Kudos on the in-depth analysis by Evan Loree about Ontario’s Bill 23, which became law in November, (“How new Ontario law curtails town’s power over development,” The Lake Report, Feb. 23).
It was very objective and fact-based and it provided a shocking education for everyone in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The present town council will be burdened on ways to mitigate any adverse impacts of a proposal that is not in the best interests of the municipality before it goes to the Ontario Land Tribunal.
It will require communication and co-operation within council and with the applicants, which is no easy task.
Let’s be clear that for the most part, the challenge is within new provincial rules and existing zonings/designations of properties.
Whereas, changing a zoning/designation to a much higher level will always be extremely difficult to do.
Historically in NOTL, refusing an application meant years of waiting for the final decision at the Ontario Municipal Board (now the Ontario Land Tribunal) and the next term of council had to deal with the final results and the costs.
Today that appeal to the tribunal is a much quicker process and as the article states “places developers in a highly favourable position” rather than the previous 50/50 chances of winning.
Given the new ground rules, it is a wise position for this council to “communicate (negotiate) rather than litigate,” as Coun. Erwin Wiens suggests.
One might wonder what the municipality has to negotiate or communicate with?
Well all is not lost, as “time” is still the strongest tool the municipality has to negotiate with.
Time costs money, appeals cost money and missing a market that is eager to buy also costs money.
Legislation also exists that requires applications to be dealt with in a certain time period, so not dealing with a development proposal can result in an application going straight to the land tribunal.
As well, appeals can also cost the town money (and lead to tax increases) and can cost a lot more if the full-scale application is approved. So, time is a limited negotiating tool.
In my previous four terms of council starting in the early 1990s we faced challenges (including financial) but not to the scale that this council will face this term.
I can only offer the advice as I was given with the “Serenity Prayer” by Reinhold Niebuhr.
It guided my decision-making: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.”
In this difficult time, I wish this new council success in finding the best solution for the municipality.