our problem; it's been a problem for some time. I heard somebody say, though, there haven't been any severances in unorganized townships since 1967. That can't be right.
Mr Bisson: No, no.
Mr Murdoch: Okay, sorry. I missed that. That's all right, then, because there have been some. I think the previous government tried to tighten things up, whatever they wanted to do. Who's the member in your riding? Is it Shelley? I think you should work with your member and also with us. It's important to point out that our policies are draft. I think we can change some of that and look at some of these concerns.
Interjection: Write that down.
Mr Bisson: Oh, that gives us all hope. That gives us hope.
Mr Murdoch: Well, sure it does. This is why we're here, to listen to this, and I think you've brought up some very good points along with the other people here. What I encourage is that you work with your member and they work with us. We have to solve this problem. I mean, it's not something that's just come up today; it's been around for a while in the unorganized townships. I certainly would like to listen to the comments from the members from the north who represent the ridings and find out if we can come up with a solution. We have a chance to do that right now.
Mr Bisson: You guys said you were going to abolish the act.
Ms Martel: That's what you told those people.
Mr Murdoch: We did; 163 is gone. Now we have Bill 20, which hopefully will come into force some time. There will be some policy statements with it, and in those policy statements hopefully we can address your concerns. This is why we're here. This is why committees go on the road, to listen to people like yourself, to find out these concerns. As I say -- I'm getting a bit of heckling across -- I'm trying to tell them we should work together on this and try to solve the problems that are out in the unorganized townships. They haven't been solved, obviously, for a while, and not anybody else's problem. All of the parties probably haven't taken the bull by the horns and straightened this out. I think we're going to have to do that.
Shelley, sure, I'll work with you on this. I think we have to look at the policy statement and see if we can do something with that. With the bill changing "have regard to," I think we should be able to work with it that we can help you out.
The Chair: The questioning now will move to the official opposition.
Mr Gerretsen: Of course, just for the record, they were going to abolish the act, abolish 163 completely. We, as Liberals, said, "No, we're going to change it." They have actually changed it a little; not to our liking, but they're on their right track.
I'm just trying to get a drift of what's going on here. How far away do you live from Sudbury, where this property is located?
Mr Jylha: It's 19 miles from here and you can work that into kilometres, if you will, sir.
Mr Gerretsen: No, I'm a mile guy too. I take it that until you get to your township there are official plans in place and people can get severances of fairly small areas. Then when you get into your township and beyond there are fewer people than there are from here to Sudbury, I take it.
Mr Jylha: Yes, very few.
Mr Gerretsen: In effect, the severance requirements become a lot more stringent.
Mr Jylha: Exactly.
Mr Gerretsen: That doesn't seem to make any sense to me whatsoever. I mean, it's obviously an attempt by the government, the bureaucracy, the planning community, whoever the heck these people are, to try to get people as much as possible in this great big beautiful country of ours, where we've got --
Mr Bisson: It's called national unity.
Mr Gerretsen: Just a minute now -- where we've got 2,000 kilometres from one end of Ontario to the other. We're all trying to get people into either cities or townships by infilling them -- municipalities, villages etc -- but we don't want anybody to live outside any more. That's what it sounds like to me.
Mr Jylha: Apparently they don't realize that it's cheaper for the province if we do live outside.
Mr Gerretsen: Let me ask you this. Let's be reasonable about it. You've got a 150-acre property. It used to be a farm.
Mr Jylha: Yes, a very small farm. There's not that much cleared and a lot of that acreage is not livable even, except for the mountain goats.
Mr Gerretsen: Would that sort of describe the whole area of where you live pretty well? It's not A1 agricultural land?
Mr Jylha: No. Basically, it's not.
Mr Gerretsen: Okay. Would you be happy, let's say, if you had a 50-acre severance requirement so that you could cut the property up into three parcels? Would that make it more saleable for somebody that doesn't want to live in the city to go out there and buy one of these properties and put a house on?
Mr Jylha: Certainly, it would. It would give them acreage, something to roam around, because that's what most of the people wanting to move out want, is a little bit of freedom. Somebody mentioned that he wants a riding pony etc. With that much acreage you would be able to do that.
Mr Gerretsen: Well, that makes real common sense to me, what you're saying there; not this revolutionary common sense, but real common sense.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Jylha. Even as a last-minute stand-in, you did an excellent job. Thank you for your presentation this morning.
Mr Jylha: Thank you.
TOWNSHIPS OF COSBY, MASON AND MARTLAND
The Chair: Our last presentation this morning will be from the townships of Cosby, Mason and Martland. Good morning, folks. We have 30 minutes for you to divide as you see fit between the presentation and question and answer period.
Mr Claude Mayer: Thank you. My name is Claude Mayer, reeve of Cosby, Mason and Martland, and with me is my chief administrative officer, Jody Lundy.
I will first situate Cosby, Mason and Martland and talk about necessary minor amendments to our official plan, while Jody will speak about committees of adjustment.
Cosby, Mason and Martland is part of Sudbury East. The Sudbury East you've heard this morning we were speaking about is part of, but not the total, Sudbury East where Shelley Martel is our representative as member of Parliament.
Cosby, Mason and Martland is the unification of three townships. The major village of the three townships is Noëlville. There is only one other concentration of houses, and they are situated in Monetville, about 15 kilometres from Noëlville. The townships are situated at the far south of Sudbury East, bordering the famous Rivière-des-Français, French River. It is an hour's drive from Sudbury by Highway 69, a little over an hour from North Bay by Highway 17, and a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Toronto by Highways 400 and 69. Initially I had written four and a half hours, and my chief administrative officer asked me if I was driving a Model T. There is no doubt that the beauty of the French River and all the other lakes that surround it makes it a very beautiful touristic region.
The strengths of Noëlville and its regions were forestry, farming and its waterways for the tourists. That was the past. The beautiful pine and maple trees, which we thought were going to be there forever, have gradually been cut. Farming on our class 3 or 4 agricultural lands does not suffice for the farmer of the 1990s. The 160-acre lots, which consisted of a little over 30 acres of farmable land where houses were built, is generally abandoned today. The rivers, affluent with fish in the past, are not offering to tourists the same attraction. But all this is the past and can be changed with proper legislation through Bill 20 that will permit us to promote growth, physically and economically, while still protecting the environment by streamlining the land use planning and development system through amendments related to planning, development, municipal and heritage matters.
Noëlville and its surroundings have a lot to offer. We still have the beauty of our environment, the space to offer to a clientele that would like privacy, be able to get outside in the morning and breathe clean and fresh air, to rest quietly in their seasonal or permanent homes, enjoying the scenery, or simply being away from the stress of city life. For that I need your help. I need some clarification on certain parts of Bill 20 that will allow my community to grow based on sound planning structures while respecting our environment.
Cosby, Mason and Martland has its own approved official plan and a zoning bylaw. Although when written it was consistent with provincial legislation and policies, in the application we found that it has prevented growth through the small details that were inserted without thorough consideration, and I will give you some examples.
Our official plan prevents creation of a lot in the village of Noëlville unless it is connected to the sewage system. The village is defined encompassing one square mile, while the sewage system is hardly one eighth of a square mile due to financial constraints during construction. Consequently, a proposed lot beyond the one-eighth-mile sewer line still in the mile-defined village cannot be permitted. This is an example which would require a minor change in our OP to permit the creation of a few lots in the village area itself.
Another example deals with -- and you've heard that word -- "infilling" policy. In our official plan we have been so rigid as to specify 150 metres between two existing non-farm residences before a lot can be created. This specific number makes our official plan identical to the official plan of the unorganized townships, while the organized municipalities in Sudbury East, without specific metre requirements, have a little more flexibility. Believe me, when the government cut some of our grants, it was also understood that we were to have more flexibility and more responsibility. I need growth in my community in order to compensate for the lack of funding.
In subsection 4(2) it is specified that all powers of the minister may be delegated to planning boards, with the exception of the authority to approve OPs and OPAs and the authority to exempt such approvals. Subsections 17(1), (2), (3) and (4) allow for regional councils, district councils and county councils to approve OPs and OPAs and the authority to exempt such approvals.
Why only these levels of government? We have a planning board that is proven and competent; in fact, so competent that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing recently conferred upon it consent-granting authority. Is this government trying to say that a regional council, a district council and a county council are more competent and can express better judgement than Sudbury East planning board and its staff regarding OPs and OPAs?
It is therefore only logical that planning boards that provide land use planning advice and have the authority to grant consents should at the very least have the authority to approve official plan amendments while having regard to provincial legislation and policies. To take this issue a little bit further, and if the amendments are really minor, why can't a municipal council be delegated the authority for those minor changes while having regard to the same provincial legislation and policies?
Cosby, Mason and Martland, like many other organized communities in the north, needs an act that will promote economic growth and protect the environment. I am positive that this government does not want my community to slowly disappear. I, with my council and my staff, have studied the past and am looking at the present while focusing on the future. We know our region. We know what has to be done to permit land growth. We know that the needs of yesterday are different than those of today, and likewise are different than those of tomorrow. Planning is an important tool in the process of our economic growth. Every region has its differences. The north is not the same as the south. But each offers different advantages, and yet faces different difficulties. They should therefore be treated differently respecting planning, development, and municipal and heritage matters.
I thank you in advance for your interest and for your consideration on those important matters to us. I am now asking my chief administrative officer, Jody, to address you.
Miss Jody Lundy: Good morning, Mr Chairman and members of the committee. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to address you this morning.
Our community is part of the Sudbury East planning board, but one thing our council has decided they would like to look at is to form a committee of adjustment. In speaking with the planning board and staff, they feel that this is appropriate to consider. Our land use advisory committee has undertaken a detailed and lengthy study about committees of adjustment -- what they do, what their role is -- and in that study they have been looking at Bill 20 and the provisions for committees of adjustment and how those provisions will affect our newly formed committee.
We've paid close attention to the bill, as I've said, and we've scrutinized sections 45 and 45.1 of the bill. In general, we are very supportive of the provisions contained in these sections. They can serve the purpose of creating a very strong political or non-political committee of adjustment, depending on the wishes of the local municipality. Clauses 45(13)(a) and (b) present two scenarios for committee makeup and offer different appeal procedures in each case. This gives local councils options they did not have before and allows local decision-makers to determine the extent to which they want to be involved in minor variance matters.
To further illustrate this point of increased options for local councils, we can turn to subsection 45.1(3). This section, which applies if there are no council members on the committee itself, allows each council to decide, for their particular community, and secure this decision by bylaw, what they feel should be the appeal mechanism for the committee of adjustment decisions. With this, council can be the appeal body, or not be involved at all, or perhaps even a mix of both. Such provisions in legislation clearly reflect our demands for increased ability to make decisions that affect local municipalities at the local level.
Though these items are positive and will help our council and committee of adjustment, we do have some concerns with two items in section 45.1. Firstly, subsection 45.1(21) provides that council shall make its decision on a request to review a decision of the committee within a reasonable time. We feel that it is appropriate for this section to be more specific. All throughout this piece of legislation, clear time lines in the planning process are given. Why, then, should this specific provision be included? I certainly hope that it wouldn't happen, but without a definition of what a reasonable time is, there is a potential to unnecessarily stall the review of a committee decision and this is likely to be at the inconvenience of the applicant and in turn can turn the community off of the process; they may not be inclined to come for their minor variance at all and may disregard the planning process altogether, and I don't think that's what any of us want.
Lastly, subsection 45.1(39) needs to be expanded. Presently in the bill, if a decision of the committee of adjustment is forwarded to the Ontario Municipal Board by a municipality, the municipality pays the applicable fee. If this request is initiated by the municipality on a case-by-case basis, or as a standing practice and this is done by bylaw, the municipality should, indeed, bear these costs. However, if under subsection 45.1(12), the applicant or any other person or public body can initiate a request to council, and if this request for the decision review leads to the OMB, the cost to the board should be payable by that person or group making the request. This is particularly important where by bylaw, the council is to review, on a case-by-case basis, decisions of the committee of adjustment and decide which are to be forwarded to the OMB. If council decides a decision should not be forwarded to the board, yet an outside individual or group makes such a request, why should the municipality bear the cost and not the applicant?
What we are suggesting is a very specific wording change to subsection 45.1(39) to read as follows: "The fee established by the municipal board is payable by (a) the municipality that forwards a decision of its committee of adjustment that is to be heard as an appeal by the board under this section; or (b) the appellant, if such is the applicant, another individual or public body and the request is made under this section."
I hope you will take these suggestions into consideration when you are amending the bill and we thank you very much for your time today.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We've got six minutes per caucus and the questions this time will start with the government. I'm looking for nodding heads.
Mr Galt: Thank you for the thoughtful presentation, it's been indeed very interesting. The committee of adjustment appeal to council -- it's interesting that you're feeling reasonably comfortable with this provision along with some suggestions. Prior to hitting the road, there was a demand by the third party that we amend this without even hearing from people in the north. Thank heavens we did not listen to those pressures because it's interesting to see that it is different in the north and the needs and -- certainly in rural Ontario, I think we're going to find that maybe there is a lot of support for this part of the bill.
I guess I'm coming around to this severance problem to query you on. It's an ongoing thing and it's come up repetitively and obviously it must have been in the hearings of bill 163; it must have been mentioned at that time and was not recognized or addressed. I guess I'm coming to a very different question here. In relating to northern affairs, we've heard many times over this morning that the south is not listening to the north, and I would think that would be a role of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Is this a ministry that is not functioning and looking after the needs of the north?
Miss Lundy: I think the ministry, their advisers and particularly their planning staff are very helpful to the communities. I know in our community we're part of the planning board, and the planner on staff does work for us, but he's not in our community on a daily basis. I can deflect questions to him and also to the ministry. I think that's a good opportunity that we have which, if we had our own planner on staff, might not be as available to us. I think the ministry staff here in Sudbury -- I don't know about the rest of the province -- have been very open to listening to our concerns and I'm confident that they do bring the concerns back to Toronto for us.
Mr Galt: I'm not quite clear here; are we talking municipal affairs now or northern affairs?
Miss Lundy: You'd asked me about municipal affairs, I believe.
Mr Galt: I meant northern affairs. Did I say municipal?
Interjection: It's Northern Development.
Mr Galt: Northern Development; sorry, my terminology. I would think they would be here on your behalf.
Miss Lundy: They don't deal with us on planning matters. We deal with the planners at Municipal Affairs. Northern Development and Mines deal with us in different issues. I'm sure if we had concerns, we could address them through them to take to Toronto, but it's not something our municipality does on a regular basis.
Mr Galt: For some reason or other, I was under the impression that they were an umbrella organization pulling everything together for the concerns of the north.
Miss Lundy: No.
Ms Martel: Not on planning. they don't have planners.
The Chair: Mr Ouellette.
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): Thank you for your presentation. Just a couple of questions: You mentioned reasonable time but you didn't give a recommended time that you think is reasonable. Do you have any suggestions?
Miss Lundy: I guess it would be very difficult to limit it to the 20 or 30 days that are mentioned throughout the rest of the legislation, because there's not always a council meeting within 20 or 30 days of receiving an application. I would say two months maximum would be a very reasonable time.
Mr Ouellette: Sixty days.
Ms Lundy: Yes.
Mr Ouellette: Do you think that would be acceptable for all communities?
Miss Lundy: I would think so, because in the summer months we may only have a council meeting once a month.
Mr Ouellette: On pages 3 and 5, I'm just interested about the heritage matters. Could you expand on that just a little bit, what you're referring to there.
Mr Mayer: We do have, for example, if you looked at the French River, this is famous, if you want, because of what happened there even in the past. This I think has to be brought in. We also have, when we speak of heritage matters, certain things in our municipality that need to be kept, because that's the story of the past that has to be brought to our own children for the future. So these are the things that I'm speaking of.
Mr Ouellette: So your local community will be able to address those issues and determine what it was.
