The provincial government has decided to close the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre, a provincial agency created just a year ago to give legal assistance to residents fighting land development issues formerly handled by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB)
The centre guides neighbourhood groups through public meetings, and offers free legal help with municipal zoning decision appeals at the LPAT, which replaced the OMB.
A Ministry of the Attorney General spokesperson told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in an emailed statement that the government has to make “difficult decisions about programs”, and demands for the centre’s services have been low averaging just three enquiries per day.
“Recent reforms to the land use planning and appeal system give greater weight to the decisions of local communities, while balancing development and growth in Ontario,” the statement said. “Over time this will result in fewer appeals at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal and an appeal process that is more efficient and affordable for everyone.”
However, the centre’s board of directors chair, Anna Pace, told CBC that she she is disappointed by the decision. “The land-use planning process is very complicated and is very difficult to work through,” Pace said. “Big developers can afford to hire the resources that they need,” she said. “It’s important for people to have advice and support.”
“We were getting an increasing number of inquiries, and a number of people let us know they really appreciated the information we were able to give them.”
“Doug Ford is once again doing favours for his friends,” NDP municipal affairs critic Jeff Burch said in a statement. He said the centre “gave local communities a fighting chance when facing off against wealthy developers.”