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New rules for development limit public input: Newmarket council

It's 'very concerning' that residents will no longer have the opportunity 'to influence the direction that the developer might take for the final site plan,' councillor says about the province's legislation that speeds up development applications
June 22, 2022
Joseph Quigley

Newmarket council expressed concern about less public input into future development applications as it voted to dissolve its site plan review committee June 20.

Staff recommended the move due to changes in the provincial More Homes For Everyone Act, which requires municipalities to decide site plan applications within 60 days or else start forfeiting planning fees, as of Jan. 1, 2023. Municipalities are also required to delegate site plan approval authority to staff, as of July 1.

Director of planning Jason Unger said the timeline hampers the possibility of public meetings and getting mail notifications out to neighbours of developments.

“The opportunity to hold a meeting, and get a lot of public meetings and back and forth with the residents and try to address the residents’ concerns, is really limited with this,” Unger said. “But we will do our best.”

The provincial act is aimed at speeding up the planning process. The province's website said the site plan changes incentivize municipalities to “make timely decisions within realistic timelines.” It said delegating approvals to staff will “get the politics out of planning,” with staff with professional expertise getting decision-making power.

“More Homes for Everyone proposes targeted policies for the immediate term that make housing fairer for hardworking Ontarians and make it faster to build the homes that families need and deserve,” the province said.

Councillor Christina Bisanz said there are statutory public meetings for official plan and zoning bylaw amendments, but public input beyond them will be more limited. She said that feedback can help address the impact of a development on neighbours.

“To take that opportunity away from them -- to have some input and perhaps have some ability to influence the direction that the developer might take for the final site plan -- I think, is very concerning,” Bisanz said.

Mayor John Taylor said the town wants to engage the public, but he worries about the tight timelines making that difficult. He said that could create false expectations and make the town wear the blame for a lack of public input.

“We need to figure this out and see what is realistic and what’s not and make sure everybody knows the process.

“Streamlining the process often means that the public ability to input is what suffers,” he added.