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The Smart Growth for Our Communities Act, 2015 (Bill 73)

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The Smart Growth for Our Communities Act, 2015 (Bill 73) received Royal Assent on December 3, 2015. The Act makes changes to both the Development Charges Act and Planning Act to:
  • Help municipalities fund growth
  • Give residents a greater, more meaningful say in how their communities grow
  • Protect and promote greenspaces
  • Make the development charges system more predictable, transparent and accountable
  • Make the planning and appeals process more predictable
  • Give municipalities more independence and make it easier to resolve disputes
The amendments to the Development Charges Act and the Planning Act and related regulatory changes will:

Help municipalities fund growth by:

  • Increasing the amount of capital costs that municipalities can receive from development charges for transit services. 
  • Allowing municipalities to use development charges to help pay for waste diversion, such as recycling.

Give residents a greater, more meaningful say in how their communities grow by:

  • Enhancing a planning tool, the Community Planning Permit System, to encourage innovative ways to plan and address local needs raised by municipalities and community groups. The tool will be implemented locally in consultation with residents and other stakeholders. 
  • Requiring municipalities to look at opportunities to better involve residents in the planning process for new developments.  Municipalities will need to set out in their official plans how and when the public will be consulted, and explain how public input has affected their planning decisions. 
  • Including citizen representatives in municipal planning advisory committees so council can benefit from their views.

Protect and promote green spaces by:

  • Encouraging more municipalities to put parks plans in place that involve input from school boards and community members.

Make the development charges and land use planning systems more predictable, transparent and accountable by:

  • Requiring municipalities to follow reporting requirements that reflect best practices and detail to the community how money from development charges is spent.
  • Requiring municipalities to better integrate how development charges fit with long-term planning. 
  • Creating clearer reporting requirements for the collection and use of money paid by developers for higher and denser developments, as well as for parkland.
  • Making development charges payable at the time the first building permit was issued for a building, or at the beginning of each stage in the case of multi-phased development, so that developers can be certain of the cost.
  • Helping municipalities identify and share their best practices on using development charges to address local planning and financial objectives.
  • Providing for more stringent reporting and greater oversight of any funds or municipal charges on new developments.

Make the planning and appeals process more predictable by:

  • Requiring reviews of new, comprehensive municipal official plans every 10 years, instead of five. 
  • Providing municipalities with more control and stability over their planning documents. Once a municipality establishes a new official plan or, subject to a regulation, a Community Planning Permit System, it will be frozen and not subject to private applications for a period of time – two years for official plans and five years for a Community Planning Permit System – unless permitted by the municipality.
  • Enabling the province and local municipalities to further define what constitutes a minor variance (a small change from a zoning bylaw).

Give municipalities more independence and make it easier to resolve disputes by:

  • Providing an option for an additional 90 days to resolve issues involving official plans and amendments.
  • Allowing more opportunities to resolve disputes locally to make it easier and more efficient to resolve disputes without going before the Ontario Municipal Board. For example, municipalities will be allowed time to engage in alternative dispute resolution. And, the ability to appeal some items will be removed.