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Hamilton planning staff slam provincial Heritage Act changes

 

Hamilton planning staff slam provincial Heritage Act changes

You have to ask yourself, how bad was the drafting of a piece of planning legislation when experienced municipal planners have over 80 objections or questions about the document. The province’s proposed changes to Planning legislation aimed at making housing approvals move more smoothly has apparently played havoc with the Municipal Heritage process aimed at protecting heritage properties. A report to the Municipal Heritage Committee says the changes that have already been signed into law will create a massive burden on municipal staff. It will be necessary to rewrite the individual bylaws that cover each of 238 heritage properties that have been designated in Hamilton. One of the key changes that has raised staff concerns is that developers who are working with heritage properties now have the ability to appeal heritage designations and limitations to the Ontario Land Tribunal. The report points out that it will now be necessary for the city to provide staff to represent its interests at these hearings.

The Ontario Government issued a toolkit that was supposed to provide guidance to municipalities on what the changes would mean. Hamilton planning staff have identified more than eighty points in either the handbook or the legislation where they need clarification or to which they object. The report warns there are going to be some unbudgeted costs for the Planning Department, mainly in staff time, to keep up with these changes.

The changes the government has instituted generally accelerate the timelines for designating property as heritage properties, but also speed up the proposed demolition and alterations. The change also abolishes the Conservation Review Panel and folds it into the Ontario Land Tribunal which critics say is generally more developer-friendly than even its predecessor, the Ontario Municipal Board which itself was criticized for overruling local decisions.

The Heritage Committee will discuss the report later this week.

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