Mr Mayer: Yes.
Mr Ouellette: One other quick question would be on the septic problems outside the one-eighth-mile area. Are there any problems in those areas at all with the septic system?
Mr Mayer: To my knowledge, definitely not. We do have our own, of course, as it is expressed. It's not even working at full capacity. There is no problem outside of that because we have plenty of space, and if the space is there, it's not a concern.
Mr Ouellette: Okay.
Mr Hardeman: I just wanted quickly to go to the section where you refer to the counties and regions where they get the exemption from having the plan approved by the minister. Under subsection 17(9) of Bill 20, it does give the minister the authority to exempt others, which could in fact be a planning board. I think there's some relationship between the counties and regions. Not all counties are exempt if they do not presently have an approved plan and if they do not presently have a structure in place that would convince the minister that they have the ability to do good planning and to follow the provincial policy statement. I think it would point out that if the minister, upon reviewing your planning board, felt it appropriate that you should have the authority to approve amendments to that plan, that would be allowed under Bill 20.
Mr Mayer: My point was that we would like that to be the planning board because they know what our needs are. When we want changes like these, which are minor, then it would be only logical that we go to them.
Miss Lundy: And we would like to see it specifically included in the wording, along with county, regional and district municipalities.
Mr Hardeman: I think one of the concerns that was expressed was the appointment of the planning boards and how they are in existence, and if the wording was that all planning boards automatically receive that authority, it may very well raise some concerns in some areas. I think that's the reason for that exemption.
The other issue I think you raised was the change in your official plan which required everyone in the town or in the village to be hooked up to municipal services. By eliminating that provision in your plan, do you not see a concern that in the future, as your infrastructure is expanded to meet some of the requirements in the older part or in existing development, you would make people pay twice for services?
Mr Mayer: Not necessarily. I think what I would like to do right now is to simply say that the village is only the definition of a village within the OP. So if we could say that the village follows the sewage system as it goes along, then of course technically, according to the OP, the village would be extended. For me that would solve the problem. Then we could create lots as we go along with the sewage system. That's the only point there.
The Chair: Thank you. Moving to the official opposition. Mr Lalonde.
M. Lalonde : Merci, Monsieur le préfet et Madame Lundy. Tout d'abord, je veux vous féliciter pour votre présentation et pour le temps que vous avez pris pour préparer votre présentation. Vos commentaires sont précis, et je reconnais vos inquiétudes. Est-ce que vous croyez, Monsieur le préfet, que tous les changements apportés par ce nouveau projet de loi 20, qui vraiment apportent des changements à la Loi 163, vont stimuler l'économie dans votre région ?
M. Mayer : Je pense qu'on a mentionné à plusieurs occasions l'aspect de pouvoir du moins grandir comme village, si on peut utiliser ça, soit plus de maisons. Je comprends les inquiétudes qu'on avait dans le passé en disant : «Si on s'étend, éventuellement, dans 50 ans, si on va offrir les services d'égouts, ça va nous coûter plus cher ; si on va offrir les services de chemins, ça va coûter plus cher.» Je comprends ça.
Mais ce dont je parle ici au niveau de permission de création de «lots», dans ma vision, c'est toujours dans des chemins qui sont déjà existants qui seront toujours entretenus. Ce sont des régions où nous n'avons pas chez nous, du moins, de territoires d'agriculture aussi fertiles que certains territoires dans d'autres régions, soit dans l'est ou dans le sud de la province. Alors, je pense qu'on n'a rien détruit, mais on encouragerait quand même cette possibilité de grandir comme communauté. Je pense que c'est très important.
Je regarde le montant de maisons et j'ai peur de dire qu'il y en a moins aujourd'hui qu'il en avait hier, puis cela m'inquiète beaucoup. Je pense que dans le projet de loi 20, on commence à y toucher en espérant qu'on serait peut-être un peu moins restrictif sur certains points.
Mr Lalonde: Knowing that our former Minister of Municipal Affairs married a girl from Noëlville, I'm sure that when he sees the "article" in there on page 4 that says the decision for approval in your area will be left to the ministry, not giving you the authority to approve official plan amendments or zoning bylaws -- it would expedite the process if the approval or authority were given to your municipalities. I'm pretty sure the government will take this into consideration, because it is very important.
The fact that you have to go to the ministry's office, like my colleague Mr Gerretsen mentioned a little while ago, sometimes it takes three months before the people at the ministry's office even open up a file. In this case it concerns you, you know what the needs are in your counties, so I will appeal it in that if you are an organized area, the approval process should be given to your municipalities.
I believe that my colleague Mr Hoy also has some questions.
Mr Hoy: I wanted to talk a little bit about the committee of adjustment and the membership that might be on that committee as well. In my area there is a rather vigorous approach to amalgamation and annexation going on among municipalities. It's preliminary, but of course people are trying to find out -- as they say, "Who are we going to dance with tomorrow?" That's the analogy they use. They're looking for partners.
Some of the conversation these councillors and reeves, mayors, have had with me is that their job is currently part-time in the rural areas and they can satisfy the workload that way. If the municipalities take on a larger area, they see their time as being infringed upon more and more, maybe even becoming full-time -- that begs the question whether it will save any money. But I guess my point is, they feel that committees of adjustment should not perhaps include any council members because they simply won't have the time to hear the complaints or points on minor variances. Do you have an opinion on that?
Miss Lundy: The one thing I like is that this bill leaves that decision up to the local municipality, to choose whether there is a councillor or not. I think in a situation where there are part-time councillors or part-time politicians and they don't want to increase their workload, the option is there that they can find willing and able people in their community to volunteer to take on this role. But I appreciate that the decision for that is left in the hands of the local municipality.
Mr Mayer: I can add that we are studying it very positively. We've looked at both options, and it seems to me the councillors will be out of -- there's going to be a group of citizens taking over.
Mr Hoy: We've had a number of presentations that say it should be that way, that the people making the rules shouldn't be the judges. But this other point that I made about time and your request that things be done in a timely fashion, in combination with the other remarks, would lead me to believe that councillors should not be on the committee of adjustment.
Mr Gerretsen: What's the size of your municipality? How many people are there in your municipality?
Miss Lundy: Summer or winter?
Mr Mayer: It depends: close to 1,500 in winter and 5,000 or 6,000 in summer.
The Chair: The questioning moves to the third party.
Ms Martel: I thank you both, Claude and Jody, for coming in today. Claude, we've known each other for a long time. People should know that Claude and I ran as candidates in the 1987 election. Obviously, he ran for a different party, so he doesn't have to support me here today in the questions I'm about the ask, but let me try and get a couple of things on record, and perhaps you can help me with some of these questions and answers.
Would it be fair to say that Bill 163 was a big issue in the last election campaign in Sudbury district east?
Mr Mayer: Yes.
Ms Martel: You'll get your turn, planning staff.
Would it be fair to say that the position I took was very unpopular in Sudbury East, that I would prefer to keep the bill and amend it, and keep the planning board and deal with some of the concerns people had through the planning board and the bill that was in place?
Mr Mayer: Yes, and I was present at the meeting.
Ms Martel: Would it be fair to say that the Tory candidate ran around Sudbury East and said that under a Mike Harris government, Bill 163 would be abolished?
Mr Mayer: I think I've heard that.
Ms Martel: Would it be fair to say that the Tory candidate also ran around Sudbury East, and I think he had a letter from Mike Harris that said that a Tory government would also abolish the planning board.
Mr Mayer: I will let Brian answer that this afternoon.
Mr Baird: If that Tory candidate had been elected, we would hold him accountable.
Ms Martel: Now we see, if I'm correct, the position that we have before us now is that we have a Planning Act, and one presenter who came before us already, Heidi Ralph, who is a member of the planning board, has told us that under the bill that is before us there will not be any additional severances in the rural area, the same area that people were concerned about.
Mr Mayer: It is a concern to me as well. I think there should be more. I'll be -- sorry about that -- speaking to you again this afternoon, changing hats, and I will be mentioning something in that respect.
Ms Martel: Would it also be safe to say that even though the Tory candidate said he was going to abolish the planning board, we still have the planning board in place and we are not going to be giving, under the legislation as it's currently written, the planning board even the right to deal with amendments to OPs or OPAs.
Mr Mayer: I would like the planning board to have more power in that respect. I think as a municipality we are too small to have our own planner. We need to unite in that sense, but we should not have to go, necessarily, to Toronto for changes.
Ms Martel: It looks like you still have to. That was one of the reasons people voted for the Tories; they thought they weren't going to have to. That's what the Tory candidate promised them. To conclude, Mr Mayer, would you think that people who voted and who listened to the Tory candidate in the east end of the riding, it's safe to say to everyone here, did vote for the Tory candidate probably on this issue and really got led down the garden path?
Mr Gerretsen: As they did elsewhere in Ontario, I might add.
Mr Baird: If that Tory candidate were here to defend himself, I wish he were sitting right here.
Mrs Martel: Well, where is he? I wish he was here. I'd like to see him explain himself. I wish he was here explaining himself. My goodness.
Mr Gerretsen: He was here at 7:30 this morning.
Ms Martel: People voted in overwhelming numbers for him and they were deceived in Sudbury East. That's what happened. Would that be fair to say, Claude?
Mr Mayer: I didn't answer that one, but I must say that Shelley Martel is a friend of mine. So even if we ran one against the other, we're still good friends.
Mrs Fisher: Good for you.
Ms Martel: Thanks, Claude.
The Chair: Any other questions?
Mr Bisson: Just very quickly, it seems that part of the --
Mr Gerretsen: That's why you're a nice guy; you're a Liberal.
The Chair: We're all very non-partisan, are we?
Mr Bisson: Part of the debate that we're having here under Bill 20 is the same one we had under Bill 163: Who does planning? It seems to me part of the problem we've got is that on the one hand the Conservative government is saying they want to lessen the overlap, they want to lessen the duplication that occurs within the bureaucracies of all the various functions of ministries and stuff, but what we're sort of encouraging through Bill 20, by throwing in more to local control, is that there is going to be even more duplication, more overlap. Is there another way of doing that? Is there a way that we're able to do local planning so that's consistent with the needs of local municipalities and ratepayers that's short of giving every municipal council the ability to do planning on their own? Couldn't we look at a regional or district model with representation from municipalities rather than where we're going now? It seems to me that we're going to be employing, as we do now, planners in each of those communities, planning departments etc. Wouldn't there be some efficiency of scale if we tried to do it on a regional or district basis?
Miss Lundy: I think that's the reason that the council in our municipality supports the planning board, because we're not each 1,200 population municipalities having our own planner or our own planning consultant on retainer; we're doing it jointly, and the only thing we'd like to see is that planning board given more authority and more responsibility for local matters so that we aren't doing half of our planning business with the board and half of our planning business with Toronto and then the two of them are phoning back and forth to confer on cases and what's in ROPs.
Mr Bisson: It seems to me what we should be doing in the end, either on a regional or district level, is giving the planning boards the authority to make the decisions. But at the same time, being consistent with the policies of the provincial government clearly spelled out in the act and in regulation it seems to me would deal with a lot of this problem. But I don't see Bill 20 doing that. I see it as a sort of continuation of the same problem.
Mr Mayer: It will depend on the changes that will be brought up by Bill 20. I have a feeling at times -- and it's way before Bill 163, maybe, to correct some of the mistakes to the south -- I said at one time if we were to build a tower in the middle of Noëlville of five, 10 storeys high, we would be permitted that, but that is not what people want, because we have this space to offer to them. They don't want to be there. They could live in Sudbury, for that matter. I think it's only a matter of changing certain things, and you have heard this morning about infilling, about merging. If that can be corrected, then it's no problem.
Mr Bisson: It seems to me what we're doing is we're going around the issue rather than going right into it and dealing with it. You know, the real issue is, you have to allow local planners the flexibility to be able to deal with local planning concerns, but it has to be done in some way that is consistent with the needs of the community through the region and consistent with the policies of the province. Thank you.
The Chair: Excellent timing --
Mr Bisson: Excellent comments, I thought you were going to say.
The Chair: -- right at 30 minutes. Thank you very much for taking the time to make a presentation before us here this morning. That being the last item on our morning agenda, the committee stands in recess till 1:30 back in this room.
The committee recessed from 1148 to 1332.
SUDBURY EAST MUNICIPAL ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Seeing a quorum present, we'll call the meeting back to order and proceed with our afternoon session. Our first presentation this afternoon will be from the Sudbury East Municipal Association; an encore performance. Good afternoon.
Mr Claude Mayer: Good afternoon. Mr Chairman and members of the committee, do not adjust your set. I am alone. Gone are the days when you could order someone to be here. The two persons who were here were reeves of neighbouring municipalities. They are the ones working; when you're retired, you're not working.
Again, my name is Claude Mayer and I am chair of the Sudbury East Municipal Association. You've talked so much and you've heard so much about Sudbury East, that maybe we should give you a chance to see, in this slide presentation, what Sudbury East is.
Across, almost in the middle, you have Highway 17, and on this side, the west side, we have Highway 69. Sudbury District East is comprised of nine organized townships and 23 unorganized surrounding townships. It borders the regional municipality of Sudbury, the district of Nipissing and the district of Parry Sound. It covers a land area of approximately 954 square kilometres, and the population residing in the area is approximately 12,000; a lot more in the summer.
My presentation today is on behalf of the organized townships, where two of the four organized townships are part of the Sudbury East Planning Board and two have chosen not to belong. However, we have common requests and concerns.
To the far west we have the township of Hagar. It's main town is Markstay, which is located on Highway 17, approximately 40 kilometres east of Sudbury. Markstay is sometimes referred to as a bedroom community from where many people commute to Sudbury for work.
Further east is the township of Ratter and Dunnet. I think one of the presenters was from Ratter and Dunnet. Its main town is Warren, which is located on Highway 17 -- I have 60 kilometres but he said a little bit more -- 65 kilometres east of Sudbury. The main places of employment are in agriculture and forestry industries.
The townships of Casimir, Jennings and Appleby are located on Highway 535, which connects to Highway 17 at a midpoint between Sturgeon and Sudbury. It's main town is St Charles. The main places of employment are in the agriculture, forestry and mining industries.
The townships of Cosby, Mason and Martland are in the southeastern part of Sudbury East. Of course, its main town is Noëlville, situated at the crossroads of Highways 535 and 64. The main places of employment lie in the agriculture, forestry, mining and tourism industries.
When one looks at Sudbury East, one can see a north corridor and south corridor -- and here we are this morning talking about southern Ontario and northern Ontario; we have in our own little district a north and south -- one linked to Highway 17, while the southern part is linked to Highway 69. Yet we have a major common concern: growth. In Bill 20, what can help us grow and what can prevent growth in our organized communities?
Bill 163 required municipal planning decisions "to be consistent with," while Bill 20 only requires that municipalities "have regard to." This notion of having regard to brings more flexibility to an official plan. Though we realize that this committee was not given the mandate to review the draft policy statements, it must be mentioned that having regard to the policies may make growth and development easier. However, there is a need for a clear, precise and explicit definition of "have regard to" which would permit growth. We as municipalities can only compensate for the lack of funding by having more houses built in our area, remembering that all is done within good planning and common sense development.
Our big barrier to growth lies with the infilling policy. We as municipalities know what is best for us and for the people we are representing. We want to preserve agricultural land, although we have no class 1 and class 2 agricultural land in any of our townships. We want to promote growth physically and economically, while stili protecting the environment, by streamlining the land use planning and development system. Although Bill 20 recognizes that municipal governments are the appropriate level of government to manage the planning processes, it should reflect more flexibility in the infilling process. Provincial policies must be regarded not only in the preparation of an official plan or plan amendments but in all subsequent implementing activity, whether a consent, plan of subdivision, rezoning or minor variance. Once the official plan and its amendments have reflected provincial policy and have been approved, then the OP should replace the provincial policy statement as the document guiding development. Without this type of flexibility a policy-let system is not achieved at the municipal level.
