Bill 229 proposes to amend the Conservation Authorities Act
Bill 229 was introduced on November 5, 2020 pursuant to the Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures), 2020. The Bill passed its second reading on November 23, 2020 and is now before the Standing Committee for consultation and debate. The Bill proposes to amend over 44 Acts including the Conservation Authorities Act (the “CAA”) and the Planning Act. The changes to the Planning Act are minor, however, the proposed changes to the CAA significantly impact the land use planning regime. In particular, the changes affect an applicant’s appeal rights for development permits and associated fees. The proposed changes also impose decision-making timelines on Conservation Authorities and limit the role of Conservation Authorities in the municipal planning process. Many environmental groups and the group of Ontario’s Big City Mayors are opposed to several of the proposed changes to the Conservation Authorities Act.
Appeal Development Permits Decisions to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (“LPAT”)
Currently, a developer must receive a permit from the Conservation Authority for development activities in areas that are prohibited under the CAA. The Conservation Authority may approve or refuse the permit with or without imposing conditions. If the applicant is unhappy with the Conservation Authority’s decision, there is a limited right to appeal to the Mining and Lands Tribunal.
If approved, Bill 229 will repeal this section and replace it entirely. The new section would allow the applicant to choose between having the Minister review the Conservation Authority’s decision or appealing the decision directly to the LPAT.
The applicant cannot use both routes unless the Minister does not conduct a review within 90 days after replying to the applicant’s request for review. Additionally, if the Conservation Authority does not make a decision within 120 days, the applicant may appeal directly to the LPAT. The LPAT has authority to take evidence, refuse the permit or order the authority to issue the permit with or without conditions. These proposed amendments also apply to a Conservation Authority’s decision to cancel a permit.
Reconsideration of Conservation Authority-Imposed Fee
A developer will now have the ability to appeal the administrative fee for a service provided by the Conservation Authority. An applicant who is charged a fee has always been able to apply to the Conservation Authority to reconsider the fee. Under the proposed amendments, if the Conservation Authority fails to make a decision in 30 days or if the applicant is unhappy with the decision to reconsider the fee, the applicant can pay under protest and appeal directly to the LPAT.
Conservation Authority can no longer participate in Planning Act Appeals
Planning Act amendments will expressly exclude Conservation Authorities from the definition of “public body”. This means that Conservation Authorities are no longer permitted to appeal a municipal council’s decision to the LPAT nor are they permitted to become a party to a Planning Act appeal.
Ministerial Ordered Permits
Bill 229 introduces a new section to the CAA that will allow the Minister to order a Conservation Authority to not issue a permit or a class of permits. The Minister may then issue the permit(s) themselves if certain criteria are satisfied. The Minister must give notice to certain parties after an order is made and post it on the Environmental Registry within 30 days of the decision being made. The Minister’s decision is final unless the Minister fails to make a decision on an application within 90 days, then the non-decision may be appealed to the LPAT.
Should you have any questions, the Davies Howe LLP team would be happy to discuss the Bill 229 amendments and how they affect your land development.