Town votes to fight board’s decision in court

Richmond Hill council at odds over tackling parkland issue


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Councillor Greg Beros opposed fighting the OMB ruling in court

Town of Richmond Hill councillors have voted to fight a pre-hearing ruling made by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) that could potentially leave the town’s parkland policy open to drastic change.

After more than 40 developers appealed the town’s official plan, OMB vice-chairperson Jan De Pencier Seaborn ruled that the town cannot set an absolute and unjustified parkland rate and that the use of an alternative rate, but not its specific number, can be explored at a future hearing. The rate determines how much land, or cash equivalent, a developer must set aside for use as green space when it builds residential units. The town’s official plan calls for one hectare of land per every 300 residential units built — the maximum legal rate allowed by the Ontario Planning Act.

According to councillor Lynn Foster, the OMB’s ruling was illegal. She said lowering the rate to something like Toronto’s 0.4 hectares per 300 units, as was done in 2006, would preclude the town from providing ample, well-maintained parks.

“This is the scariest decision we’ve seen; it couldn’t go unchallenged.”

However, councillors Greg Beros and Carmine Perrelli voted against going to court, arguing that overruling the OMB would work against the town’s parkland ambitions. They would rather attend a future OMB hearing to set a more “reasonable” rate that balances attracting developers while ensuring funds flow to parks. They claimed the town’s proposed parkland rate is prohibitive to attracting developers, who ultimately must fund the parks by passing the costs to future residents. “We should just go to the hearing, and if we have a very strong case, then the adjudicator will understand,” said Coun. Perrelli. “We’re not going to win this [court case], and this is just money we are throwing out the window.”

Coun. Foster disagreed. “This is the scariest decision we’ve ever seen, and it could not go unchallenged,” she said, pointing out the ruling could set a precedent for other municipalities hoping to set their own rates.

Town legal services confirmed the Superior Court of Ontario will hear the case in early 2013. Coun. Foster expects a date will be set before April.

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