Huron County begins implementation of Bill 23 changes

HURON COUNTY – Denise Van Amersfoort, manager of planning for the County of Huron, updated county councillors on the changes to the Planning Act that affected the planning application process and removed the requirements for some public meetings.

In a report to council, Van Amersfoort said, “The provincial government introduced Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, on Oct. 25, 2022, with the intent to expedite housing development. On Nov. 28, 2022, Bill 23 was passed and received royal assent, and changes are effective as of that date unless otherwise noted. The bill includes changes to the Planning Act, summarized as follows.

Notable changes for planning applications include the removal of third-party appeal rights for minor variance applications, the removal of third-party appeal rights for consent applications, the removal of the requirement to hold a public meeting for plans of subdivision/condominiums; the removal of site plan control for residential buildings containing 10 units or less; the removal of exterior design control under site plan control; and the mandated minimum of three units permitted per residential lot serviced by municipal water and sewer.

“Originally, Bill 23 proposed to remove third party appeal rights for all applications but was amended to remove Official Plan and zoning bylaw amendments. Appeal rights for third parties were removed from plans of subdivision and condominiums in 2019 by Bill 108 (More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019).”

Van Amersfoort explained, “There’s a number of items outlined, most notably for council, we have seen the removal of third-party appeal rights from minor variances and consent applications.

“Originally, the bill had talked about removing third-party appeal rates from every application, but that was rolled back; we will still see the opportunity for third-party appeals on official plan amendments and zoning bylaw amendments.

“But the main change for county council, in terms of process, is in regards to plans of subdivision and condominium. As a result of Bill 23, we will no longer be holding public meetings for these types of applications, so we will be discontinuing the practice of assigning county councillors to attend the local meeting.

“Now do keep in mind that the members of the public will still absolutely receive notice of the plan of subdivision and still have the opportunity to provide comments, whether through email or letter, they can pick up the phone and talk to a member of staff.”

Van Amersfoort told councillors to keep in mind that plans of subdivision often come with zoning bylaw amendment requests, and those can have public meetings at the local level.

A public meeting could be held “only if that plan of subdivision is submitted concurrently with an application for a zoning bylaw amendment, typically areas where there’s new development or zoned future developments,” Van Amersfoort said.

“So, at the time of the plan of subdivision,” she said, for example, “we also rezone it to an R2 zone, and that requires a public meeting, but doesn’t happen in every case. So, it will be really important for members of the public if they want to participate, they need to write in their comments.”

In summary, Van Amersfoort wrote the following statements in her report.

In response to the changes to the Planning Act, planning staff have updated all associated notices, websites, brochures, and procedure guidelines.

As public meetings are no longer required for plans of subdivisions or condominiums, it is recommended that county council discontinue the practice of having a county council member attend the local meeting. The process is otherwise unchanged: the same circulation process will continue, giving members of the public notice of the applications and the opportunity to submit their comments. Staff will address public comments through conditions to the plans of subdivision/condominium where appropriate.

Please note that plans of subdivision/condominium are often submitted in conjunction with a zoning bylaw amendment application for which there is still a requirement for a public meeting.

Planning staff will work with local municipalities to bring the local official plans, zoning bylaws, and site plan control bylaws into compliance with Bill 23.

An update to the County’s Official Plan is not required at this time but may be necessary for 2023. In addition, the province has indicated an intent to combine the Provincial Policy Statement and A Place to Grow (Growth Plan issued under the Places to Grow Act, 2005) as per Environmental Registry of Ontario Posting No. 019-6177; this is likely to result in the required updates to County and local Official Plans.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times