Tuesday, March 24, 2009

At A Crossroad in Land Use Planing

Over the past 10 years, land use planning in the Province of Ontario has become more and more complex, more so under the Liberal government. I'm sure the lawyers and consultants appreciate the business (and to all the consultants and lawyers I know - it's not personal).

But what exactly has all this complexity accomplished? How are 40-day Ontario Municipal Board hearings, reports that are 10, 20 or 30 pages long, Official Plans that have more and more polices in them, and reams of 'supporting documentation' that sits under my desk gathering dust.

An OMB hearing shouldn't take 2 or 3 years to plan and it shouldn't take 40 days to 'hear everyone' out. It shouldn't take a team of lawyers and a team of experts to figure out what is an acceptable land use. People have become so focused on process, so focused on details that the big picture is mostly forgotten.

Reports are becoming unnecessarily long because people fear of 'missing' something and being dragged through the mud at the OMB. All the information is included. Technology has enabled us to easily update documents and add all sorts of maps, attachments and appendixes. No one asks if we need all that stuff. We can do it, so why not? Besides people like pretty images.

Official Plans are supposed to be long term guiding documents, but now often have policies that a contradictory to each other. Wonderful. Can we choose to ignore the contradictions in the name of 'general intent'? No because that will be 'used' against us at Council or the OMB.

And what about all those documents (and multiple copies thereof) we ask for? So much for protecting the environment as the Official Plan recommends we do.

Sometimes, I think we would be better off spinning a wheel and living with that decision. Quick. Cheap. Arbitrary.

Of course, when the Province finds that all this complexity is too much, they simply create legislation to bypass it (Green Energy Act anyone?)

So much for community based land use planning. So much for have straightforward discussions. So much for simplifying things.

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