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City Council shows support for provincial Use It or Lose It tool

City of BrantfordCity Council shows support for provincial Use It or Lose It tool

City of Brantford Council unanimously supported a new “Use It or Lose It” tool included in the proposed changes to the Planning Act under Bill 185 (Cutting Red Tape to Build More Homes Act, 2024 ) during its Council meeting on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

The City’s Planning Committee submitted the recommendation to support the tool as some developments in the City aren’t moving forward in applying for building permits after their planning applications have been approved, and because the unused developments aren’t contributing to the housing supply in a timely manner.

“This tool will expand the scope of lapsing provisions, requiring municipalities to impose a lapsing condition for all draft subdivision/condominium and site plan control approvals,” read the recommendation. “The tool will provide an incentive for developers/builders to move forward on approved applications before the approval lapses.”

Mayor Kevin Davis said the new tool would essentially have builders and/or developers losing their planning designation if they don’t submit building permits within three years of their planning application being approved.

On top of expressing support for the “Use It or Lose It” tool, City Council is requesting that the “Use It or Lose It” tool be expanded to include zoning approvals.

“The planning committee thought it was important that we as a council, express our support for ‘Use It or Lose It,’ and that in fact, it be expanded to include zoning approvals because the legislation talks about ‘Use It or Lose It’ only applying to plans for subdivisions or site plan control,” he said. “…How many times have we seen someone come to us, they apply to rezone for a six to nine storey apartment building and staff then spend all kinds of time dealing with the application and processing it, then we debate it here at the Planning Committee and City Council, and then it just sits and nothing happens? The public planning process and members of the print expect something will be built, and then nothing gets built because oftentimes, it’s a builder that’s applying for rezoning to increase the value of their property so they can resell it or use it to as part of a mortgage refinancing to develop elsewhere.”

Nicole Wilmott, Acting Commissioner of Community Development, said that she would suggest if they wanted to determine if imposing the broader condition was appropriate, they would have to do a full legal review.

“The Planning Act includes explicit provisions related to a lapsing provision for subdivision and site plan applications, and it omits (leaves out) those specific provisions for rezoning,” she said. “Generally, I think that can be interpreted to mean that the authority to apply those lapsing provisions more broadly to rezoning applications or even official plan amendments, does not exist. I would suggest that if we wanted to determine whether or not it’s appropriate to impose those broader conditions, then we would likely need to undertake a fulsome sort of legal review in order to determine that, and I’ve not seen those types of provisions apply to those applications before.”

She said that this was something staff could be asked to do depending on what happens with Bill 185 in June.

Councillor John Sless then asked if the tool would apply only to developments moving forward, or if it could be applied retroactively and Willmot said that it does appear as though the Provincial government is exploring opportunities (upon specific yet-to-be determined provisions) to apply the tool to applications passed in the last few years as well.

Councillor Richard Carpenter said that he thought the addition of the “Use It or Lose It” tool would be a good way to show that if a builder or developer wants to build something in the community, they need to be serious about it.

“Our goal is to get developments happening and the benefit to us for approving development here is the houses that we need, the apartments that we need, and the tax revenue in intensification corridors that we need. We’ve designed intensification corridors and we’ve provided grants so that we can actually have change happening, not so someone could use it to flip the property and make some personal money. That’s not what our job is, our job is to build a community. I think this is a good way to go forward and say ‘look, if you want to work in Branford, we’re happy, we’ve got a tremendous planning department, we’re very efficient getting things done and we’ll work with you as much as we can but you need to be serious about it, you need to get on with doing the job.’”

Councillor Linda Hunt said she thought three years to get started on a development is fair considering that Council typically has 90 days to decide on an application from the day that it’s complete.

“We have 90 days to make a decision once an application is deemed complete but then there’s no deadline on the developer to actually build what we’ve approved,” she said. “I certainly think it’s fair that a developer has three years to put a shovel in the ground and start the development that they’ve been approved for. So yes, I will be supporting this.”

Both Councillors Greg Martin and Brian Van Tilborg said that they would also be supporting the resolution and appreciated it in its entirety.

The resolution was then passed unanimously, and a copy of it will be forwarded to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, Will Bouma, MPP for Brantford-Brant, and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).

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