Another barrier to our growth -- again you've heard that this morning -- related to infilling is the merging of big lots. In all of our municipalities, our forefathers had, in most cases, 160-acre lots. Less than a quarter of the land was farmable and sufficient to operate a farm in those days. As progress came along and things changed, those farms were not big enough for a farmer to make a living, so neighbouring farms were bought. Although all those farms had a different parcel number -- and I'm not blaming any party in this particular case -- a law was established in 1976 to merge those big lots into one if the owner bore the same name, even if it was different parcel numbers. In almost all of the cases, this was unknown to the owners themselves. In came the policy of infilling and those lots not being farmed or used can't be split today. That is a prevention of growth.
As mentioned earlier, farms were once the basis of our existence. The first settlers who came into our region -- in fact, we celebrated 100 years this summer for some of the settlers -- settled on farms. They did not need very much to make a living. As years went by, the farm was sold to a son or another one was bought. Generally today, the second or third generation of farmers plow the land but must find work elsewhere to make a living. Yet they would like to give to their son or daughter a lot where a house could be built. In many cases, infilling prevents such development.
Subsection 45.1(39) deals with fees payable by a municipality specifically for minor variance. The Ontario Municipal Board can recover the costs of conducting the hearing from the municipality through a fee, with the option of recovering additional actual costs where they exceed the fee. Planning boards may be delegated the authority of the minister in regard to zoning matters, and whereas a planning board may be delegated the authority of the minister pursuant to subsections 45(1) to 45(4), minor variances, the fee payable by the municipality to the OMB is applicable. Thus, the only appeal mechanism for a planning board decision about minor variance is to the OMB. In this legislation, costs of this hearing are payable by the planning board.
Unlike municipal councils, the planning board does not have the option of choosing whether to refer a decision review to the OMB if an appeal is requested by the applicant or another person or group. The planning board must pay costs for the review of its own decision, and since the municipality participating in the planning board must pay the operation costs of the planning board, the financial burden indirectly falls in our hands.
It would be more logical to have the individual wishing to refer the matter to the OMB be responsible for all costs associated with such hearing. Would that not be a type of user fee which this government strongly supports? We as municipal councillors realize that we cannot administer today as we did in the past, that moneys will not be there as before. This is common sense and sound administration.
In closing, I would like to thank you to have given me, a second time, the opportunity to speak to you on behalf of all the municipal councils, and those that are not here, of Sudbury East regarding Bill 20.
Returning to the "have regard to" operating clause as it respects the principle that communities should plan the form and nature of local development while determining how provincial interests can be achieved within local circumstances is very positive. We as municipal councils are fully aware of what we need to do and plan such that the advantages and beauty of our land be still there tomorrow for our children, and we hope, through this piece of legislation, you will help us achieve our goals.
The Chair: Thank you, Reeve. We have six minutes per caucus for questioning this time, and we start with the official opposition.
Mr Gerretsen: Mr Mayer, this morning we had a presentation from an individual who made the same point that you made with respect to the infilling policy and with respect to the policy where farms, in effect, were joined. I agree with you; we had the same problem in southern Ontario as well, where separate parcels that had existed for, in some cases, 40 or 50 years were joined. Of course, now the law for any severance that has taken place since then has changed, in that "once a severance always a severance" applies. But it didn't apply for the lots that were joined together at that point in time.
Would you agree with the notion that although the infilling policy is a good policy for some people, for other people who basically want to get away from urban life and live out in the country, really the notion that the larger parcels of land should be chopped up into manageable acreage -- I don't know whether it's 50 acres or whatever -- is a reasonable policy for a government to adopt?
Mr Mayer: If I can use an example to answer that one, I know of a friend who for some odd reason had a 360-acre lot. The houses are not there any more. He wanted to split. Because of the infilling, because the distance of a house up on the other side to the house on the other side is too far, then he is not able to split according to the law. So in my point of view, if there were houses there before, if that was a lot which has a different parcel number, that for me is what I'm calling should be common sense, and we should accept that.
Mr Gerretsen: Administratively, what kind of remarks have you heard back from the bureaucrats, or whoever deals with these applications, as to why it's not being allowed? What reason have you been given as to why this isn't being allowed?
Mr Mayer: I only have to go back to those that made the regulations, if I can say "regulations," or the policies outside of the -- for me, they don't want to commit the mistakes in the north that they may have done in the south. I know they're looking at 50 or 100 years down the line and saying: "Okay. In 100 years those people would like services. We will always keep those roads open."
I'm not speaking of someone that's going to end up totally at the end of a territory back in the woods to create a lot; that is not what I'm speaking of. Those are lots on the highway or on the main roads of my municipality, which therefore would permit more houses. It's not going to take away the cost, I believe. Unfortunately, we're speaking of sewage systems. They'll have their 80 acres. I think that's enough.
Mr Gerretsen: What types of services would rural properties like that require? Are we talking about garbage service?
Mr Mayer: That's one. But then, you know, if there's a house over here, another one five miles away, and you have to go out to the five-mile one, it doesn't cost any more to pick it up. That's one point. For me, that's the only one.
Mr Gerretsen: And bus service for school children, I imagine.
Mr Mayer: Yes.
Mr Gerretsen: Have you heard the argument here that we get down south quite frequently on these kind of severances that if you allow too many entries and exists on to a major road, which I take it Highway 17 obviously is between North Bay and Sudbury, in effect you're interfering with the transportation network in that the entire countryside from here to North Bay could have a house every 10 or 15 acres on it?
Mr Bisson: I've heard MTO make that argument.
Mr Gerretsen: MTO has made that argument for years.
Mr Mayer: I thought that on many of the highways they do have some -- maybe not highways but roads, on the in side, where there's only one exit on the highway and there are two or three houses that could join there. What I'm speaking about in these mergings of lots are usually not on the highway. They are in secondary roads.
Mr Bisson: Les rangs.
Mr Mayer: Les rangs. That's right.
Mr Gerretsen: The other comment, and I didn't ask you this question earlier: What we've heard down south from just about everybody, and I'm talking about developers, general public, all kinds of presenters, with the exception of AMO, even some municipalities -- I can remember the municipality of Etobicoke, for example -- is that final appeal from a committee of adjustment decision ought to be to the OMB.
Somewhere along the line, if for political reasons either a council or a committee of adjustment has turned something down -- everybody knows everybody else. I know what it's like -- there ought to be at some point in time a mechanism where the final level of appeal, if need be, and all of us should hope that it won't be necessary, will be to an independent organization such as the OMB. That's been one of the criticisms of the committee of adjustment matters in this bill, that the final level of appeal is not to the Ontario Municipal Board. The only organization that's spoken in favour of it is AMO. How do you feel about that? Your brief really didn't address that particular issue.
Mr Mayer: If I read it well and understood it well, and it may be the case that I didn't, I understand that if the committee of adjustment is formed and there's no council member, the appeal would go to the council. I realize that when we say no, it does hurt, as politicians, and I don't think -- we have been elected and we understand the future. We understand tomorrow. Some of the cases we'll have to say no; some of the cases we'll say yes. I think it's up to us to follow the law to the point that when there is a possibility, we'll help the individual. When there is no possibility or it's completely contrary to the --
Mr Gerretsen: So you're not in favour of final appeal to the OMB? You sound like a politician, you know.
Mr Baird: No name-calling.
Mr Mayer: Well, just a little bit. Others are bigger politicians than me.
Mr Gerretsen: You're the most important. As a point of information, I think it ought to be pointed out that a former Minister of Municipal Affairs, M. Grandmaître, has just joined us here in this room in Sudbury. I think he ought to be welcomed.
Mr Bisson: He's the guy that did this. He's the one that got us in this mess.
Mr Mayer: Mr Chairman, maybe I should get him to help me over here in front.
The Chair: Moving on to the third party.
M. Bisson : C'est toujours un plaisir de vous recevoir devant notre comité, comme d'habitude. I guess there are two questions I'd like to come back to. One of them is the cost of appeal to the appellant proposal that you make and the other one is a question of severances, just to go back and revisit that.
On the question of severances, what it comes down to is a very simple question I have to ask you as a local municipal politician: If the government allows severances to happen at a less restricted rate than they are now -- because there are restrictions about where you can do severances -- and we say, okay, as a province, the government says that's it, we'll leave that in the hands of municipalities, and if the municipality wants to allow it, so be it, you make the decision. You understand as a local politician that, in the long term, there will be a cost associated with that. How big we can debate, but there'll be some cost. Do you agree? There'd be some cost in the end. I'm leading to a question here.
Mr Mayer: There will be some cost to the municipality?
Mr Bisson: In the long run, because there will be services that will be needed there eventually if there's lots of construction that goes on in that end. That's fine, provided that the local ratepayers are prepared to pay the tab, and it seems to me that's really what the issue is here, that if you allow the severances to go on at request -- because I don't know how you devise a policy, quite frankly, that is -- you can't have a policy that says yes to one and no to the other and then talk about provincial policies. There's no way you can do that. It's either you have provincial policies that we're consistent with or you allow all the severances to happen.
That's what it really comes down to, and what I'm saying to you is that if what I'm hearing here is a lot of ratepayers are saying we should allow those severances to happen, are the municipal ratepayers prepared to pay the difference of tax assessment over the future years? If the answer is yes, then you allow the severances to happen. Just your general comment on that.
Mr Mayer: Okay. When we're speaking of severances, we are not speaking of thousands of those. I'd be satisfied if in my municipality we can get five to 10. That would be the maximum in the first few years and that's about all. We are already spending money for the roads in those particular areas, the one that I think of in my municipality, so it would not cost any more. We're driving by with the grader every day when it's needed. The only other cost may be involved if there are no children in that particular area, but somewhere, somehow there will always be one, I presume, so then why not --
Mr Bisson: So you're saying there's a limit. What I think you're saying then is that you would allow the severance to happen provided it's a road that is presently maintained by the municipality? If it's not being maintained, then you don't allow the severance in order to stop that. Is that what you're saying?
Mr Mayer: We don't want to create new roads technically in areas where it would cost us a lot.
Mr Bisson: That's fair, that's why I'm asking, because if you allow it to happen at any time it means to say that some of those roads, where presently not serviced by municipalities, in the end would have to be picked up by the municipality by virtue of having many families living on them.
Mr Mayer: I agree there, but I think the ones I'm thinking of anyway are within the --
Mr Bisson: I just wanted to clarify it, because as a local politician I wanted to make sure that I understood what you were telling me. So that's the policy.
The second thing in regard to the cost of appeals being passed on to the appellant if you bring something to the OMB raises a bit of a question. As it is right now, the municipality picks up the tab, but if you passed it on to -- you're nodding no? Oh, I thought you were saying no; I was going to say that's new to me -- it's right now picked up by the municipality. If you pass it on to the appellant, is there a danger that some of the people who have legitimate appeals who don't have the money would not be able to go forward?
Mr Mayer: I think the way it was presented this morning lies in exactly the way you've said it, that is, if it is their municipality, if it is a bylaw that says yes, we cover that, then it's the municipality. But if the municipality at one time says sorry, we went through the process and the answer is no, but the person requiring that says, "Yes, I want to go further," then I think it's only fair that that person pick up the tab.
Mr Bisson: But is there a danger that some legitimate concerns, not all of them, raised by people who may not have the money would have no other avenue? I'm just wondering, if the answer to that is there is a possibility, then it becomes it's either the municipality or the province or a combination of both that would have to pick up the costs of the appeal, it would seem to me.
Mr Mayer: Well, there may be nothing that it may not be, but I certainly think that if people have to pay out of their own pockets, they're going to be far more careful before deciding to go to a further step and have to pay the costs; it's as simple as that.
Mr Bisson: I would just say on that, I think there is a danger. I hear what you're saying. You want to make sure that people are not just going and don't recognize that there's a cost associated and you've got to build responsibility in the decision-making process. But the problem I have is that if you go to that system exclusively, it will leave on the outside of the decision-making process many people who don't have the bucks to be able to back up their appeal if they should have one, and I think there's a danger to that. I just want to make sure that's on the record.
Mr Mayer: That's fine, but I'd like to specify that I don't think we will have that many. Secondly, if we are paying as a municipality, somewhere, somehow, some persons are paying.
Mr Bisson: Yes, it's the taxpayer.
Mr Mayer: It's still the taxpayer.
The Chair: Questions from the government.
Mr Hardeman: A couple of questions. First of all, you put forward the proposition of once the official plan had been approved that it should be deemed to comply with the provincial policy statements and that it should be the only document that would be required in planning matters. That was also a position put forward by AMO and a number of other deputants in Toronto.
I was just wondering how you envision dealing with the possibility -- and obviously it wouldn't happen in the short term, but in the long term -- where an official plan was approved and the provincial policy statements changed? How would you deal with if you deemed the official plan to comply with the policy statements, who would be in a position to look at that to make sure that it continues to comply with the policy statements?
Mr Mayer: Okay. We have an official plan, let's say there are slight discrepancies -- and we do have some and I've expressed them earlier -- then we have to make those amendments. That's not too serious. If we are not complying with the provincial policies at a future date, for example, then we would have to change our official plan to make it "having regard to." Therefore it's like anything else, we'll have to follow the law one way or the other. Who would check on that? Who would supervise that? We have to rely on the judgement of the municipal councillors, I imagine.
Mr Hardeman: The other issue you talked to was the cost of the OMB, if a municipality refers it to the OMB they would cover the cost. The cost of that is based to the applications for minor variances, and I think if we look through the process we find that the choice of whether it goes to the OMB is a municipal choice, that it could be one of three things. It could be that the council makes the decision on the appeal; or that there is no appeal from the decision of the committee of adjustment; or if the municipality wishes, they can refer it to the OMB. In that case, because they have chosen not to make that decision themselves or not to have it go without an appeal, would you not think it's fair that the municipality would pick up that cost?
Mr Mayer: I would answer yes, because the idea was expressed this morning, if it is the bylaw that we follow or if it's the municipality that chooses to follow that route to the OMB, then therefore it should be them, not the individual.
Mr Hardeman: The last question I have is, you mentioned earlier in your presentation that you had a friend -- and I congratulate you on being a politician and still having one of those --
Mr Mayer: I said one only, eh?
Mr Hardeman: -- you had a friend with 360 acres that previously had buildings on it but they have merged into one parcel, and you said presently he would have difficulty getting that severed. Could you tell me what is it in your official plan that would make it difficult to sever a 360-acre parcel of land into smaller parcels?
Mr Mayer: The famous word called "infilling." It's considered one lot, there are no houses on it, and therefore the distance from the house on the left to the house on the right is beyond 150 metres, therefore you cannot split.
Mr Hardeman: In our official plan we have the same thing and we've had the infilling provision for some time in my riding. The infilling applies when you want to create residential uses in the agricultural area. If you were severing a 360-acre parcel into two parcels or into three parcels of 120 acres apiece, in our plan that would not be considered residential, that would be considered smaller farm holdings and the infilling would not apply. Would that not fit in your official plan?
Mr Mayer: Okay. I though I understood the situation. Somebody is more familiar than me with this particular item, because this was the way I understood the matter. I understood also what you're saying, that farms could be divided --
Mr Hardeman: I guess my position really is, I think that maybe we may be reading more into the policy on infilling than what is intended to be there. The infilling has been in place in a number of areas where it applies to residential severances in areas other than residential zones, but that does not prohibit, at least in our area, other types of severances.
Mr Mayer: Okay. In order to answer the question correctly, maybe the same question should be presented to the next speaker. He would answer, because he is our planner.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you. I'd be more than happy to try and do that.
The Chair: Thank you again, Reeve, for making a second presentation before us here today. We appreciate your taking the time to come before us.
Mr Mayer: Thank you very much for listening.
