Londoners had a chance to give their two cents on how the Ontario Municipal Board operates Thursday night.
A town hall meeting was held in London at the German Canadian Club on Cove Road.
Earlier this month the province started the roving town hall’s as a way to help Ontarians learn more about what the OMB does and to give their thoughts on changes the government is considering.
The OMB has long been a thorn in the side of municipalities and communities. The quasi-judicial board rules on everything from development proposals to city guidelines. The provincial body has the power to overturn council decisions and is one of the most powerful appeal bodies of its kind in North America.
About 50 people attended the town hall Thursday.
The review covers five main themes:
1. OMB’s jurisdiction and powers
2. Citizen participation and local perspective
3. Clear and predictable decision-making
4. Modern procedures and faster decisions
5. Alternative dispute resolution and fewer hearings
While the province isn’t considering folding the OMB, that is what Toronto city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam would like to see happen. Two years ago Wong-Tam was one of three councillors in Toronto who called for an end to the OMB’s control.
Speaking on The Pulse with Devon Peacock, Wong-Tam said she doesn’t think it’s needed anymore.
“I would say it’s outlived its usefulness. I think there are some that somehow cities need to be babysat with the Ontario Municipal Board but there’s no other jurisdiction in Ontario that has an appealing body like this.”
At a news conference earlier in October to announce the review, Minister of Municipal Affairs Bill Mauro made it clear the province isn’t considering scrapping the OMB.
Critics of the OMB have charged it’s undemocratic because it can overrule decisions made by the municipality. All members of the OMB are political appointees.
The OMB has played a controversial role in London politics the past few months.
Two Londoners appealed to the provincial board back in the summer in opposition to a proposed pilot project to play amplified music on patios while heritage activists recently appealed the proposed $300-million development that will replace the Camden Terrace row houses on Talbot Street.
Back in February Londoners filed appeals with the OMB after a city committee decided to rezone some prime real estate near the Thames River.
Wong-Tam said the board has too much power.
“I think that is actually fundamentally at the heart of what’s wrong. You have a board that has nothing to do with the local community, tell the local community that years’ worth of planning is tossed out the door.”
The town halls began October 18th in Newmarket and wrap up November 24th in Thunder Bay.
Ontarians are also invited to submit their written comments and feedback on OMB reform by December 19, 2016.
Mauro said the hope is to have new legislation by the spring.