Navigating appeals to planning decisions can be a complex process. When the provincial government recently announced they were shutting down the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre (LPASC), many local citizen groups were dismayed. The LPASC was set up as a service to assist citizens by providing input to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).
Prior to the establishment of the LPASC, presenting at hearings often required the services of lawyers and planning experts. This gave the developers an advantage over local citizen groups that lacked the funding for such resources. The LPASC was able to provide assistance to concerned citizen groups and enabled them to participate more effectively.
Navigating planning policy
The average citizen may only fight a planning decision once in their life and thus have a limited understanding of how to proceed. Laura Matthews, Communications & Stakeholder Relations Lead at LPASC, explains that planning policy is nuanced and it takes experience to navigate this complex process. She says the centre can benefit municipalities and developers as well as residents as it can help mediate and guide people to an early resolution. Everyone benefits when residents have the assistance they need to participate in the planning process.
Here are some examples where support from the LPASC has
helped local citizens and citizen groups contest controversial planning
John Bacher is appealing a development in Niagara Falls in a beautiful forest called Thundering Waters. His fight to save the forests and wetlands is ongoing. (For more information about this appeal, read one of our recent blog posts about the battle for Thundering Waters).
John says “The hearing was successful since the attempt to
dismiss the appeal for lack of evidence was rejected by the hearing officer.
The success was because LPASC supplied us with the two letters which were
suppressed by the Niagara Falls Planning Department. LPASC also helped me by
writing the Case Synopsis which was also important to our case. The synopsis
that LPASC wrote based on facts I provided was well written. It is horrible to
think what would have happened had not LPASC existed when it did.”
Kitchener vs. parking garage
Dawn Parker is a professor in the school of planning at Waterloo, but she is not a planner. She, along with a group of motivated neighbours, still needed help with their appeal of a five-story parking garage in the city of Kitchener. While they provided strong evidence, phrasing the problems in the appropriate legal language proved difficult. The LPASC helped them with their appeal; giving them full legal support, which they otherwise would have had to pay a high price to obtain.
Dawn Parker reports, “It was the buffering and
professionalism and timeliness that the support centre provided that led to the
negotiation of a settlement. All the parties were happy with the settlement and
settling helped to maintain good relationships and friendly conversations.”
This resident’s group was not against the
development, but only wanted some changes.
Now they have that better outcome with the possibility of mature trees,
storm water management and green infrastructure.
The LPASC will be missed
Everyone in Ontario benefits when all residents have the assistance they need to have a say in the planning process. The Ontario government is closing the centre by June 30th. The LPASC will no longer be accepting new requests for professional services from the public but you can still access some helpful resources on their website.
Joyce Sankey is the Conservation Director of the Niagara Falls Nature Club. She, and a growing number of Niagara residents, are working to ensure that natural areas remain protected.