SUDBURY EAST PLANNING BOARD
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the Sudbury East Planning Board. Good afternoon. We have 30 minutes for you to divide as you see fit between presentation and question and answer period.
Mr Brian Carré: Good afternoon, Mr Chairman, and members of the committee. My name is Brian Carré. I am the planner and secretary-treasurer of Sudbury East Planning Board. I am submitting to you today a brief on behalf of the members of the Sudbury East Planning Board. Again, on behalf of Sudbury East Planning Board, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the committee for allowing the board to address some of its findings upon having reviewed the proposed legislation.
Let me begin by saying that our board is one that oversaw four official plans being implemented in the span of approximately five years, all of which are presently "consistent with" Bill 163. I think a point that should be made here is that Sudbury East Planning Board was created in 1990, so we're a fairly young board, and in that span of time we oversaw the adoption of four official plans. I think that's a point we should remember throughout this presentation.
Sudbury East Planning Board, including its member municipalities, is frustrated with the effects of the legislation on our potential for economic growth and our survival as a small northern Ontario community. While welcoming changes through the enactment of Bill 20, we foresee the need for numerous amendments to our official plans. The countless hours and moneys dedicated to these documents now appear to have been somewhat futile. None the less, we, the members of the Sudbury East Planning Board and its member municipalities, will attempt to restore the faith of our constituents in the need for a solid planning system which is streamlined, promotes economic growth and protects the environment.
To achieve this, we would like to bring to the committee's attention the following comments and observations which we feel will allow the board to administer a more effective planning program in Sudbury East.
Subsection 1(2) of Bill 20 limits the definition of a "public body" for the purpose of appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing only. The Sudbury East Planning Board welcomes this effort in streamlining the planning process and the one-window approach to land use planning in Ontario.
Subsection 3(5) now reverts the criteria for exercising planning authority back to "shall have regard to" provincial policy statements from the previous "shall be consistent with" standard. Also, the legislation no longer requires municipalities and planning boards to make their official plans consistent with provincial policies pursuant to section 26. While embracing the apparent flexibility of "shall have regard to," the Sudbury East Planning Board is of the opinion that the level of flexibility may only be ascertained further to a review of the draft provincial policy statements.
The board acknowledges that the provincial policy statements are not the subject matter which has been referred to this committee. However, we submit that it is impossible to make any conclusions on this specific change in legislation, being the concept of "have regard to," without reviewing such policies. It is respectfully requested that the proposed legislative change to "shall have regard to" be evaluated in conjunction with the submissions to be forwarded to the planning policy branch of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing regarding the draft provincial policy statements.
The Sudbury East Planning Board would also submit that a common understanding and application of the concept of "shall have regard to" is essential to a sound provincial planning system. People change, be it staff, politicians or appointed officials. Notwithstanding that the government is of the opinion that "years of experience show that planners and decision-makers, including the Ontario Municipal Board, know what this means," the concept of having regard for policy statements needs to be clearly defined to ensure a level of consistency in decision-making for all residents of Ontario.
To conclude, the Sudbury East Planning Board would suggest that in any definition of "shall have regard to" which would oblige planning authorities to consider provincial policies, a clear distinction in such policies be made regarding the demand for development in cities, counties and district and regional municipalities as opposed to the demand for development in smaller northern Ontario municipalities. Our member municipalities are also of the opinion that should this distinction not be made, any potential for economic growth in smaller municipalities will be eliminated. This, combined with significant funding reductions, will bring many of our smaller northern Ontario municipalities to the brink of extinction.
In regard to subsection 4(2), the minister may delegate to planning boards any authority, with the exception of the authority to approve official plans and official plan amendments. Subsections 17(2), (3) and (4) give the authority to approve official plans or official plan amendments to various county, district and regional councils. The Sudbury East Planning Board is of the opinion, by virtue of the fact that the proposed legislation does not require official plans to be consistent with provincial policy, and should a common understanding and application of "shall have regard to" be implemented, that it would be logical that planning boards be delegated the authority to grant, at the very least, official plan amendments, should they request it. The board feels that since they are the planning body that administers official plans in the area, they are the foremost authority that can assess what would comply or not comply, while having regard for provincial policies.
Also, subsection 4(2.2) gives the minister the power to delegate his authority to a planning board without the board's request if the board has an official plan. The Sudbury East Planning Board would simply recommend that a consultation period be included in this clause so as to allow planning boards to adequately prepare themselves for the delegation of a particular authority.
The repeal of subsections 16(1), (2), (3) and (4) is endorsed by the board in that it allows planning boards, in conjunction with their member municipalities, to identify the areas which they see fit as being the best location for two-unit residential homes. This particular change in legislation is seen as providing flexibility and local decision-making in such matters.
Subsection 17(13) of Bill 20 requires regional, metropolitan and district municipalities, prescribed counties, local municipalities within a county for municipal purposes and cities in a territorial district to prepare and adopt and, unless exempt from approval, submit an official plan for approval. However, subsection 17(14) gives the option to other municipalities to prepare and adopt an official plan. The Sudbury East Planning Board is of the opinion that there is no incentive for such other municipalities which may be adjacent to planning authorities to establish and adhere to good planning practices. It would also appear that member municipalities could simply repeal the bylaw adopting their official plans and disregard any local planning policies.
Whereas many residents of northern Ontario perceive official plan policies as unnecessary restrictions, individuals are locating, and in some cases relocating, to municipalities which do not have official plans in place. The board would recommend that all municipalities throughout Ontario be required to prepare and adopt some form of localized planning policies. It is felt that having such local policies in all municipalities will strengthen the provincial planning system, further protect the natural environment and balance the opportunities for growth in all Ontario municipalities.
In regards to zoning matters under subsections 34(10.1), (10.2) and (10.3), the Sudbury East Planning Board welcomes the opportunity under the proposed legislation to pass bylaws requiring zoning bylaw amendment applications to include prescribed information as well as the opportunity to refuse to consider, or further consider, such applications not including the prescribed information.
The board also embraces the removal of the authority of a council to prohibit all uses of land or the construction of all classes of buildings in areas of natural and scientific interest, sensitive areas, archaeological areas and contaminated areas. Both proposed changes provide for more flexibility and local decision-making, while requiring prescribed information for zoning bylaw amendment application gives decision-makers a better opportunity to make well-informed decisions for all residents of the planning area.
The planning board also applauds the elimination of the opportunity for public bodies to request a 10-day extension to comment on a proposed zoning bylaw or amendment. It is felt that this legislation will streamline the zoning bylaw preparation and amendment process and provide for a more appropriate time frame for such consultations.
Pursuant to subsection 47(2), whereas a planning board may be delegated the authority of the minister for such matters as zoning and minor variances, subsections 45.1(38), (39) and (40) are is unacceptable to the Sudbury East Planning Board. More specifically, giving the authority to the Ontario Municipal Board to recover the costs of conducting a hearing from a planning board, regardless of who is referring the matter, is inappropriate.
Should a planning board be delegated the authority of the minister under section 45, any appeals must be referred directly to the Ontario Municipal Board. Subsequent to the most significant funding reductions to municipalities in Ontario's history, which consequently have reduced municipal contributions to planning boards, such legislation is not a sign of the times. The Sudbury East Planning Board would respectfully request that a user fee system be implemented so as to recover the costs of a hearing from the individual referring the matter.
Also, under subsection 47(2), subsections 45(5) and (6) do not apply to the powers of the minister. The Sudbury East Planning Board would submit that should the minister delegate to a planning board the authority to deal with minor variances, such boards may have adopted official plans by way of bylaw. By virtue of this, the board would respectfully request that subsection 47(2) of the proposed legislation be amended to allow for subsections 45(5) and (6) to apply to planning boards.
In regards to subsection 50(3), being subdivision control, the Sudbury East Planning Board has serious concerns with clause (b) by virtue of the fact that no land may be conveyed, other than by consent, should an individual conveying such land have any rights to abutting land. When this particular legislation was enacted, many, if not most, property owners in northern Ontario were not adequately informed or even aware of the effects of this legislation, being the merging of lots under the Planning Act.
Prior to the legislation being enacted in the 1970s, many individuals owned and/or purchased abutting land and to this day are not aware that they in fact own only one piece of property. To correct this, the planning board would respectfully request that subsection 50(3) be amended to allow for the recognition of all lands deeded as separate lots prior to the enactment of subdivision control. The board, while recognizing the purpose of subdivision control, is of the opinion that the provisions for notifying the public of legislative changes is somewhat inadequate.
Subsections 51(20) and 53(5) of Bill 20 suggest that the notice of application for plans of subdivision and consents, respectively, must be given only if it is prescribed by regulation. The Sudbury East Planning Board would submit that, should notice be required, it be done by way of posting on the subject lands. The additional time and costs associated with preparing, circulating and/or posting such notices in local newspapers is unnecessary. The board suggests that a large enough sign or poster visible from the road would suffice to notify surrounding land owners of a particular application having been submitted.
Subsection 53(14) of the proposed legislation allows for any person or public body to file an appeal in respect of a request for consent 60 days after the application is submitted if no decision is made. The Sudbury East Planning Board is of the opinion that such a reduction may not provide staff adequate time to prepare the background information and comply with the consent regulations so as to allow the decision-makers an opportunity to make the best informed decision on a particular application.
The volume of applications may vary over the course of a year; however, it is felt that the attention given to applications submitted by area residents must not. Therefore, the planning board would respectfully request that the 90-day time frame remain.
In regard to time frames, the planning board has recognized that numerous changes have been made to such processes as stipulated under sections 17, 22, 34, 51, 53 and 45. Although the Sudbury East Planning Board has yet to receive any of the minister's authority under the act, with the exception of the granting of consents, we would respectively caution the government on these reductions. More specifically, it is presumed that these time frames were carefully chosen based on the tasks at hand and the limited resources available to planning boards and smaller northern Ontario municipalities.
Should these time frames be too limited, the objective of creating a faster, cheaper and more understandable system, while allowing planning decisions to be made by the people who best understand local circumstances, will not be achieved with respect to planning boards or small northern Ontario municipalities.
In closing, section 67.1 allows planning boards to retain the proceed of fines in proceedings undertaken by them. The Sudbury East Planning Board applauds this change as it provides planning boards with the same opportunities as municipalities when convictions of zoning offences are handed down.
At this time, before I conclude, I feel compelled to raise a few points with the committee in regard to some of the comments that I heard earlier this morning. There were comments made that the Sudbury East Planning Board, in preparation of official plans, may have had one meeting, and one that was cancelled. I feel it is appropriate for me to inform you that the planning board held seven public meetings. We were only required to have one under the legislation; we had seven. Of these seven meetings, three were workshops on various issues under the Planning Act where residents were invited to sit down on issues of their interest and provide us with whatever they felt was important to be included in the plan. I just thought I'd like to make that clear, that public input was given due process in the preparation of that plan.
As well, there was a comment made that planners that have the authority for, as an example, planning boards, are the ones that more or less direct development and not the planners in Ontario. I feel I have to comment on that in that the planners that work for planning boards at this time, today, have to be consistent with official plan policies and these official plan policies reflect provincial policies. In other words, the planners that work for planning boards, or any other authority, do not direct development. Under Bill 163, we are required to be consistent with provincial policies. I just thought I'd like to make that clear as well.
Mr Bisson: Thank you very much. We don't have a lot of time but I'd like you to elaborate on the comment you made where you were making a suggestion that the "shall have regard for" provision be evaluated with a submission to be forwarded to the planning policy branch of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Can you expand on that a bit, what the logic of that would be, because I think a lot of people don't understand what you're getting at?
Mr Carré: When we sat down as a board, the board was of the opinion that it's very simple to say that "shall be consistent" is more flexible than "shall have regard for," but what are we having regard for? We're having regard for policy statements. We, the board, were of the opinion that the policy statements were not to be discussed here today and we are in the process of preparing the written submissions to the planning policy branch; therefore, how can we comment on the flexibility of "shall have regard for" without reviewing the policy statements? That in fact is what the board has asked me to bring back to the committee.
Mr Bisson: There is a view, and I wouldn't say this is shared among all planners, that you may end up with more appeals with the new provisions as compared to the old ones, because it would be less clear. Do you agree or disagree with that?
Mr Carré: I think the board made it clear in their submission that they would like to see some type of understanding, definition -- we can call the term later -- of what "shall have regard for" really means. We say this because we want to see consistency in planning decisions, whereas staff and decision-makers know exactly which direction they're going in on planning applications.
The board has also asked to state that if such an understanding or a definition is prepared, if it's going to oblige decision-makers to "have regard for," we're not necessarily changing flexibility here. If that's the case, the board is asking that there be some distinction in the demand for the type of development versus the large urban centres as compared to the local municipalities.
Mr Bisson: You pointed out in your presentation, and I think correctly so, when you said that development tends to happen and can be attracted easier in those places that have no local planning policies. I think the answer to that fear I have is that if you don't either clarify the "having regard for" or you move away from "being consistent with," you can really end up in a situation that is the worst of both possible worlds if it's not clearly defined in the legislation as a regulation.
Mr Carré: That certainly may be the case, but I think that comment was made in the context of -- in our area, anyway, in Sudbury's planning area, and in areas where there are no official plans, people perceive that it's almost a free-for-all, and the municipalities that are dedicated to having good planning practices in their municipalities are losing on any potential for growth, because people are locating or even relocating to those areas where there are no official plan policies.
Mr Hardeman: I want to carry on with the other discussion I had with the reeve earlier, but first I'd like to deal with that "shall have regard for" as opposed to "shall be consistent with," and I recognize your need for clarity to know what it means. Without that definition, could you tell me if you see it in any way possible that "shall have regard for" could be considered by anyone to be more restrictive than "shall be consistent with?"
Mr Carré: Let's use a scenario. Should someone have applied for consent and the decision-maker in his own mind feels that "shall have regard for" is, "I read the policy; it doesn't apply; approve," and we find ourselves at the Ontario Municipal Board, what assistance have we given to the applicant? The process is longer and there still is no decision.
At the Ontario Municipal Board, we're looking at the application and we say: "We have to have regard for these policies. Did you have regard for these?" "Yes, I read them. I don't think they apply." "Why not? "Because I just don't think so." That's not flexibility. They have to have regard and they have to be more or less consistent with those policies to some level to have that decision handed down.
Mr Hardeman: The other question I had was the issue of the policies in the region's official plan; I guess the one that you administer. Would a severance of a 360-acre rural parcel be prohibited under that official plan, and what policies would one use to direct that?
Mr Carré: I think first I have to caution the committee in that when we speak of farms, some individuals speak of farms as just large lots of 80 acres and so forth. A planner may look at "farm" as a use. So if we're looking at a proposal for a large tract of land that is not identified as agricultural land, be it class 1, 2 or 3, but it's still a large tract of land, the consent criteria in that official plan require infilling in rural areas, yes, and if he does not comply with that infilling policy, unfortunately the application would not be successful in my opinion.
Mr Smith: Thanks very much for your presentation. Of interest, you've identified the one-window approach. Over the course of the last week some of the opposition members have raised concerns that the one-window approach would diminish the access you might have to technical expertise provided by various ministries. Is that a concern you share? Maybe you can provide me with some idea of how often you access technical expertise from various ministry officials.
Mr Carré: Maybe I'm very fortunate, but the offices I deal with, be it from any ministry in the Sudbury area, always are by the phone and ready to assist at any time. I don't think under the one-window approach, should a call be needed to a fellow planner at the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the phone would be hung up. I don't think that would happen. I think we're very fortunate here to have that.
As far as my ideas on how to approach are concerned, should it be a problem, from my understanding of discussions with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and all the other ministries, it was that they were to meet and pool together the interests that are significant to each ministry, to be pooled together in one information database, whereas the Ministry of Municipal Affairs would administer. From a simplistic way of looking at it, we're assuming that the ministry wouldn't go out there and try to contradict the Ministry of Environment on serious matters of the environment. We're happy with that.
