Queen’s Park recently approved significant changes to the Planning Act’s subdivision control rules. These amendments are awaiting proclamation but could come into force any day.
The Ontario Heritage Act was also overhauled on July 1st. These changes are in force and give the Ontario Land Tribunal significant oversight over local heritage decisions.
Key Planning Act changes
- Cancelling consents
Under the new section 53(45), landowners will be able to apply to the municipality for a “certificate of cancellation” canceling prior consents. This will enable owners to re-merge properties and undo former severances. The cancellation process must be initiated by the owner – a municipality cannot revoke a consent on its own initiative. Council has discretion to refuse to cancel a consent.
- More time to fulfill conditions of subdivision approval
Applicants will now have two years to fulfill the conditions of approval for their consents under the updated section 53(41).
- Amending consent applications
Applicants currently have no statutory right to modify their consent applications once filed. The new section 53(4.2.1) will guarantee the right of applicants to amend applications any time before the approval authority makes its decision – but municipalities may charge a fee for amendments.
- No merger on death of a joint tenant
Where couples own two adjacent properties, they sometimes hold one property as joint tenants and the other in only one spouse’s name. This can avoid the Planning Act rule that two properties held by the same owner(s) will merge into one. Currently, this strategy can fail if the spouse not on title to the second property dies, because both properties are now held by the surviving spouse. The new subsection 50(3)(a.1) will fix this issue by stating that lands which would ordinarily merge because of the death of a joint tenant will be able to be dealt with separately.
Heritage appeals are now binding
The Ontario Heritage Act gives municipal council the power to assign (or remove) heritage designations to properties or buildings. Historically, council’s exercise of this power could only be reviewed by the Conservation Review Board, which would hear objections and issue a non-binding recommendation to council. Council only had to consider the Board’s report and could choose not to follow its recommendation.
As of July 1st, Heritage Act appeals are heard by the Ontario Land Tribunal. The Tribunal has the power to make decisions that are binding on council, provided the appeal is regarding a proceeding commenced on or after July 1st, 2021. Importantly, the Tribunal can only make non-binding reports for proceedings commenced before July 1st.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about these changes. Our municipal team advises clients at all stages of the planning process and would be pleased to assist with any subdivision or heritage matters.