The Municipal Law team at Barriston is looking forward to our first case at the Toronto Local Appeal Body (“TLAB”) in mid-October. The TLAB was created on May 3rd, 2017 established by the City of Toronto Act to replace the Ontario Municipal Board (“OMB”) in Toronto. The TLAB will hear minor variance and consent application appeals that were filed after May 3rd, 2017. This new quasi-judicial administrative tribunal has been established with the goal of being less adversarial and more transparent. As of the date of this post, it does not appear that any contested TLAB hearings have yet taken place.
In preparing for this process, we noted that the TLAB differs from the Ontario Municipal Board in a few ways. The first being that every document is to be presented and filed electronically. The Notice of Appeal must be submitted in person on a CD or DVD, and every document thereafter is to be sent by email in PDF. An email address for service is not provided in the Rules of Practice and Procedure, but we have discovered that documents are currently filed through the general email, being firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unlike the OMB, the TLAB provides a list of strict deadlines. These dates are outlined in the Notice of Hearing, and must be followed by the parties. These deadlines are made with the goal of achieving timely outcomes and making the process efficient. For example, an applicant must provide disclosure to the TLAB, which lists any proposed changes to the application 15 days after receiving the notice of hearing. Additionally, parties must provide all documents to be relied upon (including excerpts of legislation) 30 days after receiving this notice. Witnesses and experts must now provide a witness statement to the TLAB 45 days after the hearing notice is received.
This process seems more comparable to proceedings before the Superior Court, than the Ontario Municipal Board. Currently, the OMB does not require any form of disclosure and parties often do not know what the other side is going to present until they are at the hearing. These are also very tight deadlines considering that the hearings do not take place until a few months after the notice is received; meaning that one must have their entire argument and evidence planned out within 30 days of receiving a hearing date, even though the hearing will not be set to take place for several months.
There are strict requirements for serving and presenting documents electronically, and these are clearly outlined in the Rules. As the hearings are entirely paperless, parties must be prepared to show their PDF documents to the TLAB using a computer and digital video display equipment. Additionally, all documents must be in PDF format, version 7 or later.
We are interested to see if the new TLAB achieves its goal of being less adversarial and more transparent. More importantly, we wonder if their strict deadlines and electronic requirements will make the Tribunal more accessible, or if it will create a barrier to those who may not have the required technological skills or resources to present their case.
One thing is for certain: when appealing to the TLAB, one should retain a lawyer and professional planner as soon as he or she suspects that they will be requesting a hearing, or has been notified of an appeal, so that one is not stuck preparing an entire case in a 30-day time frame.