By Wendy Hooker and Alan Burt
On Thursday, May 17, five of us went to the TLAB (Toronto Local Appeal Body) hearing at the East York Civic Centre to challenge the 11 variances applied for by 7 Brooklawn.
There were electronic issues as the proceeding involved recording the TLAB session, microphones, computers and a projector. The TLAB member said that the electronic reliance posed some problems of familiarity for her.
It certainly did for us when it was our turn to reference our documents.
First, our representative was rejected by their lawyer so that was our first challenge. We had to carry on alone, simple residents. Apparently the TLAB person said since our Rep was not a close friend or neighbour, he could not participate. You can not ask for a coach. You can only hire lawyers!
If you hire a coach, the coach has to be approved and is limited to 3 annual TLABS. So much for fairness.
Our representative is a member of FONTRA, Federation of North York Resident Association, and a former 9 year Committee of Adjustment member. We had heard about him from one of the presenters at the April 18 TLAB Public Hearing reviews from another presenter. The only other option was to hire a lawyer.
There was the introduction by their Land Planner from 9 to 12:30, Lunch Break to 1:15, then we were allowed to ask questions followed by their lawyer who attempted to solidify the land planner’s position. Then each of us read our statements of objection and their lawyer then cross examined us. On several occasions the TLAB presider had to intervene as there was obvious harassment by the lawyer.
The lawyer was scheduled to make her summation statement, followed by us. It was 5:30 pm. Instead, we agreed to prepare a final group summation as did their lawyer to submit electronically to TLAB by June 1st.
I remained behind to talk to their land planner asking him about the TLAB process from his perspective.
He stated that this new process is more cumbersome and longer. The reliance on electronic submissions and the required timelines were problematic.
He insisted that the TLAB process was created by the councillors to simplify the process.
From my personal experience the current appeal process via TLAB is surely slanted in favour of folks with deep pockets to hire lawyers, land
planners and other experts. It is operated in a legalistic manner and very confrontational at the TLAB proceedings. It requires substantial time to prepare and money!
Limited data for review of community variances cost $150 to $300 plus tax, from public records and then you have to know what you are looking for. It requires much time for ‘lay’ folks to try to learn what is required and how to implement those requirements, particularly electronically.
We do not have the money to pay for these required resources.
Why do we, the residents, have to endorse the COA (Comittee of Adjustment) decision when the city planners have already reviewed the application?
Why can’t the city staff deal with the subsequent appeal which may include some revisions as a result of the COA rejection? The city staff know the by-laws and have the resource staff.
This procedure places residents as combatants against each other. Our neighbours had to lose a day’s pay to attend both the COA and this TLAB which could have been extended for a second day if we had not opted for the written summation.
I do hope that more people will bring their concerns to TLAB, city councillors, and others.
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Tlab vs OMB - Process and Adjudication Improvements
By Robert M. Holland, LL.B, LL.M
The first and most obvious issue:
The onerous scheduling and complexity of the preparations required by TLAB for its newly-established hearings give out-of-character building proposals a conspicuously unfair advantage over the opposition of neighbours for 2 reasons:
a) residents in opposition typically cannot afford a lawyer and a planner to manage their hearing preparations, and
b) failure to meet TLAB’s hearing preparation requirements and tight deadlines will inevitably result in a complaint by the lawyer for the Applicant urging TLAB to reject the late-arriving or inadequate opposition submissions, or, if those non-compliant opposition submissions are accepted by TLAB, the Applicant’s lawyer will necessarily succeed in convincing TLAB to minimize the evidentiary value of those submissions by reason of the Applicant’s alleged inability to deliver a proper response to those submissions at the TLAB hearing.
The second, less conspicuous, but even more punitive, issue:
TLAB treats the evidence of opposition witnesses who do not qualify as planning “experts” in the same arbitrary and manifestly unfair manner as that adopted by the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board).
The problem here relates to the weight attached to the evidence of a registered planner representing the Applicant compared to the weight attached to the evidence of a resident in opposition who is not a registered planner.
In fact, the problem surpasses the weight issue because both the OMB, and now TLAB, attach Zero Value to the “opinion” evidence of a resident in opposition who does not qualify as an “expert” planner.
As we know, the OMB, and now TLAB, consider the evidence of a planning “expert” who stands alone as an “expert” at the hearing, as uncontested (not merely paramount) based on the arbitrary and unrealistic assumption that the evidence provided by a registered planner on behalf of an Applicant is “objective”, and not tilted in favour of the Applicant client.
It is well known, and widely understood by those involved in OMB hearings, and now TLAB hearings, that the subjective opinion evidence submitted by the Applicant’s “expert” planner is NOT strictly “objective” because the Applicant would never retain a planner who is not prepared to give evidence in support of the Applicant’s building proposal.
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