Faced with a developer’s unwelcome application for rezoning, a Toronto neighbourhood agreed to take part in a Working Group set up by City Hall. “Putting the CON into Consultation” describes the residents’ experience and the sobering lessons learned. Working Groups are one of many variations-on-a-theme of community consultation. One measure of the current development fervor is that in August 2013 the City’s website showed 14,500 “planning and consultation” items. That number has escalated to 37,000.
Like the bully on the playground, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) lurks persistently in the background since it has the power to override local decisions. A Working Group can help developers anticipate arguments and strengthen their case at the OMB against residents who may appeal a decision to rezone their neighbourhood.
Fortunately, not all consultations are cons. City councillors who respect and value their constituents’ opinions can help us counter the con-side of the consultation racket.