Mr Gerretsen: You've been very honest in that response and what it really shows is that the administrative working together of the various departments involved in the process is a heck of a lot more important than anything else.
I totally concur with your earlier comment that looking at the Planning Act, which is a process or procedure document, apart from looking at the policy statements doesn't make a lot of sense. You've got to take a look at both so that you know how the two of them fit together. It's unfortunate this committee wasn't empowered to at least make some comments on the statements as well, because I completely concur with you in that regard.
You make a statement here that, "Prior to the legislation being enacted in the 1970's, many individuals owned...abutting land" and were not aware of the fact -- are you telling me that in Sudbury East there are still situations where there are deeds registered as a result of the various corrections to the Planning Act that were made whereby invalid deeds were validated etc, that there are still situations out there where people know they've got invalid deeds but haven't been able to do anything about it?
Mr Carré: What I'm saying is that the enactment of this legislation -- there are some people out there who are sitting on land thinking they have two or three parcels. One day, should they need to sell, through unfortunate deaths and so forth, they'll find themselves in a situation where these lots have merged. They come to my office every day. They have the separate deeds in their hands and they say: "What do you meant they're one lot? Here are the deeds."
Mr Gerretsen: If I could just make one other point, and that deals with this "be consistent with" and "having regard to," anybody can read almost anything into that, because you can also start using words like "adhere to," "oblige" etc. What's really important, and I'd like to stress this to the government members, is that a protocol be set out whereby the local planning authorities know exactly what they have to do to have proper regard for the official plan and the various documents.
There has to be a procedural mechanism set out so that everybody at least knows, yes, an organization, a planning staff or a council has had regard to it or has not. Right now we're in Never-Never Land, because some people think that "be consistent with" is the greatest thing; others think "having regard to" is the greatest thing, or all the other terminology like "adhere to," "oblige" etc. It means too many things to too many people. I'll tell you, if you have a protocol set out, it makes it a lot easier for everybody: the development community, the general public out there and the planning staff. I wonder if you'd make some comment on that.
Mr Carré: The board members are the ones who asked me to relay this message, and they are pleading for some kind of direction on "shall have regard to." They are the ones facing the heat, and they want to make sure they are making the decisions in line with provincial policy.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Carré, for taking the time to make your presentation before us today.
REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF SUDBURY
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the regional municipality of Sudbury. Good afternoon.
Mr Bill Lautenbach: Mr Chair and members of the committee, my name is Bill Lautenbach, and I'm the commissioner of planning and development for the regional municipality of Sudbury. I'm pleased to address the standing committee on resources development to express the concerns of the regional municipality on planning reform proposed in Bill 20.
Last month the regional municipality of Sudbury made a written submission to the standing committee and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on the proposed bill, and today I wish to reinforce some of those concerns. I've also provided you with a copy of that brief; it should be before you.
Before I get into the heart of my presentation, I would like to emphasize to the committee that while the majority of the regions in Ontario have a two-tier planning system, the regional municipality of Sudbury has a legislated single-tier planning system. Although such a system has brought about efficiencies, it has occasionally brought about inadvertent problems whenever the province proposes major changes to the Planning Act, such as in the case of Bill 20 now and Bill 163 earlier. Process changes designed to improve planning in regions with a two-tier planning system may sometimes create confusion or difficulty for a single-tier region such as Sudbury. Some of our concerns and recommendations included in this brief are therefore the result of our one-tier planning system.
One small example I can cite which is a problem unique to single-tier regions can be found in the administration of part lot control, where the proposed subsection 50(7) refers to the adoption of a bylaw by a local municipality to exempt part lot control. We recommend that the act be clarified that when a region with single-tier planning responsibility passes a bylaw to designate lands not subject to part lot control, it is deemed to be exercising the power of the local municipality authorized under subsection 50(7) of the act.
With regard to one of the main proposals of Bill 20, we certainly are pleased that the apartment-in-a-house provision of the act has been repealed. This was a provision that was rejected by many Ontario municipalities, including Sudbury. We believe that the control of density and the built form of a community is indeed the responsibility of that municipality through its official plan and zoning bylaw documents.
We have certainly carried out this mandate responsibly. As an example, zoning in older sections of the city of Sudbury for many years permitted a mix of building types and do contain up to four units per building. Under that zoning, there should be ample opportunity to provide affordable housing in these older neighbourhoods, and provincial legislative power should not be used to interfere with these local decisions. I might add that we often have many other requests for zoning changes in other areas of the community. These have always allowed for neighbourhood input on those matters, and in the vast majority of circumstances in fact they have been improved.
One of the key elements of Bill 20 is the further streamlining of the planning process. In this regard, I'd like to emphasize that the region supports the amendments that would shorten the time frame of the planning process. Overall, we are pleased with the proposed time frame reductions. As a matter of fact, our local planning process already meets these time frames in the majority of cases. It's only when provincial reviews or unforeseen circumstances in approvals are involved that these time frames would be extended, or where a case is appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board. The shorter time frames proposed should bring improvements in this regard.
I would also like to point out that although planning reforms brought about by Bill 163 had already shortened many of these time frames, these amendments also brought in unnecessary delays in other parts of these same processes. One notable example is that there is currently a required 14-day waiting period between a public meeting and a decision on an official plan by council. With our current meeting schedule, where regional council meets one week after the planning and development committee, the elimination of the waiting period by Bill 20 means that regional council may ratify planning and development committee decisions and pass the necessary bylaws the following week at the same time, instead of having to wait an additional two weeks into the future.
The reversal of the "be consistent with" back to "have regard to" provision under section 3 of the Planning Act is a return to the status quo that our region is familiar with. While we supported initially the "be consistent with," we also recognize a number of the problems that went along with that, and we have no difficulty returning to a process we are very familiar with from the past. Hopefully, it will bring more flexibility in the implementation of provincial policies.
Along with this change, however, subsection 3(8) is also deleted from the act. By deleting this subsection, municipalities lose the certainty that once their official plans are approved, these become the paramount policy document. This subsection should be reinstated so as to bring back this assurance. We therefore recommend that subsection 3(8) of the Planning Act be reinstated with modifications to recognize that once an official plan or amendment is approved, it is considered to have been adopted by council after due consideration of all applicable provincial policy statements.
Another of our concerns is with respect to the approval of official plans. The bill would allow regions with a two-tier planning system to receive delegated authority to approve the official plans of their local municipalities. Under such delegations, local municipalities would receive approvals of their official plans locally from their respective regions. The regional municipality of Sudbury, having a single-tier planning system, is not designated to receive delegated authority; therefore, all official plans and plan amendments adopted by the region will continue to be approved by the minister, including those amendments that are minor in nature and do not involve provincial interests.
Besides the direct delegation of approval powers, there is another avenue for eliminating these unnecessary delays. Changes proposed in this bill would allow the minister to exempt a plan or amendment from approval where there are no appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board. Although we recognize the role of the province in the approval of comprehensive official plans, exempting plan amendments from approval would speed up the approval process in the majority of cases by eliminating the need for sending all official plan amendments to the province for final approval. We therefore recommend that amendments to the regional official plan and secondary plans in the regional municipality of Sudbury be exempted from approval by the minister.
With respect to minor variances, one very significant change in Bill 20 that impacts the regional municipality of Sudbury is that minor variances cannot be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board and that the council is designated as the body with the power to arbitrate disputes. This is a proposal that the region and many other municipalities support. It will eliminate a significant amount of time for the Ontario Municipal Board and will speed up other, more important appeals. Operationally, however, it will bring some difficulty at the local level. Although the new request-for-review process proposed in section 45.1 of the act represents streamlining for the Ontario Municipal Board, it is not a streamlining process for either the municipality or the other public or private parties involved. Section 45.1 proposes an elaborate 50-day process whereby the appellant would have the opportunity to make a submission and the various parties would have the opportunity to receive the submission and make replies to it.
As the appellant is already required by the Planning Act to state their reasons for requesting their review and the other parties to the case have already have made their comments or concerns known to the committee of adjustment in their original review of the application, the additional opportunity for submissions and replies to the submissions should not be necessary. Those extra steps should be eliminated and hence reduce the 50 days of the request-for-review process.
The secretary-treasurer of the committee of adjustment should simply issue a notice of the request for review and send all existing documentation to the municipal clerk within 10 days to initiate the review process. This is particularly true in the sense that the procedure is a request for a review, not an appeal, which would require a de novo hearing under the rules of the Ontario Municipal Board. The council should therefore review the original information provided by the committee of adjustment only and should not be obliged to consider new information.
We therefore recommend that section 45.1 of the act be amended such that the process for a request for review of a committee of adjustment decision be shortened by eliminating the steps that would allow the parties to make written submissions and replies to submissions regarding the request for review, and that the requested review is a review of the decision on the or original application only.
Moreover, I would like to point out that in the administration of planning matters, our regional council has adopted a committee system whereby the planning and development committee conducts public hearings on behalf of regional council and makes recommendations to regional council for ratification. The current wording under section 45.1 does not seem to allow for this type of review on minor variances. As a result, we recommend that the act be clarified such that in reviewing decisions of the committee of adjustment on an application for minor variance, a committee of council be allowed to carry out the duties of the full council under the proposed subsection 45.1(22) of the act, and that its decisions would also be considered final once ratified by council.
I hope you understand the nuances of that point. At present, because all our business is done by committee, we would see that committee as also handling these appeals from a time management standpoint, with council simply ratifying those decisions.
Finally, there is the question of cost. The proposed legislation is silent on whether a municipality may charge a fee for a request for review. Section 69, "Tariff of fees," of the current Planning Act only refers to the assessment of fees for processing applications. It is unclear whether a request for review is considered an application. We therefore recommend that section 45.1 of the act be clarified to state clearly that municipalities may assess a fee for the processing of a request for review or to cover the costs of referring the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board.
With respect to a small number of inconsistencies, besides the above noted concerns, there are other instances where minor improvements and clarifications are needed to Bill 20. For instance, there is an inconsistency in the time frames for notification between minor variances and consent, one being 10 days and the other 15 days. Where parallel applications for minor variance and consent for the same property are heard by the same body -- in our case we have a committee of adjustment and a land divisions committee that are one and the same -- these inconsistent notification periods would complicate the administration of the process unnecessarily. We therefore recommend that the notification periods under subsections 45.1(11) and 53(17) be made consistent with each other.
Another inconsistency is the use of the terms "public meeting" and "public hearing." We recommend the act be clarified to indicate whether there is an intended difference between the terms "public hearing," as used in the case of minor variance, and "public meeting," as used in all other cases.
Finally, with respect to control of site alterations, the region has for many years lobbied the province to consider topsoil removal as a use of land which therefore should be regulated under the Planning Act, the latest efforts being the region's submission to the Sewell commission in 1993 and its submission on Bill 163 in 1994.
Earlier, the region also lobbied for the introduction of a private member's bill to enable the region to control grading, dumping of fill and similar pre-development activities. That avenue for change was left unfinished when Bill 163 was enacted, as it provided the region with those powers; however, with the subsequent introduction of Bill 20 and its policy statement, the region is again left without powers to deal with these matters, even though it is a one-tier planning authority responsible for all planning matters. We therefore recommend that site grading, excavation and removal of topsoil or peat be covered under the Planning Act such that these site alteration activities may be regulated as uses of land.
Finally, in closing, I wish to express again our appreciation to be able to appear before the standing committee and for holding these meetings in Sudbury. If you have any questions on this presentation or on my brief, I'd be happy to attempt to answer them on behalf of myself and regional council.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Lautenbach. We have five minutes per caucus for questioning.
Mr Smith: As I think was mentioned earlier this morning, there's certainly a different view with respect to minor variances that we've heard over the last week. While in Toronto, a lot of people expressed concern with respect to the proposed amendments in terms of perceiving them to be a barrier to a personal right: local parochialism and in some cases inability of local municipalities to in fact adequately deal with minor variance applications in an appeal process. That's certainly not been the viewpoint that's been expressed here.
Perhaps one of the problematic parts of the bill is how we deal with concurrent severance and minor variance applications. I think you've alluded to that. Could you give me an idea of how often you have concurrent applications coming forward?
Mr Lautenbach: I would suspect that probably about 10% to 20% of the consent applications would be accompanied by a minor variance.
Mr Smith: So the framework or proposal that you've outlined here in terms of your committee structure would potentially address that problematic concern that would be present with the bill as it's written presently?
Mr Lautenbach: At the present time they're handled jointly, so we don't have to take into consideration varied time frames. It's simply put through as a single process: two different points on the agenda, but they're handled in the same evening at the same time.
Mr Hardeman: I have a couple of questions. One was the issue of the minor variance appeal to council, but you made a point in your presentation to deal with the issue that it would not be an appeal but a review by council. If that's the case, would that still hold up? An individual coming forward with what they would consider should be a right to appeal, and then it only being a review, and furthermore it only being done by a small number of members of council: Do you feel that would still give the individual the assurance that they were getting a full hearing on an appeal process?
Mr Lautenbach: First of all, if it went to the OMB, you'd be having a review of one or two individuals. In the case of the planning committee, we have six individuals who would hear all public hearings and additional councillors could be present at that hearing.
Simply for the matter of convenience and not to clog regional council agendas where 21 members of regional council would be forced to hear minor variance hearings, the region's position is that if they are truly minor, they in many cases don't warrant the degree of significance the province in the past has placed on them to move to full OMB appeals and that regional council should be in a position to adjudicate those matters, as it does rezonings and many other issues.
Mr Hardeman: The other issue you again raise, and it's been raised by a number of deputants, is the issue of an official plan being deemed to have had regard to the provincial policy statements, so it could then be the regulating document. Have you got any direction you would like to share with us on how you would make sure that the two did stay consistent as they were going through the process, that as the provincial policies may change, there was some mechanism that would trigger the official plan to be changed too to account for that?
Mr Lautenbach: We've made two statements. First of all, with respect to official plans, those plans are reviewed by the various ministries and they're part of the process as we develop those plans. Therefore, once they're approved by council and accepted by the ministries, we're requesting that they be deemed to conform with the provincial policies because individuals and bodies have bought into that process.
With respect to site-specific applications, we've indicated that we think that should be a delegated function coming back down to us, that the time for comment is at the front end of that process -- and both the ministries and council do that -- and it's not necessary to treat those in the same way that we do full secondary plans or official plans.
Mr Hardeman: The other issue was the timing of the 10 days and the 15 days for minor variances and applications for consent. I just wanted to point out that's been brought up previously, that there is a problem with one is appealable and the other is not. A lot of those applications are dealt with by the same authority at the same time. In those cases, minor variances would end up at the OMB even though that appeal process was not available.
Mr Lautenbach: We've also mentioned that in our longer brief.
Mr Gerretsen: Just so we're clear, though, we're talking about a double possibility with respect to committee of adjustment: You can either have a committee appointed by council, and then the final appeal could be the council, or council could be dealing with it directly. Just so there's no misunderstanding -- I'm sure you're aware of this -- we're not talking about a review by council, which is quite a bit different than an originating hearing.
Your councillors aren't on a full-time basis, are they?
Mr Lautenbach: Some of them are. Some of the mayors are on a full-time basis, but the majority of council is not.
Mr Gerretsen: But, as you stated, the whole council wouldn't want to be taken up with a committee of adjustment hearing. What's proposed here, though, is that that council either be used as an appeal body or actually be the hearing body of the committee of adjustment matter.
Mr Lautenbach: As I understand the process, you can either appoint a member to the committee of adjustment, in which case the decision of the committee would be final. In the case of our council, I don't think they would want to go that route. However, because they have a standing committee of council, the planning development committee, they're quite prepared to hear those appeals at that level. Currently, the way the act reads, it doesn't appear to give that option to council, to have a standing committee of council deal with that and then have those decisions ratified by all of council, as they do on every other hearing that's taken place.
