Mandatory Pre-Application | City of Toronto
Mandatory Pre-Application Consultation: Proposed Amendments to the Official Plan and to the Municipal Code – Proposals Report May 26, 2021
Website on these Changes here.
What is being proposed:
The current development review process includes voluntary pre-application consultation. Applicants may request a pre-application consultation meeting with City staff to discuss, among other matters, application submission requirements with staff. To better navigate the complexities of the development review process, the Planning Act and the City of Toronto Act, 2006 permit, and authorize the City to require, applicants to consult with the municipality prior to submitting a planning application.
For clarity, while the focus of this report is pre-application consultation with City staff, the Official Plan also contemplates pre-application consultation with the Ward Councillor and the local community, which is “encouraged” in policy. No changes are proposed to this policy.
Proposed amendments to Section 5.5.2 Complete Applications, reflect the importance of pre-application consultation prior to the submission of a planning application. A new policy has been added in this section to require that an applicant meet with City staff, and any relevant external public agencies, prior to the submission of an Official Plan Amendment, Zoning By-law Amendment, Draft Plan of Subdivision, and/or Site Plan Control Approval.
The by-law will also specify that within a prescribed number of days of a pre- consultation meeting, City staff will provide the applicant with a written checklist of the plans, studies and other information required as part of a complete application.
Based on the reporting schedule identified in this report, and subject to Council approval, pre-application consultation will become required city-wide in 2022 with an effectiveness date of July 1, 2022.
What are the objectives of this process:
- improve consistency and shared productivity.
- improve application quality.
- reduce the overall time to decision.
- achieve broader city-building outcomes.
Questions and Answers from Audience
Will there be a fee/deposit?
A regular update of Development Application Review Fees is ongoing, Cost-recovery options for mandatory pre-application consultation meetings are within the scope of the update, consultant recommendations on a fee/deposit for mandatory pre-application consultation meetings will be provided to the City by the end of 2021.
What is the expected fee recovery expected to be for future PAC’s?
Still under review, other jurisdictions take a non-refundable deposit against future application fees. Outcome of this will be likely Nov/Dec of this year. Report will be available November 25, 2021.
How does this new process improve on community input prior to the application?
In the OPA as mentioned, we do not have the ability to require any consultation with any other party except city staff.
Will there be an impact on staffing levels? We are moving into a team based structure in Etobicoke and York District as a test period. The development review will work as a coordinated service rather than as a series of commenting divisions from various folks.
Is community consultation before or after PAC?
We encourage community consultation in the PAC phase, however, this does not affect the statutory requirement for community consultation that occur once a complete application has been submitted to the city. That practise won’t change.
If these become mandatory will there be a requirement to disclose them through open data at any level of granularity. Particularly those projects that never get any further than PAC, how many die before an application gets submitted?
That is a good question, don’t have a pre-thought answer on that, the city does not collect many data on this at the moment. Good suggestion, that we can take back.
My company always engages in a PAC. Is it the idea that a mandatory structured approach will expediate the PAC process or will it be the same process but only mandatory?
No you should see a change to the practise, some of the things that we are looking at testing is different ways to collect internal comments, so we have all comments collected internally prior to meeting with applicants, hold space internally for internal PAC meetings, so that when city staff do meet with applicant you will have a complete comments. Generally, the process will feel quite similar. More consistent, scoped comments and consistent.
Is there a timeline target for the initial request to scheduling a mandatory PAC meeting?
We do have a posted timeline of 15 days, we are looking to test in the Etobicoke York context with the new team structure, how long does the review take and if it is better supported, I think you will see some testing in that regard. Focus is on consistency on meeting that posted timeline.
Is the conversation that takes place during a mandatory PAC meeting on the record or off the record? Can a substance of the meeting be relied on or referred to during the application process?
The meetings are confidential and what we are trying to do is that the scope of the meeting is consistent. When we issue a planning application checklist we do rely on the information in the meeting and conversation to complete that checklist. The outcome of the meeting is that checklist.
Lawyer who asked the question above continued. I am a developers lawyer and whether the substance of the meeting could be referred to later on in the processing of the application. The idea of formalizing and making the process mandatory changes the character of the PAC on almost every file that I have been involved with. Because it is informal right now and not mandatory the scope of what is discussed there seems to be a little more flexible. If it is going to be a formal process I know have to tell my clients that this is part of your application, one of the statutory steps in that meeting. And they have a team of city staff that is acting in a much more formal manner I would think that there is a heightened expectation that the applicant can rely on that discussion and things that were said in that PAC when it comes to making submissions and the application and talking about that application in a public forum. And whether that has been considered. It seems to me that formalizing it has the potential to become less helpful because people may take hardened positions, and whether people refer to those positions down the line and has to be referred to down the line of the process.
Right now the focus for us is establishing that scope and to your point, we are reviewing that scope now. We have a situation the scope truly varies from meeting to meeting, depending on their relationships and too varied and what we are looking to do with the scope review is the purpose of the PAC meeting and identify issues of PAC within our current policy and standards. I think that the guidance will result in a more productive meeting, heard from applicants sometimes it is helpful and other times they could have looked on our website. One other thing, all the conversations are in the service of supporting a complete application to the city, and in the checklist we do have a disclaimer that the nature of the PAC is preliminary, there may be other items that we request, and that will still be the case.
There is a general sense that the PAC is valuable because you can have a frank discussion. As long as you come out with the checklist hearing everyone’s ideas is a good thing. I do worry that it might inhibit the kind of discussion that is taking place at those meeting at the moment.
Will this help coordinate an area that is being redeveloped with over 10 applications for instance?
One of the things that may become an opportunity the development review staff team will have line of site into those other applications that are being submitted. And is currently.
What guidelines will those process have with local councillors?
As I mentioned the OPA will not change our guidance to consult with the local councillor and community. This process will not change that.
There was a mention in the presentation there could be a requirement for more than one PAC. In terms of structuring this it shouldn’t become a process onto itself where you don’t know how to get out of it and so any requirement for multiple meetings, those additional meetings should be voluntary. There should be one mandatory meetings where you get a checklist and if you want to continue with more PAC you can if you want.
This process should have a defined starting and end.