Dr. Dawg

OMB: the developers' legal arm strikes again

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The Ontario Municipal Board is an unelected quasi-judicial tribunal that has traditionally acted as the developer’s best friend in Ontario. It has run rough-shod over elected city councils, democratically-decided zoning regulations and community associations in its apparently ceaseless quest to help developers get rich.

In other countries, one might suspect payoffs. There’s no evidence of that here, of course—just a remarkable alignment of interests.

The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Gray writes an articulate and passionate column today, appropriately entitled “The people who really run Ottawa.” Once again, the OMB has bulldozed through careful city development plans to stake out more territory for the developers.

Ottawa has been trying for some time to control urban sprawl. The latter is costly to service (and hence means higher taxes), and creates pollution because of long commute times. But the OMB has just acceded to the developers’ request to expand the city boundaries to include a further 850 hectares of land, rather than the carefully-considered 230 hectares that our elected council wanted.

This is pure urban vandalism, as so many of the OMB’s decisions are. And a threesome is involved: out-of-control city staff meet behind closed doors with developers to plan strategy, and then make recommendations that undercut the city’s position when the inevitable OMB hearings are held. Once again, in other countries one might suspect a certain monetary lubrication, but these things don’t happen in Ottawa.

The net result, however, is the same. In Ken’s words:

So who runs Ottawa? Certainly not homeowners or voters who possess a lower form of rights than developers who view zoning as a suggestion. And not council who just saw its urban strategy blasted by the OMB. But they should and that they don’t should outrage Ottawans.

No, it’s the building industry, the OMB and a city staff that undermines council and residents while giving developers a higher form of property rights than those of single-family homes. If those three groups get any tighter, they’ll have to get a room.

Perhaps it is time that our elected representatives get their rogue staff under control: for example, by insisting that a councillor is present whenever they meet with developers to do what is laughably called “city planning.”

In any case, Ken’s column is a wakeup call. It should be brought to the attention of every elected politician in Ontario. It should be required reading in schools to give our kids a taste of civics in the raw.

Its conclusion—which should be ours—is obvious. It’s time to dump the OMB, and the sooner the better. If not, the future is bleak: our Ontario cities, that is, our living-spaces, will continue to be vandalized by those with no urban vision but profit. And the legal path will be cleared for them by a supposedly neutral tribunal that is anything but.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on June 8, 2011 11:04 AM.

Another whistle-stop on the Diab railroad was the previous entry in this blog.

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