Ontario Introduces Legislation to Reverse Certain Provincial Planning Decisions

In its continuing efforts to wind back certain land use planning decisions, on November 16, 2023, the Ontario government introduced Bill 150: the Planning Statute Law Amendment Act, 2023.  

If passed, this legislation would enact the Official Plan Adjustments Act, 2023, which would:

1. Reverse certain provincial decisions on official plans affecting 12 municipalities, comprising those issued on:

i. November 4, 2022, regarding: York Region Official Plan; Peel Region Official Plan; Halton Region Official Plan Amendment 49; Niagara Region Official Plan; City of Hamilton Official Plan Amendment 167 to the Urban Official Plan; City of Hamilton Official Plan Amendment 34 to the Rural Official Plan; City of Ottawa Official Plan

ii. April 11, 2023, regarding: Waterloo Region Official Plan Amendment 6; County of Wellington Official Plan Amendment 119; City of Guelph Official Plan Amendment 80; City of Barrie Official Plan; City of Peterborough Official Plan; City of Belleville Official Plan

2. Approve the municipally adopted official plans, retroactive to the date of provincial approval (November 4, 2022, or April 11, 2023);

3. Outline transition rules that would apply to applications made since the official plans were approved;

4. Retain certain provincial modifications to the municipally adopted official plans, including:

  • For the Cities of Hamilton and Belleville, the Regions of York, Niagara and Peel, and the County of Wellington:
    • modifications to ensure elements of the municipally adopted official plans do not conflict with Greenbelt policies (i.e., policies related to gravel or sand extraction or waste disposal).
  • For the City of Guelph:
    • Modifications to provide for a minimum building height of two storeys and a maximum building height of 23 storeys within the Downtown Secondary Plan, subject to the policies of the Official Plan, the protected public view corridor and Special Policy Area building heights.
  • For the Cities of Hamilton, Belleville and the County of Wellington:
    • modifications related to the notification of Indigenous communities where a marked or unmarked cemetery or burial place is found, and modifications to ensure that planning approval authorities co-ordinate and engage with Indigenous communities with Aboriginal and treaty rights regarding cultural heritage and archaeological resources.
  • For the Cities of Hamilton and Peterborough, and the Regions of York and Niagara:
    • modifications setting out rules for how sensitive land uses, such as nursing homes or long-term care facilities, and other uses such as industrial lands or sewage treatment facilities should be planned for when in proximity to each other.
  • For the Regions of Peel and York, and the Cities of Barrie, Belleville and Peterborough:
    • modifications to protect drinking water.
  • For the Regions of Halton and Peel:
    • modifications for the protection of the Highway 413 corridor.
  • None of the modifications previously made by the province to the official plans for the City of Ottawa, Region of Waterloo or the City of Hamilton – Rural OPA 34, are proposed to be retained.
  • Bill 150 would also amend the Planning Act to introduce immunity provisions to mitigate legal risk related to the making, amending or revoking of Minister’s Zoning Orders (“MZOs”).
    • Bill 150 does not propose specific changes to MZOs; however, the proposed immunity provisions are intended to mitigate risk should revocations be necessary as the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing reviews a “use it or lose it” policy.

The effect of wiping out the province’s prior modifications is to return settlement boundaries to those originally adopted by Council (unless otherwise modified in accordance with the proposed legislation). This means that certain lands that were brought into the settlement area of the relevant municipality will, once the proposed legislation takes effect, be removed from the boundary. Combined with the proposed transition rules, these lands will be treated as if they were never brought into the boundary, with no compensation or other ameliorative proposal for those affected landowners. 

According to the province’s backgrounder, affected municipalities will have until December 7, 2023, to submit information about circumstances or projects that are already underway and on any changes that the municipality would like to see made to its official plan based on the original modifications. Following the December 7th deadline, the province has stated that it will review any proposed changes and explore, in consultation with municipalities, the most effective way to implement – through further legislative solutions or other tools – any of the provincially initiated changes to the official plans that municipalities would like to maintain. 

Although the province has set a date of December 7 to make submissions regarding projects underway or changes to official plans, Bill 150 will be open for public comment on the Environmental Registry of Ontario until December 16, 2023.

The introduction of the Planning Statute Law Amendment Act, 2003 follows the introduction of Bill 136, Greenbelt Statute Law Amendment Act, 2023 on October 16, 2023. If passed, this legislation would, among other things, restore the 15 parcels of land that were redesignated or removed from the Greenbelt in 2022 while maintaining the additional 9,400 acres of land added at that time. At the time of writing, Bill 136 has been referred to the Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy.

The Municipal & Land Use Planning Group at Aird & Berlis will continue to monitor these bills as they make their way through the legislative process and will keep you informed of changes that could affect municipalities and private landowners alike. If you have questions or require assistance, please contact the author or another member of the group.