UDI legal expert on RGS

Urban Development Institute (UDI) held a breakfast meeting on Feb. 1, 2011 about the RGS, attended by about 250 councillors, planners, and developers. It is our sense that the development industry has major concerns about the RGS and that it’s too early for municipalities to ratify in its present form. Read summary and download excellent PowerPoint presentation by Peter Kenward.

Some highlights (selected by MetroVanWatch)

  • – If accepted as is by all municipalities, could be enacted within two months. – If one or more Councils object to all or part, arbitration to resolve. – Then back to Metro to consider third reading.

  • Metro’s objectives with RGS: (1) Focusing urban development along transit, (2) Protecting the industrial land supply, (3) Containing urban sprawl

  • Burnaby notes that the RGS “clearly diminish[es] existing local autonomy in dealing with all city land use and associated regulatory matters”

  • Legislation: Hierarchy of bylaws. The Local Government Act provides for a hierarchy of bylaws and regulations. Essentially the system flows through the following components: – regional growth strategy, – regional context statement, – official community plan, – zoning bylaw, – development permit. At root, what happens at each level is impacted by the next higher layer.

  • Legislation: How RCSs carry the RGS forward. – Each municipality must prepare its Regional Context Statement within two years after the adoption of the RGS. – RCSs cannot be adopted, and cannot be changed, without Metro approval. – Each municipality’s Official Community Plan Bylaw must be consistent with its RCS. – Zoning changes that are not consistent with the municipality’s OCP can only be made if the OCP changes.

  • The RGS takes a “regulatory approach” rather than the “leadership approach” taken by the Livable Region Strategic Plan.

  • The Livable Region Strategic Plan’s teeth were in its “Green Zone” provisions. The Regional Growth Strategy builds on that approach by creating five separate “zones”: Industrial, Mixed Employment, General Urban, Agricultural, Rural, and Conservation and Recreation.

  • Regional Land Use Designations: Conclusion: One can expect those limits to work their way into municipal OCP bylaws, and thereby constrain municipalities’ abilities to make zoning changes. (Slide 38)

  • Limits on municipal discretion: Arbitration. It would not be surprising if arbitrators tended to side with Metro in the dispute on the above issues. (Slide 42)

  • Limits on municipal discretion: Conclusion. – The provisions are much more comprehensive than the existing RGS. – Metro may or may not push the full scope of its ability to constrain. – Whether it does so would depend on who fills what position at Metro in the future, and, if there is a dispute, how the arbitrator(s) respond. (Slide 43)

  • The Regional Growth Strategy “locks in” to varying degrees a specific plan in a changing world. – Metro signoff is required for changes to that land use plan. (Slide 45)

  • Predicting the future: It is impossible to predict the complex interplay over time of: – market forces, and economics. – knowledge growth, and technological change. – – political change, both locally and across the world. – environmental change, etc. (Slide 46)

  • Planning: Metro’s role as the gatekeeper of whether change will be allowed is tied to a specific plan, and therefore will grow over time (Slide 55)

  • Impacts on municipalities: Conclusion. – Limits commence within two years after the adoption of the RGS, through new RCSs, and possibly earlier. – Significant ability on Metro’s part to constrain municipalities (with some unpredictability over how Metro would exercise those powers). – Metro role would increase as time passes, and the RGS gets more and more out of date. – Delays in approval times, as Metro reviews issues.  – Quite possibly Metro extractions (Slide 70)

  • RGS process: Metro / municipal stage. – The Metro stage is only the first stage. The regime contemplates municipalities responding, and then the conflicting positions being sorted out. – Where one or more local governments object to one or more provisions, the Board notifies the Minister, who can direct (i) a non-binding resolution process, or (ii) one or another form of binding arbitration. – The contents of the RGS can be altered significantly through the acceptance and settlement process. – If the Board does not like the outcome, it can decide to not adopt the RGS. (Slide 106)

  • Conclusion: The RGS`s goals and objectives are unquestionably laudable. At the same time, in terms of achieving its objectives: – it may be relatively ineffective in focusing urban development, given the limits in the legislation; – it is not clear that the provision for industrial land is sufficient for the needs of the Port economy, given that the relevant studies have not yet been released; and – one can question whether Metro has an urban containment problem, and whether the proposed regime is preferable to the one that is already in place. The main effect of the RGS would seem to be a shifting of jurisdiction, through the addition of a significant layer of required Metro approvals, the scope of which could be expected to increase over time. (Slide108)

