Municipal councillors who decry the growing trend towards having the developer-friendly Ontario Land Tribunal settle local planning disputes should look inward. The Ford government has given the OLT extra powers and will soon give it more resources so it can render its decisions more quickly; precisely because of the shenanigans of local councillors. In Hamilton and elsewhere in Ontario we have seen numerous occasions where councillors will vote against a development, to satisfy local political pressures, knowing full well that it will be likely overturned at the OLT. Another slightly more passive gambit is for municipal planning staff to deliberately allow the mandatory decision period for developments to pass, triggering an automatic referral of the OLT. Municipalities have not had their planning powers taken away—they have ceded them. Meanwhile the province is experiencing a housing crisis, where the explosive cost of housing now threatens to exclude an entire generation of young-middle-class residents, who heretofore had every reason to be expect to eventually own a home, from the dream of home ownership.
Anyone who lives within 500 meters of the proposed LRT route might as well forget about appealing against high rise developments. Unfortunately, “shadowing” will be the least of their problems. Councillors, by voting for LRT and against boundary expansion, also voted for massive intensification and the attendant displacement of tenants from properties that as recently as a year ago were affordable to lower income residents. The OLT will not likely deny any viable high-rise development associated with the LRT route– that’s what higher order transit does—attract intensive development. You can do the math, if we are to accommodate 200,000 new residents within our existing footprint, it would take more than 300 25-storey apartment buildings to house them. That won’t completely happen because there will still be enough room for a few more single-family houses, stacked towns and the like, but make no mistake—tall high rises will be springing up everywhere in large numbers. Something to consider carefully in the fall when council and mayoralty candidates start asking for residents’ votes