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A first look at Toronto’s Development Permit System

Yesterday, Toronto’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, tweeted out a link to this primer on the proposed Development Permit System (DPS) here in the city. The entire initiative is being branded as ResetTO. And it’s intended to convey that the DPS is really about starting again with the same set of planning principles we already use.

The big shift is going from a site-by-site approach to a neighborhood approach. Today, each and every development site is reviewed, approved and fought over. With the DPS, the idea is to establish a neighborhood scaled by-law and then streamline the review process for each individual site (the city will get 45 days to respond to applications as opposed to the 180 days it gets today).

What this should do is shift the big fights–among developers, communities and the city–to the front end (when the neighborhood by-law is being established) and minimize the fights over each site. It takes away an element of incremental urbanism–because you’re in some ways building out a master vision (large batch versus small batch)–but it would do a lot for transparency, efficiency and for creating cohesive urban form. And, it sounds like the DPS by-laws will have some flexibility, so that could address my batch size concern.

Communities don’t seem to like this approach because it takes away their ability to appeal each individual application, but it will undoubtedly speed up the the development process, which I’ve argued many times before is critical to maintaining an affordable and healthy city.

Right now the city is hosting open houses and is expected to issue a report on their public consultations sometime next month. It’ll then go to City Council in July. I think a lot will come down to how the DPS neighborhood by-laws are formed, but I think that anything that improves transparency and efficiency is likely a good thing for our cities.

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