Mr Gerretsen: Yes, but ratification is a little bit different than appeal, quite frankly. In any event, I know you're looking basically from a municipal council's viewpoint or from a planning viewpoint and you want to be fair to everybody, but I can tell you that looking at it from an applicant's viewpoint who feels that he or she has been aggrieved and didn't get the minor variance, the knowledge that you've got no alternative anywhere other than to come in with an expensive rezoning application, which will take a lot of time and effort, or having the ability to appeal it to an OMB official -- I think there's a large difference there in costs, the larger cost being the rezoning application. There's a tendency for all of us to look at this only from our own perspective. I think we ought to look at it from the perspective of the general public and the applicant's viewpoint as well, and it's not as easy as it sounds.
Mr Lautenbach: If I can add to that, maybe your comfort level, right now we have five members on the land division committee, committee of adjustment. If we were to add one council member, that would be six. If the planning and development committee was allowed to be the appeal body -- we'll call it the appeal body -- then you'd still have six other members reviewing that decision. Right?
Mr Gerretsen: Well, it's also been suggested to us that most of the appeals heard by the OMB from committee of adjustment decisions, minor variances -- unfortunately the OMB people weren't allowed to come to the meeting itself. It was suggested they be invited from an administrative viewpoint, but the government was against that.
It's been suggested that most of those hearings take a very short period of time, and it's been suggested, as a matter of fact, that a small panel of the OMB could be set up on a rotating basis that could specifically deal with minor variances on a rather expedient basis, no more than a month or two after the original hearing, so that you don't have to wait a whole year or 10 months before the OMB finally happens to come through your community the way it's happening right now with respect to most appeals on rezoning matters etc. It doesn't have to be a long and drawn-out process before the OMB at all. It's just a notion that somewhere along the line, there's got to be an impartial person who's going to deal with this who perhaps doesn't get involved in all the political nuances of the community.
The Chair: Questioning from the third party?
Mr Christopherson: I'd like to follow up where John left off, because I have similar concerns. Having spent five years on city and regional council in Hamilton, and all that time also on the planning and development committee of the city, I have some experience in this area. I've seen at committee of adjustment, and carried through to the council meeting, decisions that quite frankly, if it weren't for the OMB, would have left individuals in some cases and communities in others very much wronged.
I've seen business people come in with a legitimate minor variance -- legitimate, in my opinion, if you will, but none the less one that I thought really should have been allowed -- but because that particular business maybe wasn't desired to be in that neighbourhood by a lot of residents, every chance they had to go in and make that person's life miserable, they would. It was only because the business person was able to get to the OMB that they could get a non-political decision based on the law and the merits of their application alone.
Conversely, I've seen the needs of a whole street ignored because of a desire on the part of members of the committee of adjustment or politicians to drive through a principle of business should get what they need no matter what. Those people had been left high and dry and only got justice when they got in front of an OMB official.
I'd like to hear your thoughts on that a little more, about how you overcome that and still -- why do you have such comfort that natural justice, as well as legal justice, will prevail, or be allowed to prevail, in these kinds of circumstances?
Mr Lautenbach: I guess as a planner I would also have some concern for natural justice, just so you don't confuse that I have no concern.
The way you've set this up in the bill is you have the option of appointing a member of council to the committee of adjustment, in which case the decision is final. At that point, it's done. Okay?
What we're saying as an option to that is, allow us to have the planning committee as that other option. We don't have any members on the planning committee, so you have presumably five members from the community who may have some biases, but those would be sorted out, and then you have a political group that would also serve as a check and a balance. We see that if they are truly minor in nature, this system should work.
Mr Christopherson: My experience is that oftentimes it was the politician who didn't provide the fairness because they had a political need taking care of their ward and many of the citizens felt somewhat reluctant to take on a politician because of -- well, obvious reasons, as well as their own experience.
Again, I can only go by my own experience. It's too bad Mr Hardeman left, but I'd have to have an understanding of the difference between what's currently going on in the proposal vis-à-vis the appointment of a sitting politician.
We already had a sitting politician on our committee of adjustment, and we still ran into all these dynamics I've outlined to you. I'm hearing from John out of Kingston, where he's a former mayor, that they had a similar experience.
And that's the one difference that I've learned between the two levels of government: that one level is much more susceptible to public pressure, rather spontaneous, oftentimes emotional, than the more senior levels of government, which don't tend to be as influenced, although there's hope that at some stage a certain level of public pronunciation may influence a government.
But it is true, and the idea that somehow justice will be improved or even maintained to allow expediency still fails to take hold with me. Can you --
Mr Lautenbach: Again, I think if we're trying to streamline the system -- and this bill is attempting to do that -- then we've commented from our perspective on how we think that could work in our region. We don't have that many minor variances that wind up before the OMB, at least not to my knowledge.
Mr Christopherson: So where's the problem?
Mr Lautenbach: The problem is, from my perspective again, I think if we wind up with council having to sit as a full council as a hearing body, that's not a workable solution in our case, given the 21 members of council.
Mr Christopherson: I'm sorry, sir, but if you don't have that many appeals to the OMB, why is this such a big deal? Why risk running the loss of natural justice to expedite something that you've just said is not such a major issue for you?
Mr Lautenbach: I will leave it at that. I think we had a difference of opinion here.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Lautenbach, for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today.
Mr Lautenbach: You're welcome.
SUDBURY HYDRO-ELECTRIC COMMISSION
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the Sudbury Hydro-Electric Commission. Good afternoon.
Mr Steve Watt: Good afternoon. Like all the previous deputants, I'd like to welcome you to Sudbury and thank you for the opportunity to address you.
Mr Gerretsen: It's a great place; good to be here.
Mr Watt: We're here, in my submission, on a fairly straightforward matter and don't intend to take too much of your valuable time. You'll note that we prepared a brief overview in the form of a submission and it's divided into very specific and short areas of concern.
Firstly, in terms of our objective and why we're here today, we're requesting that you consider an exemption from the subdivision control provisions of the Planning Act for public utility commissions, which is what the Sudbury Hydro-Electric Commission is, of course. We submit to you that those exemptions are now available for Ontario Hydro, all Ontario municipalities, as well as the federal and provincial crown. Those are contained within clauses 50(3)(c) and 50(5)(b), and I've appended those as the last two pages to this short brief.
The facts as they relate to this request are, as you aware, the Sudbury Hydro-Electric Commission, and public utility commissions generally, are entrusted with the control and management of all works within a particular municipality as it relates to the distribution and supply of electrical power. Often you have municipal councillors who are ex officio members. In our case, we have a mayor of the city of Sudbury who sits ex officio. Pursuant to the provisions of the Public Utilities Act, it's the commission and not the municipal council which controls and manages the distribution and supply of electrical power.
The issue arises through the necessary operation of the commission in obtaining easements over private lands, and those easements are required to provide the commission with the right to enter on to those lands and maintain and construct the works that are required. The problem, as you'll see at the bottom of page 1, as I've stated, is that the Planning Act currently exempts Ontario Hydro as well as all municipalities, but it doesn't exempt the Sudbury Hydro-Electric Commission or public utility commissions generally as it relates to consent approvals before land division committees of a municipal council.
We're required to attend before the land division committee here at the regional municipality of Sudbury to obtain easements wherever we're dealing with private lands which aren't contained within a registered plan of subdivision, and in our area that's a lot of land. Obviously, in an area like this, in the region, there are a certain amount of subdivisions that are registered, but a lot of land we're dealing with doesn't involve subdivisions at all.
What we're saying to you today is that the applications which were required, since we have no exemption pursuant to those Planning Act provisions, require us to attend unnecessarily. It's time consuming, it's expensive, it creates delay and needless bureaucracy. Secondly, we submit that the costs for this are directly consumed by the private land owner who's involved with basically applying, paying the costs of the actual fee, which in our case is $255 to the regional municipality of Sudbury, as well as the legal fees involved in obtaining the consent, which tend to run in our jurisdiction around $1,000 a pop.
The evidence here in the region is that in 1994 the land division committee heard 20 of these types of applications and in 1995 they heard 18. All of these were approved and in checking with the secretary treasurer of our particular land division committee, she can't think of a single instance where an application for an easement in this circumstance was ever turned down. So what we're doing is rubber-stamping something at the cost of private land owners, where really the exemption, in our submission, could easily be extended to cover public utility commissions and not interfere in any way with the theory of the existing exemption, which is to deal with any municipality in Ontario, as well as Ontario Hydro.
That's essentially the basis of our recommendation before you on page 3, that simply you could use this opportunity in Bill 20 to streamline the process pursuant to the exemptions in clauses 50(3)(c) and 50(5)(b) of the Planning Act, which permit easements to be obtained by all municipalities, Ontario Hydro and the provincial and federal crown without obtaining a consent. We're simply asking that you consider extending that exemption to public utility commissions as well.
Lastly, as part of that recommendation, we have a short clause which we submit would be appropriate as a tag-on to those two clauses and that would read simply, "any public utility commission created or deemed to be created pursuant to the Public Utilities Act."
In our submission, this is a simple point which would result, not only in our community but in communities across the province, in significant savings of time and money, and not just from the perspective of the public utility commissions involved but also from the perspective of the private land owners who find themselves caught up in this process.
That would be my brief submission. I'm certainly available to answer any questions you might have.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Watt. We have just over seven minutes questioning per caucus and this time it will commence with the official opposition, Mr Gerretsen.
Mr Gerretsen: Just so there's no misunderstanding, we're talking about a situation where the commission has already made its deal with the property owner and obviously has the right to go over it. If there's any money to be exchanged, which normally there wouldn't be -- but it could be if it's over a property owner who isn't directly affected by the power lines, it may go to somebody next door, for example. We're not talking about expropriation here or anything like that. It's a situation where everybody agrees that there should be some sort of a Hydro easement or corridor over a piece of property. Is that correct, sir?
Mr Watt: That's correct. In my submission, the majority of times it comes up is through the planning process, for example, through site plan approvals, through registration of conditions relating to plans of subdivision. So in most instances, the individuals involved are already caught up in a process, yes.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm just curious, because it seems to me like such a self-evident thing, that we're still talking about this kind of thing. I imagine most people might think, "Well, you know, there'd be somebody's property rights affected," but this is all a consent situation, where everybody's obviously on board.
Have you ever made this request of any previous government or bureaucracy within government to sort of have this put into the Planning Act? And what kind of response have you been getting?
Mr Watt: On behalf of strictly the Sudbury Hydro-Electric Commission, we have in fact initiated but not filed at this point court documents seeking a ruling from the Ontario Court (General Division), because the language, as it stands now, does provide for the exemption for municipalities. The argument is there to be made in law that potentially the activities of a hydro-electric commission -- that they act as an agent to the municipality. Our submission is that this is an indirect way to do it, that it's causing a lot of money to be spent when it would be a lot easier to merely change the language and make it explicit rather than rely on the vagaries of the court process.
Mr Gerretsen: If my understanding is correct, quite often in subdivisions, once they've already been given approval etc, somebody comes along and still may need an easement here, there or everywhere. You're saying that in those situations, where a subdivision's already been approved, in effect you will have to go through resurveying etc, in order to get these consents through, won't you?
Mr Watt: That's correct, and the costs are additional. Again, the circumstances that we're facing mostly in this jurisdiction relate to lands that fall outside of a plan of subdivision and they're not necessarily lots in the plan of subdivision. We're saying that quite simply, by merely putting that tag on as it relates to public utility commissions, which we all know are sophisticated, large entities in most cases, we could clear up that ambiguity and save members of the public significant funds.
Mr Gerretsen: Mr Chairman, I just want to indicate, and I obviously would want to talk to my caucus colleagues about this, that this kind of a situation seems to make eminent good sense. It speeds the process along, it's very cost-efficient and it's something the government should look into and bring up as an amendment.
Mr Murdoch: Or for discussion.
Mr Gerretsen: Or for discussion. There may be another side to it that I'm totally unaware of right now. I've run into this as well from time to time and I often wondered, until you sort of put your finger on it this time, what the real problem is. As you're saying, nobody ever objects, because everybody benefits from the fact that they can obviously use the power these easements --
Mr Hardeman: John, why would you want to talk to your caucus first? Why don't you just suggest to the government it makes so much good sense?
Mr Gerretsen: It makes good sense to me --
Mr Baird: But it might not to your caucus.
Mr Gerretsen: -- Mr Parliamentary Assistant, but I'm just a rookie in this, having very limited knowledge about it. I know I'm dealing with a bunch of wily politicians, and I want to make sure that there isn't another side to the argument. But I'm all with the Sudbury power commission, all the way.
Mr Christopherson: Liberal policymaking in action.
Mr Gerretsen: Absolutely. When we hear a good idea, we adopt it immediately.
Mr Christopherson: This is new to me. It seems Mr Hardeman may have had something to contribute to the discussion, or were you just looking to --
Mr Gerretsen: I doubt it.
Mr Hardeman: I think we will take it forward and have a look at this. It does seem to bring out a point that has not been considered.
Mr Christopherson: The only question I would have is, does this at all affect a situation where any party to the proceedings may not agree with the request, or is this strictly where there's unanimity with all involved?
Mr Watt: My submission would be that this comes up 95% of the time as conditions to another process, for example, site plan control under the act, where as a requirement of site plan control an easement shall be granted to the satisfaction of Sudbury Hydro etc. Those conditions are accepted at that point, at the point of the site plan control agreement, by the member of the public. What we're submitting is that the condition as it relates to the consent, the requirement for a consent before the land division committee, is an unnecessary condition and an unnecessary expenditure of funds. Also, our submission on behalf of the utility is that it's an unnecessary waste of staff time.
Mr Christopherson: In the circumstances you're describing here, is this ever applicable in a non-new subdivision application? Does this circumstance ever arise in existing situations, particularly in the downtown of older cities?
Mr Watt: The only context I could think of it being at all contentious is where Hydro determines that they want to purchase an easement with respect to existing lands, as a result of upgrading the plant etc. Even in that circumstance, as we indicated off the top, there is an expropriation process. In the event that the parties were far apart in terms of quantum, my submission would be that this amendment would in no way affect the remedies available to private land owners.
Mr Bisson: That's the only concern I have.
Mr Watt: Yes, sir.
Mr Hardeman: Just for clarification, I wanted to make sure that the deputant was referring only to easements and not severances and purchasing of property.
Mr Watt: No, our issue is easements because that's what we deal with here, and that is the bee in the bonnet, if you will, merely easements here.
Mr Carr: As you've probably gathered, there's a bit of a consensus that some of your ideas are very helpful. Some of the other commissions across the province, I think you said, would support this as well. Have you had discussions?
Mr Watt: That's my understanding. We've had, through staff, discussions with the utility organization that represents various utilities across the province. We don't speak on their behalf, merely because this is a local initiative. But given the fact that you were coming through town, we decided to jump on it.
Our submission is that there are numerous municipalities and hydro-electric commissions which are attempting to operate, as I've indicated, through the court system and making the argument that these are unnecessary consents because the commission is in fact the agent of the municipality. We have had numerous discussions with five or six other fairly large urban municipalities on this point, and they're in agreement as well.
Mr Carr: That's what I was going to say. In your capacity, you probably have a chance to share information with a lot of the other commissions. So this has come up, and you've heard that they support it, then, as well?
Mr Watt: That's correct.
Mr Carr: I think Jerry had a question as well.
Mr Ouellette: I just wanted to ask a question. Have you made this submission in the past? If so, what was the reason for denial?
Mr Watt: I personally, on behalf of the client --
Mr Ouellette: Or has the organization?
Mr Watt: I'm just checking.
Mr Ouellette: Just the time frame was the reasoning why, then, as far as you know?
Mr Watt: Yes, that's correct.
