If you are trying to shape growth in your community, you should know about two local planning processes.
- The Community Planning Permit system
- Complete Application Requirements system.
Both of these approaches require that municipalities adopt enabling policies in their Official Plans in order to make use of them. This provides yet another incentive for residents to pay close attention to Official Plan reviews and amendments.
Community Planning Permit:
The Community Planning Permit (CPP) system can have a major impact on how citizens are able to intervene in development decisions in specific areas of their municipalities.
A municipality that uses this approach can pre-approve development in a whole district by passing a single bylaw that lays out not just the land use, height and density that will be accepted, but also zoning and site plan requirements such as landscaping, parking and exterior design as well as conditions of development such as affordable housing requirements and other community facilities such as daycares.
In a district subject to a CPP bylaw, the normal consultation process on development is suspended – meaning, developers do not have to go through a rezoning application on each parcel, provided the development proposed is consistent with the Official Plan and the CPP bylaw for that area in which it cannot be turned down by the municipality. Conversely, a developer cannot apply to amend a CPP bylaw for 2 years, and even then it would have to review the entire bylaw and not just its site.
Implications for Residents:
The CPP system is attractive to municipalities because it can be used to bring a detailed planning vision to a whole area of a town – such as areas slated for intensification. Developers like this because they get a more predictable and streamlined planning approvals process.
But for citizens, the CPP system may be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it provides them with an opportunity to influence development outcomes in a large area without having to engage developers over each individual proposal, and to set concrete limits on development which developers must abide by. On the other hand, if residents do not pay attention, they could miss out entirely on influencing development decisions in the affected area.
The Official Plan policies and CPP bylaw could be adopted years in advance of actual development applications, and other than notifying citizens of the various applications coming in, it is possible that there would be no further opportunities for public consultation in the affected area. Through the CPP, citizens get certainty by agreeing to a community vision up front – in return for being able to appeal individual development proposals that are in keeping with that vision. In this way, it allows for a municipality to require community benefits from the developer.
Moreover, the outcome of an application in a CPP area is not appealable by citizens to the new Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT). If the application is approved by the municipality, only the developer can appeal if the application is turned down.
The CPP system has been around for over a decade and originally was not used extensively, but seems to be attracting more attention in recent years. In the Greater Golden Horseshoe, at least Toronto, Brampton, and Ajax have CPP systems in place. Innisfil and Niagara-on-the-Lake are also currently exploring the use of a CPP system.
Complete Application Requirements:
Another feature of the planning framework is the Complete Application Requirement system.
According to the Planning Act, municipalities are permitted to require that a developer consults with municipal planners prior to submitting an application. As part of this pre-consultation, the municipality can require that a developer provides whatever information or studies the municipality thinks is necessary to properly assess the application. The application isn’t considered complete until all the required information is submitted.
Here are some examples of the type of studies that could be required:
- Planning studies, such as a Land Use Compatibility Study.
- A Traffic Impact Study.
- A Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment.
- A Noise and Vibration Study.
- Urban Design studies.
- An Environmental Impact Study.
- A study on municipal financial impacts of the proposed development.
Implications for Residents:
By the time a development proposal gets to a public hearing, the design process is already well advanced and options for change are limited. The Complete Application Requirement system is interesting because it provides citizens with the information they need to understand a development proposal and express their point of view before the developer starts negotiating with planners.
Also, with the new Local Planning Appeals Tribunal, the opportunity to negotiate development proposals is based on planning merits (conformity and consistency with provincial and local plans), and the Complete Application Requirement system can give residents the information they need to do that. Currently, only about a third of municipalities within the Greater Golden Horseshoe are using the Complete Application Requirement system, so there is room for it to grow.