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Mayor John Tory would like to see review of developer funds for communities
Tory wants a "good hard look" at the transparency and accountability in spending Section 37 developer funds.
Jan. 15, 2015
Jennifer Pagliaro

Mayor John Tory wants to review how developer money is being used for community benefits.

Tory, responding to a CBC report that Councillor Mark Grimes asked council to change a 2011 agreement, resulting in $100,000 less funds for the community, said he would like to process to be more transparent and accountable.

Tory said he couldn’t speak to that specific case, but said the process of spending what’s called Section 37 money needs re-examining.

“I think we need much more transparency and I think we need to have a good hard look at the whole Section 37, you know, regime, if I can call it that,” Tory told reporters at a business forum Thursday. “I think we have to have the discussion in an honest way and make sure the public can see that that money which is meant for their good, the public good, is expended in a way that is consistent with that.”

The city can negotiate for Section 37 money, named for the part of the Ontario Planning Act that governs the process, from a developer on a voluntary basis in exchange for approval of building taller or denser buildings that exceed zoning bylaws. Often those funds are used toward projects like parks, recreation centres and public art.

According to the city planning division’s annual report, there were 45 such agreements in 2013. The city has secured more than $300 million in cash benefits from Section 37 since amalgamation, not including in-kind benefits that include physical space within the building.

BILD president and CEO Bryan Tuckey, whose organization represents the GTA’s development industry, said they are pleased Tory’s thinking of reviewing the process. “We’ve as an industry felt that (it) would benefit from transparency both on how the money’s collected and how it’s administered and used,” Tuckey said.

The city recently underwent a review of Section 37 practices during an official plan review that began in 2012. After a January consultants report recommended improved public education on Section 37 funds, the city’s chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat said her team is creating an online database outlining those funds secured by ward — to be available by the third quarter this year.

In the case involving Grimes, it is not clear why the amount of funds agreed upon between the city and the developer of an 11-storey condo in Etobicoke, was lowered, at the request of the councillor. Grimes did not respond to a request for comment.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam — whose downtown ward often receives Section 37 funds — agreed there is room to improve the transparency of the process, pointing out that a review of Section 37 funding has been ongoing at the city for two years.

“I think in many ways it befogs most people. They don’t know what the Section 37 is,” Wong-Tam said, adding a brochure is now available online. “If the mayor wants to initiate a new review of Section 37, I think he’s fortunate that we don’t have to completely overhaul the discussion.”