The Chair: Hansard actually wouldn't have picked that up. If you wanted to put the statement on the record, they wouldn't have heard the statement from the back.
Mr Watt: My client has indicated that they've attempted to bring this matter forward in the past but had run out of time and therefore never properly presented it before any legislative committee.
Mr Murdoch: I sat on the land division planning approval committee for quite a few years in our area, and it was always sort of a filler, because no one ever disapproved of it. Bell Telephone has a bit of a problem the same way too. Now sometimes they buy the land, but sometimes they have the same problem. It used to be that no one ever objected or anything because it was all looked after. So I don't know whether this is a bill to exempt or whatever it is, but I think you should look at it and see what we can do for them.
The Chair: If there are no further comments, thank you very much, Mr Watt. We appreciate you taking time to make the presentation before us here today.
SUDBURY EAST PROPERTY OWNER ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next group up is the Sudbury East Property Owner Association. Good afternoon. You've been in attendance, so you've heard me say the pitch, about 30 minutes for you to divide as you see fit.
Mrs Linda Gautier: All right, thank you. Good afternoon. On page 2, we are the Sudbury East Property Owner Association. We are here today on behalf of the 13 unorganized townships of Sudbury east, 600 members on petition, and are supported by our membership in the seven organized townships. The sole purpose of our association has been to change the laws in order that our members may acquire a severance of land.
My encapsulation: The area of concern that we want to bring to your attention is (a) Bill 20, part I, section 12, section 19 of the act, which states that on behalf of the unorganized townships, the planning board will act as if it were a council of a municipality, and the secretary-treasurer will act as if he were the clerk; and (b) the provincial policy statements, (1) designated growth areas, (2) residential infilling and (3) the grouping of rural areas and agricultural lands. There is a need for clear distinction as far as severance is concerned. There is a tendency of the planner to apply the same rules to rural as are applied to agricultural, as no clear statement has been made as to what severance would be allowed on a rural property.
We congratulate the government on the changes that have been made so far. Examples of these changes are (a) to allow local decision-making; and (b) to build more flexibility into definitions by changing wording from "having to be consistent with" to "having regard to." Also, congratulations on cutting the approval time in half.
Bill 20, part I, section 19, for the unorganized townships. At present, "In a planning area consisting solely of territory without municipal organization" the planning board will act "as if the planning board were a council of a municipality and the secretary-treasurer were the clerk" in regard to planning matters.
The people who control the membership of the planning board with regard to the unorganized townships do not necessarily have the interests of the local people at heart. This has resulted in major disputes between the planning board and local individuals. As it stands, the people in charge of putting together a planning board may be out of touch with the needs of the community.
We strongly recommend that all members of a planning board be elected and that they live right inside the planning area. This would include the secretary-treasurer.
Provincial policy statements: The provincial policy statements and Bill 20 go hand in hand. The areas that concern us are the clauses that refer to the designated growth areas.
Designated growth areas: The direction that the provincial policy statements have taken is towards settlement areas that are already set up, basically stating that where property is available in the urban areas or within the municipalities, no new lot creation will take place in the rural areas adjacent to these urban areas.
People are leaving the rural areas because of these policies which do not allow for severance outside of the urban areas. They also do not allow for any economic growth to take place in the rural areas.
Residential infilling: The definition under residential infilling means the creation of a residential lot between two existing non-farm residences which are on separate lots of similar size and which are situated on the same side of the road and are not more than 100 metres apart.
Because of the residential infilling, we cannot get a severance if (1) our neighbour does not live close enough to us; (2) his lot size is different than my lot size; (3) he doesn't live on the same side of the road as we do; and (4) if I happen to live next to a farmer I also can't have a severance.
These rules block large-property severance entirely. Infilling discriminates against the larger property owners. We strongly recommend that infilling be removed.
Agricultural versus rural: We believe in protecting prime agricultural land and applaud the efforts that have been made in that direction. However, for the purpose of rural severance, we would recommend that a clear outline of what severances are to be permitted on large rural properties be worked into the policy.
Our conclusions: Bill 20 states that it is an act to promote economic growth. The provincial policy statements stresses economic development. In actuality, the restrictions on land severances within these two documents rule out economic development for the following reasons:
(a) Young people are leaving rural areas because they cannot sever property.
(b) New people are discouraged from coming into the rural areas because of lack of properties available.
(c) The existing infrastructure is not being used to its fullest.
A few additional homes along a rural route would not put any more burden on the infrastructure but would provide additional revenues to pay for that infrastructure.
Country-sized lots do not require city water or sewers. These requirements only eventually occur where homes are clustered together.
Impacts: Under the existing laws our properties are not ours. We are not able to help our children out by giving them a piece of land to start out in life. We are not able to sell a piece of property to help us in our own retirement. We are asking this panel to please help us change this.
Conclusions: Our recommendations are:
(1) Allow unorganized townships to elect their own secretary-treasurer and members of the planning board.
(2) Eliminate discriminatory practice of infilling; larger properties cannot meet these requirements.
(3) Allow a set number of severances to place on existing properties over the next reasonable time period. An example of this: Allow a property to sever on a two-plus-one basis, two severances plus the original parcel. Then there would be no further severances until policies are open for review in future, thus allowing government some measure of control.
Thank you for your time.
The Chair: The time remaining now is just over seven minutes per caucus. The questioning this time will commence with the third party.
Mr Bisson: I would like to thank you for your presentation. As you probably are well aware, there have been a number of presentations this morning that have touched on this issue. People have raised it to the point that most of us, I think if anything, understand this issue a heck of a lot better than we did when we walked in here this morning.
Per se, all I would say is that I don't have any particular questions other than to say I recognize what it is that you're trying to put forward, recognize there are some difficulties with the existing legislation as it exists. But in the end, whatever we do, we need to make sure that we find a way of doing it that doesn't totally throw the balance the other way, that just allows severances to happen without having any kind of regard for what the provincial policies are that are being proposed under Bill 20.
So I would just say that I'm sure the government members and opposition will be looking at this in greater detail as we go through clause-by-clause. I look forward to seeing what amendments the government is prepared to come forward with, but realize that Bill 20 now, as proposed, doesn't really change anything. There need to be some amendments brought forward by the government for this to be dealt with, and I look forward to what the government has to say.
Mr Baird: I'd also like to thank you for your presentation. I'm quite intrigued by it. It'll certainly give us all something to think about in our deliberations.
I appreciate your making the presentation here, particularly in Sudbury, so my colleagues can hear it. When we get outside of Toronto, I think we get a very different perspective, and I'm glad my colleagues were here to hear you. I'm disappointed, though, that your member of Parliament couldn't here this, because I think it's something that's very plain and simple.
Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Chair: It's not within the rights of the member to start indicating the absence of one member or another. I think the member for Sudbury East demonstrated an excellent knowledge of the issue and is prepared to work on the issue as she always has. I don't think that was really called for. It is unparliamentary.
The Chair: Reference was made earlier to the absence of Mr Hardeman, so I will overlook this, but I'll ask the member to --
Mr Baird: Ms Martel regularly makes reference to my absence.
I guess I just share your view with respect to, the people in your community know what's best for your community. Coming from eastern Ontario, I will never have the great sense of knowledge that you possess in your community. I would just congratulate you on that, because I think one of the tenets of the bill is to put more control and authority of local concerns in the hands of local municipalities. So I would just congratulate you on that and pass it on to my colleague.
Mr Murdoch: We've had quite a few submissions, as mentioned by Gilles over there, on this same problem, and I think we're going to have to try to figure out some way to work differently with unorganized townships than with the organized ones. There certainly is a problem here. I know that's not the only issue, but we have to find a way of doing that now.
With Bill 20 we were trying to open up the process so that you would have more local autonomy. I understand the problem with the planning boards where they're appointed instead of elected. I guess some of the reason for that is because you are an unorganized township. There isn't maybe some way to organize it. You're suggesting maybe that your representatives to that planning board be elected. We're getting more organized all the time, and that may happen, and if that's to be, so be it.
I think, if we can work with Bill 20, that we can help you out and help solve some of these problems that you have been having. We may not be able to solve them all, but as far as I was led to believe, and so far believe, your rural severances will come about more easily in the next while. Now we have to get through this Bill 20 process. Have you looked at the provincial policy statement, the draft one, the new one?
Mrs Gautier: Yes, I have.
Mr Murdoch: You still feel that they're too restrictive, by what I see here.
Mrs Gautier: Yes, I do.
Mr Murdoch: If it's as bad as you're saying on here, then I have some problems with it too. I know our parliamentary assistant; I was talking to him, and I'm sure we can work some of these out, but rural Ontario's had the same problem with Queen's Park dictating everything, and I understand that. I know where you're coming from and I certainly would be glad to sit down with you and your local member and try to work these problems out. But these are only draft, so we'll certainly have some discussion over them before they're finally passed, I'll tell you.
Mr Ouellette: I just have one quick question. On page 7, your recommendation (3) about the two-plus-one basis: Do you have any lot size minimums or maximums on the that recommendation?
Mrs Gautier: Yes, the minimum would be a lot that accepts a proper septic and water, and a home, of course. A more rugged piece would require perhaps a bigger size; a sandy one perhaps is smaller. We're looking, in our area, at lots that go from 160-acre, 40-acre, 300-acre lots. It would depend on which township.
Mr Ouellette: So I guess it would be dependant on the area. The area would be the one to have to determine what should take place and what shouldn't.
Mr Murdoch: Before we leave that, you've got to be careful getting into numbers. We have a terrible thing in our area called the Niagara Escarpment Commission and they get into numbers. They really mess it up by numbers, because someone back in the early 1800s who allotted off a farm for a schoolhouse, they count that now as a lot. When you get into numbers, you've got to really be careful with that.
I think it's something we'd have to really look closely at, because you maybe fit one farm or one lot, but then the next person who comes along will say, "I should be able to do that." So it's really something we've got to be careful with. I think we should look more at it on the environmental side, as to whether it fits in or not and things like that. You've got to be careful getting into numbers.
Mr Hardeman: On page 6 of your presentation you suggest new people are discouraged from coming into the rural areas because of the lack of properties available. I wonder if we could get a view on that. In my area the fewer properties available, the more valuable they become and the more people want that property. I wondered if that's not true in northern Ontario.
Mrs Gautier: It has worked itself to the point where there is no property available in some instances. The restrictions have been so tight that we haven't been able to get a severance. Only people with smaller properties living closer to Sudbury have had success in getting their severances, in the Wanup-Estaire area.
Mr Hardeman: The other thing I just wanted a quick response on is the issue of having the members of the planning board elected. I think one of the other members -- I forget which side and it's not relevant -- mentioned that it's getting very close to some type of governance. Would you see that as an approach to governance?
Mrs Gautier: We were thinking along the lines similar to choosing school trustees, using that idea. I think yes, it is a little bit more towards that line. I suppose it is in that respect, because it is more of an organized approach.
Mr Hardeman: Would you see that this process would or could lead to these elected people being more than planning boards?
Mrs Gautier: I don't know the answer to that. I'm sorry.
Mr Hoy: Thank you for your submission. You've taken what we would call a balanced approach, where you don't want unfettered severances. It makes your application or your submission much more palatable for many people that you don't want unlimited severances in any number of areas. I think your approach is very good. We heard earlier today that people might own, for example, three 160-acre parcels, but for the purposes of severing they really only have one lot. That's correct?
Mrs Gautier: That's true, yes.
Mr Hoy: However, and I'm asking you if this is true, they receive three property tax assessment notices.
Mrs Gautier: Yes, they do.
Mr Hoy: So this would add to the confusion that they think they have three properties but they actually do not.
Mrs Gautier: Yes, it confirms it.
Mr Hoy: I found it rather odd that it occurs that way, that they get three property tax assessment notices but for the purposes of severing they only have one property.
Mrs Gautier: It's frustrating.
Mr Gerretsen: Just so that I have a better understanding of how your planning board is set up, there are six members of the board and they operate both the organized and the unorganized townships. Is that correct?
Mrs Gautier: There are six that are from the municipalities and there are three from the unorganized.
Mr Gerretsen: Right, and how do three people from the unorganized get put on there? How are they selected?
Mrs Gautier: They were chosen by Mr Cleo Roy and the planner, Mr King. I'm sorry. I should reword this. I was interviewed by Mr Cleo Roy and Mr King.
Mr Gerretsen: You submitted your name together with a group of other people and then three people were selected from that.
Mrs Gautier: Yes. I can only answer in my own level. I'm not sure.
Mr Gerretsen: Maybe we can get that clarified a little bit later on.
I think earlier Mr Hardeman put his finger right on it as to what the real problem is here. I mean this in all sincerity. One of the problems is that the infilling policy has been used here to not allow any severances of large tracts of land, whereas in southern Ontario -- and I concur with Mr Hardeman. It has been my experience in the Kingston area as well that the infilling policy is something totally separate and is administered totally separate and apart from the rural severance policy.
But here somehow, either through ministerial staff or through interpretation of policy statements, it has been regarded as one entity so that the infilling notion has been effectively used not to allow any severances to take place, whereas really the two concepts are totally different. I can understand instantly, if you've got municipal water and sewer there, then you want some sort of control as to how many people log into that system. But that's got nothing to do with how many severances you allow 10 miles out of town. There's no connection at all. How do we get it through to the ministerial staff people? That's the real problem.
Mr Murdoch: That's what I told you already.
Mr Gerretsen: I'll tell you, it's a problem all right. But I'm sure Mr Hardeman will take this back. In southern Ontario, if his experience is anything like my experience in our two areas, which are separate and apart, infilling has nothing to do directly with the rural severance problems or concepts. They're separate and apart.
Mrs Gautier: I don't know if this has been done as an oversight by the local planning board or if it was meant to be that way, but this is the result our members have seen.
Mr Murdoch: John, sometimes it looks like they're using infilling to disallow and it was never meant that way.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm curious as to how this planning board gets established. I wonder if we could have all-party agreement to at least find out from somebody how the planning board -- maybe Mr Hardeman's got the information there.
The Chair: Point of clarification, Mr Hardeman?
Mr Hardeman: My understanding is it's a nine-member board: six are appointed by the organized municipalities and, on the recommendation of the local community, three are appointed by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Mr Bisson: Just on a point of privilege, Mr Chair: It's not --
The Chair: You haven't been slighted, so I doubt if it's that.
Mr Bisson: Just for the record, because there are members from the planning board here who are shaking their heads vigorously to the issue here, I wonder, so that we understand, if that can be clarified.
The Chair: Unless you take exception to the definition that Mr Hardeman has just made, I'd prefer that be done after the meeting. They've made a representation here before and we have one more group coming after, so in deference to that group, I'd like to respect the time frames.
Mr Gerretsen: We are 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
Mr Hardeman: If those are not the facts, we will report back to the committee and get it straightened out.
The Chair: Thank you. Do you have any further questions? We appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation before us here today.
As mentioned, we have one more group to make a presentation before us here today, the Nipissing Environmental Watch. I don't see anyone. We can take a recess. There's one more group and the clerk is presently endeavouring to see what the arrival time of that group will be. In the absence of the next group, this committee will stand recessed for 10 minutes.
The committee recessed from 1539 to 1550.
NIPISSING ENVIRONMENTAL WATCH
The Chair: Much as I hate to break up the socializing, we are joined by our last presenter of the afternoon and so, in deference to all those in attendance, I'd like to proceed. Our final group today is from the Nipissing Environmental Watch, Mr Vandermeer. We have 30 minutes for you to use as you see fit, divided between the presentation and question-and-answer period.
Mr Jan Vandermeer: Good afternoon. My presentation is relatively brief. I'm sure you've heard statements from many, many people dissecting this thing every which way. I don't think I'm competent enough to do those sorts of things, so it's a slightly more personal approach and I've based much of what I'm saying on the provincial policy statement that's coming into effect when the bill is proclaimed. So I will read this. The start of it is based around the initial statements in here, the principles and policies, and it sort of spreads beyond there.
