As SAHRA deals with Committee of Adjustment (CofA) variance applications, both residential and commercial, we have discovered that often the applications are made under the ‘Waiver’ condition. We believe that applications to the Committee of Adjustment should be accompanied by a Preliminary Project Review (PPR) prepared by the Building Division. The Waiver is being used more often by builders so that they do not have to wait for a zoning examiner review, which gets them through the process more quickly. Sometimes the applicant will submit it for the PPR and apply to the CofA at the same time hoping the PPR will catch up before the application is published and they can just make minor adjustments before the application is heard – it keeps the application in the line. Errors in correctly identifying the minor variances could results in costly delays for the applicant as it should get caught when they apply for a Building Permit. At that point, a zoning examiner does a review and will send the application back through the CofA process if something is missed. The Waiver process started some years ago when there was a huge backlog when the new by-law was enacted and everything had to be redone.
At SAHRA’s Annual General Meeting in April, 2015, SAHRA discussed with Councillor Carmichael Greb and Planning and Building representatives problems we feel are a result of the current Waiver process, asking that a review be done to consider eliminating the Waiver process. We provided specific instances were there have been problem situations where we believe the Zoning Examiner did not detect a variance that should have been required, after the CofA process, before the Building Permit was issued. When discovered, it was too late to remedy the structure.
No action has taken place on this request to our knowledge so SAHRA submitted a formal request on March 10, 2016 to Councillor Carmichael Greb to put a Motion forward to City Council as soon as possible asking that the Planning Department do a complete review to determine if and when the Waiver process can be eliminated and that a Staff Report be presented to City Council to report back on their findings by Quarter 4 of 2016.
SAHRA reviewed this issue with the Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations (FoNTRA) and other Ward 16 Residents’ Associations as this is a City-wide issue and they submitted supporting letters.
On March 29, 2016 Councillor Carmichael Greb stated that this is a city-wide issue and the impact of eliminating the Waiver process across the City had to assessed before any action could be taken; she was going to discuss this with City Staff.
SAHRA submitted a follow-up letter on April 14, 2016 asking if a Motion will be tabled at the June 15, 2016 Planning and Growth Management Committee asking for the review and Staff Report by Quarter 4, 2016.
SAHRA’s request letter: SAHRA request re Waiver Review
On June 9, 2016 we were advised by the Councillor’s Office that Legal and Planning were reviewing the Waiver process and would be reporting. SAHRA sent a follow-up request for an update to the Councillor’s Office on Feb 28, 2017. On Nov 16, 2017, we forwarded a request for follow-up to Mayor Tory and City Officials to investigate the status of this issue as the request was submitted 20 months earlier. This issue was also reviewed with FoNTRA on Nov 21, 2017 for follow-up with Mike Mizzi, Secretary-Treasurer, Committee of Adjustment and Will Johnston of Building.
On Jan 22, 2018, FoNTRA submitted a formal request to Toronto Building to conduct a feasibility study for the elimination of the Use of Waivers. Statistics on Waivers across the four CofA Panels from 2010 to 2017 was also submitted.
Diane Damiano of Toronto Building advised FoNTRA, SAHRA and OGRA on Jan 29, 2018 that Toronto Building and City Planning had held a first very preliminary meeting on this issue and would schedule further meetings to review and respond to us.
In late Jan, 2018 we discovered that the impact of the Waiver issue extends to appeals to the Toronto Local Appeal Body (TLAB) from CofA minor variance applications. We/FoNTRA are of the opinion that all applications submitted to the TLAB should be accompanied by a Preliminary Project Review (PPR) or Zoning Certificate (ZC) prepared by Toronto Building so that a correct, all-inclusive list of variances is available for the TLAB and other stakeholders. We question, on the basis of both principal and practice, whether it is acceptable to the TLAB for an applicant to file an application at the Disclosure Stage that has not received zoning review.
FoNTRA submitted a letter to the Executive Committee, City of Toronto on June 18, 2018 regarding the Committee of Adjustment Mediation Pilot Program and also brought to their attention specific matters, including our request to eliminate use of waivers (letter of Jan 22, 2018). The Executive Committee at the June 19, 2018 meeting approved three motions related to CofA processes one of which would include the review of elimination of the Waiver process:
“The Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to report to the Executive Committee in January 2019, on recommended improvements to the Committee of Adjustment and related processes to address planning issues related to residential applications.”
We now await review by the City…