Corp Comm Connects


Richmond Hill decision - Cap on parkland

Jan. 21, 2015
By Edward LaRusic

A recent OMB decision placing a cap on parkland dedication in Richmond Hill’s official plan is being hailed as a win by the development industry. Experts say the decision will likely impact other municipalities which are going through their own official plan reviews.

The board released a decision on January 15 regarding appeals to Richmond Hill’s official plan parkland policies. While the decision dealt with a number of issues, board vice-chair Jan de Pencier Seaborn it is most notable for imposinga 25 per cent cap on the land required to be conveyed to the town as part of the development process.

Solicitor for appellants Elginbay Corporation and Zamani Homes (Richmond Hill) Ltd., Ira Kagan (Kagan Shastri LLP) said this was a good decision.

“This is, as far as I can tell, this is the first time there was a significant contest at the board over parkland dedication policies post-growth plan,” said Kagan.

Kagan said the southern, more urban municipalities in York Region, such as Vaughan, Markham and Richmond Hill, are expected to assume a greater share of the provincial Growth Plan’s policy requiring 40 per cent intensification within the built boundary. He noted that municipalities such as Richmond Hill have largely targeted intensification corridors like Yonge Street and Highway 7 for high-density apartments to meet this goal.

“The key is: can they actually achieve those units if the effect of the alternative parkland dedication rate is to make high density development on those corridors unfeasible? That’s largely what this case was about,” said Kagan.

Solicitor Jeffrey Streisfi eld (Land Law), representing Haulover Investments Limited, Montanaro Estates Limited, William and Yvonne Worden, Robert Salna and Robert Salna Holdings Inc., said his clients are quite pleased with the decision.

“I think it’s a substantial victory for those who wereadvocating for transparency related to parkland payments. The cap is exactly what that will assist. The member was very aware that she had to balance the public interest,”

Streisfield said. “This was a tough call for a board member to make. But at the end of the day, she decided that she had to approve something in the official plan that was transparent, and promoted and facilitated intensification.”

Acting on behalf of Richmond Hill solicitor Barnet Kussner (WeirFoulds LLP) said that the town preferred that an alternative rate be imposed through a parkland dedication by-law, rather than through the official plan.

“[The town’s position was that] the official plan policies should be left at the ‘up to one hectare per 300 units,’ and be left to an implementing by-law for town council to determine where that rate should be set.”

“The two groups of appellants were taking the contrary position. Their position was that the board has jurisdiction to impose a lesser rate, and that based on the evidence, [it] should impose a reduced rate and build that right into the official plan itself,” said Kussner.

The problem with parkland dedication by-laws, said Kagan, is that they cannot be appealed, even if the alternative rate that council agrees to impose is “terrible.”

As proposed by the town, the alternative rate in the official plan would mirror that found in the Planning Act that says municipalities may set a maximum alternate rate of one hectare of land conveyed for every 300 dwelling units in its parkland dedication by-law, subject to official plan policies.Thus, on a one hectare site comprised of 300 dwelling units,one hectare - the entire site, but more likely cash-in-lieu - would be required.

While the board member noted that determining a “correct” cap was “not an exact science,” she indicated that a 45 per cent cap was “well beyond the range of charges across similar municipalities.” With a 30 per cent cap being at the high end of what other municipalities charge, the member to launch before the end of March.

“These roundtable discussions with residents and business are about where they see Pickering is now, and where they see it going in the future. That will inform the later community engagement.”

Stakeholder consultation will evolve over three phases. The next phase will involve retaining consultants to help develop a vision and strategic directions. The final phase will focus on official plan and zoning by-law amendments and potentially neighbourhood development guidelines. Pickering council adopted its city centre official plan amendment in July 2014, with the aim of creating a downtown.