Statement 1, economic growth: I take exception to the linkage which implies that efficient development and land use will stimulate economic growth. Efficient development and land use will encourage continued economic prosperity. Growth need not, in many instances, and indeed should not be the prime motivator for determining the future benefits to a municipality or the province. Other mechanisms must be brought into play which will allow the redistribution of that prosperity so that more may benefit.
In my home of North Bay, the population base has not changed in years, and yet I get a sense of prosperity in the community. The municipal council has constructed bike and walking paths and opened up the waterfront for the greater public good. All have benefited. Further planning decisions should address the greater public good, the sense of place that Lake Nipissing, Trout Lake and a verdant Nipissing Ridge give a community like North Bay. This is especially true given the declining local real estate market. There are few or no purchasers for existing homes or lots already created.
Developing strong communities, statement 1.1.1(c)1: I take exception to this statement. That we should even consider expansion into any prime agricultural areas I cannot accept. Maps of prime agricultural lands of the 1950s compared to those of the late 1990s show that we have already paved over vast portions of prime agricultural land. Is this province self-sufficient in foodstuffs or is the present thinking that we can eke more productivity out of less land and require less land base to produce foodstuffs to support our population base?
We enjoy produce shipped to us from many points of the globe. Esoteric peppers come from Holland and Morocco by air, but the majority of our mainstay winter foodstuffs come by truck from Florida, California or Mexico. These trucks travel over a deteriorating road network in the United States where over 40% of all bridges have to be replaced in the next decades. A reduction in our prime agricultural land base implies an increased dependence on foreign foodstuffs delivered over an increasingly unreliable transportation network. We should be working towards reclaiming some of our prime agricultural land, not sanctioning the removal of these lands from productive use.
Natural areas protection must be more explicitly recognized: We accept and indeed welcome some forms of development. Development is not bad for the environment. Badly planned, ill-considered planning is bad for the environment. We need good planning, soundly based planning that does not change direction with the political flavour of the times. We should be really planning for the long-term future of our communities. Official plans should embody the practical, long-term future of an area, not just reflect whatever trends are being pushed at the time. This is flavour-of-the-month politics.
I know of at least one property owner in Toronto, owning several high-rise apartments, who has left the province because he did not want to endure the financial uncertainty that policy changes at a political whim imposed on him. Many in the province recognized the need for planning reform; many welcomed clear provincial guidelines and stronger environmental positions. The province was addressing its mandated task and providing one window on a level playing field.
Growth: The thrust of the policy paper is that growth is required for economic prosperity. I believe this to be an unwarranted assumption. Growth cannot continue indefinitely if any desirable quality of life is to be protected. I believe that a community would be a more desirable place to live and would be able to ensure its own prosperity if the planning process focused on an optimal size and an optimal growth rate. It could then ensure that development and the provision of services moved along at the same rate. The uncertainty of provincial and federal funding for municipal projects and infrastructure means that municipalities should concentrate on the upkeep of what they already have before approving increased development which will commit them to providing services they can ill afford.
The emphasis on growth without explicit statements of urban and central core renewal put me in mind of the city of Troy, which archaeologists have excavated and found seven different cities, one built on the next. The difference with our emphasis on growth and expansion is that we will not build on the ruins of the previous city but leave the empty, rotting husk at the core and bring more lands under asphalt and well-fertilized lawns while expanding over natural green spaces.
Natural heritage protection: Development thrusts have had significant impacts in the Great Lakes-St Lawrence areas, areas off the Canadian Shield. Commerce and industry should be given strong incentives to develop in areas on the shield. The example of Elliot Lake, which has taken a liability, what was perceived as a liability at first, and turned it into a commodity should be taken as a paradigm. It is selling itself as a retirement living community with amenities tailored to the needs of their target audience and this could provide an example of the direction we could go.
There are large tracts of land in northern Ontario which could be developed into desirable communities that would appeal to business, commerce and industry. Many of our present development patterns have been laid down by historical or economic principles which no longer hold true. An example of this would be communities which were developed along major waterways because it was the only feasible and only cost-effective means of transportation. By developing communities in the north many of the pressures on prime agricultural lands and natural areas in southern Ontario would be alleviated.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that planning and development need to be considered in the context of an ecosystem- based approach not, as the tone of this present document implies, that the natural environment and the functioning of the ecosystem on which we still depend are an incidental afterthought or mentioned simply to keep environmentalists quiet. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Vandermeer. Questioning this round will start with the government. We have seven minutes per caucus.
Mr Galt: Thank you for your thoughtful presentation. Just to make a few comments in the general area of agriculture that you were making reference to, certainly quality agricultural lands need to be held and looked after and maintained for agricultural purposes.
What we were hoping to do was blend into this some flexibility. Let me give you an example in my area where they found a small strip of what they claimed was quality land, but most of it was very poor quality, sandy, unable to really grow a decent crop because of the unevenness, and this particular farmer wanted to convert it to a golf course, a long way from paving it over, but because of the present regulation as it relates to agricultural land, this particular individual was unable to get permission to proceed. To me, this was an ideal way of holding land for future use when it wasn't being paved.
That's the kind of flexibility we're looking at in the policy statements. We're making reference to agricultural centres of activity where quality land is rather than looking at every little bit of a few square feet of quality land and stopping growth in those areas. Do you have any problem with looking at these centres rather than the way it has been in the past?
Mr Vandermeer: Not per se. I think we have lost probably far too much class 1 agricultural land. I sort of sympathize with the position. I own shares in a farm near Peterborough that is on very poor land. It's a miracle that the farmer who owned it previously was able to eke any existence out of it whatsoever, and we ran into difficulties trying to get any changes to the zoning there as well. Obviously, there are gradations of land. People in agriculture know these things. I think the prime agricultural land should receive higher levels of protection than perhaps, by whatever criteria they deem them, lower levels.
Mr Galt: If I can have one more question, you were making reference to developing communities in the north to save the agricultural land in the south. It is colder in the north. Do you think with the other natural resorces -- the water, the clean air -- people will flow to the north, to communities, if developed?
Mr Vandermeer: I think it's the sort of thing -- I'm not one particularly for marketing, but I think Elliot Lake has done a tremendous job of marketing itself to people. I heard a story just recently about Bob Izumi, who was invited up to do a tourney there. They weren't able to pay him, but they gave him 10 lots. They marketed themselves so well that he turned over a 200% profit on his 10 lots. You need people with bright ideas, and I think you need to sometimes focus people's attention on a particular issue. Natural area protection and agricultural land protection in the southern area are very important issues, and this province has a huge land base.
Mr Galt: That was not a negative question. I personally enjoy the cold very much. Thank you.
Mr Vandermeer: I live up here by choice as well.
Mr Hardeman: You spoke about not using up good agricultural land for the expansion of our urban centres; I guess "urban sprawl" is the technical term that's been used for it quite often. Today we've heard a lot of presentations about how we should have less control or less restrictiveness in the north to allow more development and more building of residential properties in the area, particularly the unorganized territories in northern Ontario.
Would you have any comments on equating those two? Would you see it, from an environmental point of view, as more appropriate to allow this type of development in areas such as the Sudbury area, and Sudbury East in particular? Is that a better approach than extending the urban centres?
Mr Vandermeer: I will respond to it but I will preface the response by saying I honestly don't know enough and the response comes just from what I feel. We are a northern community -- and by community, I mean Canada as a whole -- and we have looked south so much. I think we should be looking to the north more. Part of doing that is again having the right idea to sell living up here, like, as I said, the people in Elliot Lake. There's a lot to be said for it, and we've developed ways of living up here. Houses can be properly insulated so that your heating costs are not substantially different between living in an older home in southern Ontario and in a well-built house up here.
I'm not a snowmobiler myself, I cross-country ski, but those sorts of things can be very effective for marketing living up here to people. I think the snowmobiling association has done a tremendous job in the north in reaching tourists from further south and I think we can probably expand on that sort of thing and get people living up here.
The more direct answer is, yes, I would like to see more development up here. I don't think it should be less regulated, but it should be directed towards encouraging growth in northern areas. Does that sort of tangentially come at it?
Mr Hardeman: I think it answers my question, except for the last statement, when you said it should be regulated but we should have more development. One of the things we've been hearing today is that in the past it's been too regulated and it needs to be loosened up even further than Bill 20 would propose to do. I wonder if you have any comments on whether that is the appropriate way to go.
Mr Vandermeer: I don't think it should be left open. It still needs to be controlled. We have probably learned some lessons from -- I mean, let us learn from the past. It needs to be focused in a different direction.
Mr Hardeman: I was just telling you my son lived in Sudbury for five years, and he says it's better than southern Ontario.
Mr Vandermeer: Well, we moved up for that.
Mr Hardeman: I don't believe him on other matters too, but --
Mr Gerretsen: Oh, oh.
Mr Christopherson: You're not on the plane yet, Ernie.
Mr Hardeman: Because of the cold, of course.
The Chair: Any questioning from the official opposition?
Mr Hoy: Good afternoon and thank you for your presentation. I too share your concerns about agriculture. Historically, societies around the world have moved and migrated, either by walking or by some form of ship that they had at the time, to the most fertile lands they could find. Now the world population is deemed to be nine billion here in some very short years, probably within my lifetime, hopefully. So we have these huge cities expanding on some of the best land in the world. It not only happens in Ontario, Canada, but in other jurisdictions.
I'm saddened that the government would remove a funding program that would have helped to preserve the fruit land in the Niagara region. So you wonder what their commitment is to agriculture and the preservation of certainly an area that is unique to the country.
I'm also disturbed that in the policy statement of December 1995, under the heading "Essential ingredients for long-term economic prosperity will be provided by," agriculture is named sixth in a list of priorities. I find that saddening too.
But I appreciate your presentation this afternoon and I wanted to make those comments to you, that there is a competing use of land: one development, one agriculture. And there could be others: tourism etc. We have to be very careful. Once you pave over, build on or dig up prime land, it's generally lost forever.
Mr Gerretsen: Just a further comment. First of all, it's unfortunate, as I made the comment earlier today, that basically the Planning Act that we've been talking about is process, and unfortunately this committee has not been mandated to deal with the policy statements, because it's very difficult to deal with one without the other. The policy statements are really where it's going to happen, not so much in process, whether it's X days or Y days that it takes certain things to get through. I guess that has been totally lost in the process, so I'm glad you brought it back to the policy statements.
To Mr Hardeman I would just say that there's a major difference between treating agricultural lands as secondary or allowing them to be paved over by subdivisions or developments -- and I know the pressures are there -- and not allowing somebody with a 360-acre piece of land up here to sever it into two bits. To compare the level of development of creating the one extra building on a huge parcel of land with the level of development that would take place in an urban area is like comparing peanuts to, I don't know, elephants, I suppose. There's no connection at all, in my view.
What I'd like to ask you is whether you agree with me, dealing with the prime agricultural areas, that this negative connotation in the policy statement that expansions can only take in prime agricultural areas where there are no reasonable alternatives which avoid prime agricultural areas is almost like putting the emphasis on the wrong track. Would you agree with that?
Mr Vandermeer: I think I have something of that reading. We all base what we say on past experience, and it seems to me that you have too much of yet another little severance, that a farmer has seven sons and there are seven little bungalows lined up along the road, and the net sum is a substantial piece of agricultural land. I think that needs to be more closely controlled.
Mr Gerretsen: I appreciate your presentation. Thank you. It's too bad we couldn't spend more time on the policy statements.
The Chair: Questions by the third party?
Mr Bisson: Just a general comment for members to know right away is that in northern Ontario, agricultural land is at a premium. It's not something that we have a lot of. We have a good, viable agricultural community in different parts of the north, and what I would say is that we need to make sure that whenever we do planning, we don't put ourselves in a position of taking out whatever little land we have in our land base for development that could be used for agriculture, because we heard here today where a lot of pieces of land around here are not suited for agriculture. It's a different issue when you sever that to when you sever in my area, where you do have agricultural land. So I'd just put that out.
I want to come back to the provincial policy point, because I really believe the meat of this whole issue is going to be how good and how well drafted the provincial policies are going to be as they relate to the legislation. If the policies are not clear and the mechanism in Bill 20 is not clear in how to deal with that in regard "having regard for" rather than "being consistent with," we may end up in the end with more -- never mind inconsistency -- difficulty in interpretation about how to do good planning in the province of Ontario that may lead to more appeals to the OMB. It might be counterproductive to everything we're trying to do here.
I guess the question I have for you is twofold. The first question is, in moving away from "being consistent with" provincial policies and moving towards "having regard for," do you not think that we're running the risk of making things more unclear for developers and people in the planning business, that we may end up in the end with a worse situation when it comes to appeals before the OMB? Do you have any sense?
Mr Vandermeer: I find this "having regard for" and the other interpretation difficult to read into. The context that I get is from some of the environmental groups who somehow have a better sense of semantics of these words than I do. On that basis, I think "having regard for" is less restricting and hence could conceivably open a substantial door for appeals to the OMB and more ambiguity in the interpretation. But it's a hard read.
Mr Bisson: I would just caution the government to be really careful on this, because I think you can end up in a worse spot.
The last part is that about a year ago, Mr Murdoch was with us on a committee that dealt with sustainable forestry development. He would have heard presentations throughout northern Ontario where a number of people in the logging business, either pulp and paper or dimensional logs, were really opposed to what we were doing as a government in regard to trying to bring in sound management practices when it comes to how we manage our forestry industry in making sure that we have good policies in place that deal with how we first go in and cut, and then after, how we reforest our forest itself.
At the time, industry reacted to that, I wouldn't say altogether badly; some of them were in support, but some of them really had a problem with it. In the end, we see now that it's been in place that it's working not badly. But the thing that's really interesting is, I'm reading trade magazines now and the industry is starting to position that in a way that it's actually good for the economy and good for their industry because it positions them in regard to countervail duties -- arguments that the States have been making that we've been hearing lately with the agreement between BC, Quebec and Alberta have been on those issues. Ontario has not been in the same position of being pressured by the States because we have put a more responsible approach for the companies on it.
Where I'm going with this is, if you have good planning policies, it seems to me that in the end that only adds to your ability to attract investment if you do it right in the first place. If you have bad planning policy and you don't allow good planning to happen, who the heck would want to establish a company in a place where you don't have good facilities, good planning, good approaches? I'm wondering if you can comment on that.
Mr Vandermeer: I think one of the criteria for people relocating is having many recreational amenities and not, ideally, being adjacent to a pulp mill, something like that. Good planning allows for that.
Mr Bisson: The last point I'm going to ask you, and here's the tough question: At what point do the economic concerns override the needs for good planning? Really, that's what we're talking about here. The government is saying, "We want to be more efficient," but the buzzword about efficient -- and I understand. That's their choice as a government, that they want to allow development to happen a lot easier, which means to say there's less stringent requirements when it comes to the environment and other concerns around the environment. In your view, at what point does the development become more important than issues having to do with our environment? Where do we draw the line?
Mr Vandermeer: I lean towards more environmental protection. I think it's in part redressing a balance. I can't put it on a piece of paper and yea or nay it one way or the other, but as I say, we should be redressing a balance to some degree.
Mr Bisson: But when you're saying "redressing the balance" --
Mr Vandermeer: I think the environmental stuff has received short shrift. As a province, if you look at southern Ontario, we've lost so many of the wetlands. We've lost a lot of agricultural land. I think we need to be a little bit more stringent about protection.
Mr Bisson: Okay. I heard you.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Vandermeer. We appreciate your coming all the way from North Bay to make your presentation here today.
That concludes our agenda for this afternoon. The committee stands adjourned until tomorrow morning, 9 o'clock, in the Delta Hotel in Ottawa.
The committee adjourned at 1616.