NRU Toronto and NRU Greater Toronto Area, weekly publications that report on news in municipal government and urban planning, interviewed top municipal planning lawyers, including Dennis Wood, on the new 2014 Provincial Policy Statement, released Feb 24, 2014. An excerpt of the NRU Toronto article with Dennis Wood’s interview is below:
Dennis Wood (Wood Bull LLP) said that he was surprised at the heightened focus in the new PPS on infrastructure. Compared to the 2005 version, the new policy statement states that existing infrastructure and public service facilities “should be optimized,” placing emphasis on adaptive re-use before making any commitment to new infrastructure.
“You might see that as being the other side of the coin from the intensification policies that are applied from the land-use side,” he said, with municipalities now expected to evaluate existing infrastructure as a companion piece to intensification in built-up areas.
Wood cited new PPS policies on storm-water management as particularly important for Toronto, which suffers from aging infrastructure.
“As we’ve been experiencing over the last several years, one of the effects of climate change is more precipitation, and unpredictable weather events, which put unexpected strains on our system,” Wood said. “For the City of Toronto, the issue is the stress that’s put on the existing infrastructure—the pipes in the ground—and to the extent that you can relieve that stress incrementally as developments occur.”
One criticism that Wood leveled at the new policy is its language on Great Lakes coastal wetlands, which states “there may be circumstances where planning authorities should consider agreements related to the protection or restoration of the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Basin.” He said he finds the language unhelpful because, in his view, the PPS does not indicate how to include the provision in planning applications in a meaningful way.
“I don’t think a document of this nature should be saying ‘oh by the way, there are these agreements out there and there might be some circumstances where you might want to think about them,’” he said. “A policy statement is intended to give clarity. [This language] doesn’t give me any guidance as a person who wants to work with this document. Now I have to worry about this, but I don’t know exactly what they’re getting at.” (“New PPS Lens”, NRU Toronto, 7 March 2014)
An excerpt of the NRU Greater Toronto Area article with Dennis Wood’s interview is below:
Dennis Wood (Wood Bull LLP) told NRU that the new PPS attempts to relieve some of the inherent tension in rural Ontario that occurs when farmers look to make money by severing a portion of their acreage for residential use, which could lead to demand for new subdivisions in areas not designated for growth.
“[Farmers] want to create lots out of farms. So they take a hundred acre farm, and they want to create one lot, two lots, three lots,” Wood said, with the stated intention to create housing for family members.
“The experience of course, was they didn’t end up living on the farm, and they got sold to third parties, and so you had to come up with some sort of policy to rein this in,” says Wood. “I see some of that tension in [the new PPS], between wanting to allow reasonable agricultural and economic use of rural lands, but not having them redeveloped for subdivision lots or to have things...which are nuisances, such as a [car] salvage yard.”
In assessing what’s new in the 2014 PPS, Wood says the province has highlighted the importance of energy supply. He cites new language in the PPS that instructs planning authorities to “provide opportunities for the development of energy supply” including renewable and alternative energy systems.
“There’s a big fight going on in the countryside about where wind turbines will be permitted,” he said. “I think this provision in the PPS is intended to give policy support for those that are promoting alternative energy, including wind turbines. (“Rules Clarified”, NRU Greater Toronto Area Edition, 12 March 2014)
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