– If accepted as is by all municipalities, could be
enacted within two months
– If one or more Councils object to all or part,
arbitration to resolve
– Then back to Metro to consider third reading
Metro’s objectives with RGS: (1) Focusing urban development along transit, (2) Protecting the industrial land supply, (3) Containing urban sprawl
Burnaby notes that the RGS “clearly diminish[es]
existing local autonomy in dealing with all city
land use and associated regulatory matters”
Legislation: Hierarchy of bylaws. The Local Government Act provides for a hierarchy of bylaws and regulations. Essentially the system flows through the following
components: – regional growth strategy, – regional context statement, – official community plan, – zoning bylaw, – development permit. At root, what happens at each level is impacted by the next higher layer.
Legislation: How RCSs carry the RGS forward. – Each municipality must prepare its Regional Context Statement within two years after the adoption of the RGS. – RCSs cannot be adopted, and cannot be changed, without Metro approval. – Each municipality’s Official Community Plan Bylaw must be consistent with its RCS. – Zoning changes that are not consistent with the municipality’s OCP can only be made if the OCP changes
The RGS takes a “regulatory approach” rather than the “leadership approach” taken by the Livable Region
Strategic Plan.
The Livable Region Strategic Plan’s teeth were in its “Green Zone” provisions. The Regional Growth Strategy builds on that approach by creating five separate “zones”: Industrial, Mixed Employment, General Urban, Agricultural, Rural, and Conservation and Recreation.
Regional Land Use Designations: Conclusion: One can expect those limits to work their way into municipal OCP bylaws, and thereby constrain municipalities’ abilities to make zoning changes. (Slide 38)
Limits on municipal discretion: Arbitration. It would not be surprising if arbitrators tended to side with Metro in the dispute on the above issues. (Slide 42)
Limits on municipal discretion: Conclusion. – The provisions are much more comprehensive than the existing RGS. – Metro may or may not push the full scope of its
ability to constrain. – Whether it does so would depend on who fills what position at Metro in the future, and, if there is a dispute, how the arbitrator(s) respond. (Slide 43)
The Regional Growth Strategy “locks in” to varying degrees a specific plan in a changing world. – Metro signoff is required for changes to that land use plan. (Slide 45)
Predicting the future: It is impossible to predict the complex interplay over time of: – market forces, and economics. – knowledge growth, and technological change. – – political change, both locally and across the world. – environmental change, etc. (Slide 46)
Planning: Metro’s role as the gatekeeper of whether change will be allowed is tied to a specific plan, and therefore will grow over time (Slide 55)
Impacts on municipalities: Conclusion. – Limits commence within two years after the adoption of the RGS, through new RCSs, and possibly earlier. – Significant ability on Metro’s part to constrain municipalities (with some unpredictability over how Metro would exercise those powers). – Metro role would increase as time passes, and the RGS gets more and more out of date. – Delays in approval times, as Metro reviews issues.  – Quite possibly Metro extractions (Slide 70)
RGS process: Metro / municipal stage. – The Metro stage is only the first stage. The regime contemplates municipalities responding, and then the conflicting positions being sorted out. – Where one or more local governments object to one or more provisions, the Board notifies the Minister, who can direct (i) a non-binding resolution process, or (ii) one or another form of binding arbitration. – The contents of the RGS can be altered significantly through the acceptance and settlement process. – If the Board does not like the outcome, it can decide to not adopt the RGS. (Slide 106)
Conclusion: The RGS`s goals and objectives are unquestionably laudable. At the same time, in terms of achieving its objectives: – it may be relatively ineffective in focusing urban development, given the
limits in the legislation; – it is not clear that the provision for industrial land is sufficient for the needs
of the Port economy, given that the relevant studies have not yet been released; and – one can question whether Metro has an urban containment problem, and whether the proposed regime is preferable to the one that is already in place. The main effect of the RGS would seem to be a shifting of jurisdiction, through the addition of a significant layer of required Metro approvals, the scope of which could be expected to increase over time. (Slide108)

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