Deciding where to build new homes and businesses is a tricky enterprise, with neighbourhood residents generally at odds with developers. Sometimes the residents are right; sometimes they’re wrong. But they always have a right to make their case.
So it’s welcome news that the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) has rejected a developer’s cost claim, which could have had a chilling effect on future public participation.
A 300-member ratepayer group in Innisfil Township went to the board to fight plans to build a large resort, including condominiums, a hotel and a marina, on the shores of Lake Simcoe. They lost. Rather than walk away happy, the developer, Kimvar Enterprises, went after its opponents and their lawyers for $3.2 million in costs on the grounds that they had no case and needlessly dragged out the hearing.
OMB vice-chair, Jan Seaborn, disagreed. The ratepayers presented an “unconvincing case,” but they weren’t “frivolous or vexatious” and they shouldn’t have to pay for opposing the project, she ruled.
This is good news for the ratepayers – and for future development in Ontario. The province plans to manage growth in the coming decades by concentrating new development in existing built-up areas. Conflict between developers and ratepayers is certain to intensify, so we need a dispassionate arbiter like the OMB. But appealing to the OMB must be an option for ratepayers, not just for deep-pocketed developers.
“Potential parties and the public should not be fearful of participating in Board proceedings,” said Seaborn. Her ruling has helped to ensure that.