Council generally meets once a month to review planning applications – generally speaking these meetings include requests to amend the Official Plan, make a change to the Zoning By-law or approve a Subdivision Agreement to facilitate a development.
Sometimes there is no one in the public gallery interested in the application and sometimes it is full with neighbours who have concerns.
For instance, there is an application coming up on January 17th for a development at 716 Gordon Street which will likely fill the gallery.
The planning process is prescribed (and I emphasize that word heavily) by the Planning Act which is provincial legislation. The applicant has rights under legislation and the public has rights under the legislation. City Council and staff must ensure the rights of everyone under the legislation are respected and protected.
The process can be confusing to the layperson – why should a member of the public be expected to have this process committed to memory.
I have been fielding a number of enquiries about the planning process so at a very high level this is how it goes (without a lot of detail):
- an applicant (usually someone in the development industry) submits a “complete” application to the City (there are criteria as to what constitutes a “complete” application)
- once a complete application has been received, the City must review that application within a certain period of time otherwise the applicant has the right to take their application to the Ontario Municipal Board
- the City must hold one “statutory public meeting” for the application (there are lots of rules around how the public must be notified about the meeting)
- in Guelph this “statutory public meeting” is held at the very beginning of the process rather than at the end when the staff have finalized their recommendation because in this way we can understand public concerns early in the process and ensure they are addressed in the final staff recommendation
- members of the public can speak to Council at this “statutory public meeting” and/or submit their comments in writing
- the applicant may hold their own public meetings for their proposed development and the City encourages this community outreach
- staff review the application based on its planning merits and conformity with provincial and municipal legislation and policy
- other groups and agencies are also invited to comment on the application e.g. Grand River Conservation Authority
- staff bring forward their recommendation to a subsequent meeting of Council
- staff can recommend to Council to approve the application or refuse it (approval always comes with a number of conditions)
- members of the public can speak to Council at this meeting and/or submit their comments in writing
- Council can approve the staff recommendation, reject the staff recommendation or add additional conditions to the approval
- the applicant or participating members of the public can appeal Council’s decision to the Ontario Municipal Board
- once a matter is at the Ontario Municipal Board, the decision is out of Council’s hands
There is much more to the process than this but these are some the basic elements of the process. Despite trying to keep it brief, it is not!