There is an abundance of new provincial guidance on land use planning over the past decade, including policy statements, conservation plans, growth plans, and greenbelt plans; however, there is little on-the-ground guidance on how to actually carry out integrated planning for specific projects, such as municipal infrastructure. There are also institutional barriers to integrating planning and engineering. In municipalities, there remain separate engineering and planning departments and separate engineering and planning committees of council. How can all this fit together?
Until very recently, a novel reform contained in the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (EA) was little used and untested in litigation. Section A.2.9 of the Municipal Class EA provides guidance to municipalities and developers on an integrated EA and Planning Act process. At the end of the process, there can be a hearing before the Ontario Municipal Board.
In the 2011 case of Westhill, the A.2.9 process got its first litigation test. The Board reviewed compliance with the A.2.9 process for a major private sector subdivision and golf course development on the Oak Ridges Moraine. The Town of Aurora expressed serious opposition to this development and retained outside lawyers to fight the development at the Municipal Board. I was co-counsel with Roger Beaman, and was lead on addressing EA and water issues. The OMB ultimately gave its blessing to the development.
Because of Westhill’s importance, the OBA Municipal Bar Executive set up a panel to address integrated environmental assessments and land use planning and invited me to discuss this case.
My slide presentation uses a legal perspective to highlight five different types of integration [ppt].
My paper is much more detailed. It begins with the Westhill example to show what integration was actually carried out; however, it also provides examples and suggestions on how to, within existing law, provide better on-the-ground EA/planning integration. Overall, one message of the paper is that there are many legal and visuals tools to guide integration; a second message is that better use of such tools is likely to further environmental protection, particularly in provincially-recognized sensitive areas [pdf].
Comments most welcome.