We were in court yesterday, taking a hard look at Ontario’s approaches to land use planning and sustainable development – particularly decision-making at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
The case involves a proposed golf course and condo development slated for the highly-sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine. The 120-acre development has already been rejected by the local municipality, but that matter is being challenged by the developers at the OMB. At risk is the integrity of the Oak Ridges Moraine itself, and good environmental decision-making in general.
We are there with our client Earthroots to ensure that challenges such as this one are heard by both the OMB and the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), convening a hearing panel together as a joint board. Green-leaning Ontarians have witnessed the developer-friendly atmosphere created by the OMB in the past, and have seen some very questionable decisions where efforts to promote local and environmental values have been lost. Environmental decision-making expertise in this province is found at the ERT, and in matters where planning and environment meet, a consolidated OMB/ERT hearing can better assess land use disputes with a greater eye towards sustainable development.
There’s a public interest in joining together land use and environmental protection decisions, avoiding multiple hearings on a single project, and integrating the land use issues with the ecosystem and drinking water source concerns posed by this proposed new development.
A decision on whether or not this challenge will go forward at the OMB alone, or a as consolidated OMB/ERT hearing, should be made in the next several weeks.