City of Toronto mulls changes to Committee of Adjustment Procedures

In a May 6, 2021  Council decision, the City of Toronto (the “City”) adopted the recommendations set forth in item PH22.7, which directs City Planning to conduct a study regarding potential changes to the Committee of Adjustment (“CoA”), including but not limited to:

  • Alternatives to the CoA process for minor variances and severances;
  • Changes to notice options;
  • Resident concerns with the current process;
  • Education and training of Members on both procedures and substance of the CoA mandate; and
  • Revisions to committee processes, based on tribunal best practices.

What do the potential changes mean?

It is unclear what possible alternatives exist for the passage of minor variances and severances. Section 44 of the Planning Act (the “Act”) states that a municipality may by by-law constitute and appoint a CoA, while subsections 45(1) and 53(1) authorize a CoA to grant minor variances or consents. In theory, this means that the City could choose to administer minor variances and consents without a CoA; however, given thousands of matters are dealt with at committee every year, it is unlikely that the City’s reappropriation of these powers would lead to a more efficient or expeditious planning process.

In the City’s deliberations, concerns were also raised that Notices of Public Hearings were not being delivered in time to residents, thus preventing residents from speaking before the committee, or simply giving inadequate time for them to prepare remarks. Section 3 of Ontario Regulation 200/96 Minor Variance Applications (the “Regulation”) requires a Notice Period of at least 10 days before a hearing to be given to every landowner within 60 metres of the application area. The City’s internal process is to mail notice 20 days ahead of a hearing. As of the onset of virtual CoA hearings on May 28, 2020, the City has extended this notice to 22-24 days. It is uncertain if a further extension would have a significant impact on resident participation.

Lastly, during its meeting council proposed studying changes in respect of:

  • Access to the CoA
  • The transparency of the hearing process
  • The grounds upon which the CoA makes their decisions.

These proposals were brought forth largely in response to comments received from certain resident groups to address perceived unfairness within both the CoA’s process and its planning decisions. These considerations will ultimately be part of City Planning’s review of the CoA and inform its eventual recommendations to Council.

While this review is in its early stages, we will continue to monitor potential changes to the CoA and outline any future impacts to matters before the body in a future blog post.