The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is an independent adjudicative tribunal that conducts hearings and makes decisions on matters that have been appealed to the OMB under specific provincial legislation. While the OMB has a mandate under a large number of statutes, the majority of appeals arise under the Planning Act for planning instruments, such as official plans, zoning by-laws, subdivision plans, consents and minor variances. The other major areas of appeals/applications are claims for compensation filed under the Expropriations Act, appeals related to development charges, ward boundaries and aggregate resources.
Along with other regulatory and adjudicative agencies, the OMB is part of the administrative justice sector in Ontario. Its processes are designed to resolve disputes in an informal, less costly and more timely manner than in the courts. OMB Members make independent decisions based on the applicable law and policies, and the evidence presented at the hearing.
The Ontario government plays an active role in Provincial land use planning, by the enactment of legislation, policy statements or Provincial Plans, authorized under the Planning Act. Municipalities develop land use planning instruments and local rules which are to conform with Provincial policy. When a dispute arises, certain appeals can be filed with the OMB under the Planning Act and other land related legislation.
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OMB History and Jurisdiction
The OMB is one of the province’s longest-standing adjudicative tribunals. In 1906, the OMB assumed its initial responsibilities, including those previously carried out by the Office of the Provincial Municipal Auditor. Originally named the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board, it was created to oversee municipalities’ accounts and to supervise the rapidly growing rail transportation system between and within municipalities. It was renamed the Ontario Municipal Board in 1932.
Over the years, the role and mandate of the OMB has changed. In a large number and variety of statutes, the OMB continues to be named as the tribunal where applications or appeals can be brought for resolution. The OMB’s main areas of work are in the areas of land use planning, development charges, and compensation matters under the Expropriations Act.
In 2003, the Province embarked upon a wide range of planning reforms that have had a significant impact on the OMB. These reforms have re-defined the role of the Province and the OMB in land use planning and have increased the role of local municipal decision-making.
The first of these reforms came with the introduction of the Greenbelt Protection Act in 2004. This Act designated a Greenbelt study area within the GTA Regions, the City of Toronto, the Oak Ridges Moraine, the Niagara Escarpment Plan and certain lands within Niagara Region. The Greenbelt Act, 2005 and the Greenbelt Plan followed.
The Strong Communities (Planning Amendment) Act, 2004 and in June 2005 the Places to Grow Act were additional reforms that had an impact on the OMB. Appeals of these municipal plan amendments (to bring Official Plans into conformity with the Growth Plan) are conducted under the Planning Act and are therefore heard by the OMB, unless otherwise determined by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Minister of Infrastructure. In October 2006, the Province introduced comprehensive amendments to the Planning Act, known as Bill 51.
The OMB’s mandate has evolved to that of an appeal board that is required to make decisions that conform to provincial plans and are consistent with provincial policy statements.