On April 25th, 2012, the CCE hosted Patrick Devine (a development lawyer) and John Gladki (an urban planner) to explore the ins and outs of Section 37 of the Ontario Planning Act. Section 37 allows your local government to set rules around negotiating with developers when they ask for permission to build with more height or density. The community can negotiate for local community benefits like: providing affordable housing, replacing rental units, protecting heritage buildings, adding cultural centres, streetscape improvements, adding public art, and more.
We set half of the night aside for your questions, and we were impressed as usual at the enthusiasm and insight that our audience members bring to their questions!
Let’s Make a Deal, Torontoist:
Let’s all check our language, Gillian Mason told the room of planners, students, and community members last night. The director of the Centre for City Ecology, she instructed us to expunge any jargon from our speech and to raise a hand if something wasn’t making sense to us. This was going to prove difficult, as the topic of the evening’s discussion was the often murky, you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours dealings of Section 37 of the Planning Act—the one which allows the City to barter extra density or height on a development site in return for agreed upon community benefits.
Section 37 (PDF), Novæ Res Urbis:
Developers and the community are often interested in discussing Section 37 benefits earlier on in the development approval process. However, councillors and planners wait until development plans are finalized to more accurately quantify the added value of permitting increased height and density to better position the city in the negotiations…
The purpose of zoning is to protect what exists, encourage appropriate standards and a mix of uses, while minimizing negative external effects, not necessarily to anticipate future development potential, explains Gladki. Even if the city’s outdated zoning was updated to better reflect current development practice, it wouldn’t necessarily eliminate Section 37 agreements.