Navigating the Planning Act amid COVID-19 Emergency Orders
The Planning Act is a particularly complex piece of legislation, and navigating it has become more difficult given the introduction of COVID-19 related emergency orders, which have impacted Planning Act matters. For lawyers with clients undertaking activities, which fall under the umbrella of the Planning Act, it is essential to check the legislation and government COVID-19 emergency orders in order to understand the current legal framework. It is equally important to regularly communicate with your clients to understand their changing needs, understand their situation so as to consider how changes to the Planning Act may impact them, and be able to help them navigate the current regulatory complexity.
The Planning Act and New Emergency Orders
The Planning Act is a complex set of rules in the best of times with drastic consequences for certain breaches. With the introduction of the Order in Council 518/2020 under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) and its regulations, certain rules have changed.
(i) The Planning Act is not subject to Ontario Regulation 73/20
The Planning Act is no longer subject to the temporary suspension of limitation periods introduced at the start of the COVID-19 emergency. Ontario Regulation 73/20 of the EMCPA, which came into effect March 16, 2020 initially, suspended any provision of any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario establishing any limitation period until the end of the emergency. However, Ontario Reg. 149/20 made under the Planning Act on April 14th has since come into force. Section 3 of Ontario Reg. 149/20 provides that Ontario Regulation 73/20 is deemed to have never applied to the Planning Act.
(ii) New Timelines for Planning Act Matters
Section 4 of Ont. Reg. 149/20 provides that any notice given of a decision completed on or after February 26, 2020 and before April 15, 2020 is deemed not to have been completed and the notice must be served again within 15 days after the COVID-19 emergency is terminated.
Section 5 of Ont. Reg. 149/20 further provides that:
- when counting time periods under various Planning Act sections, the period of the COVID-19 emergency shall not be included, thus extending the time to comply. These provisions include timing for official plans, demolition control, zoning bylaws, holding bylaws, interim control bylaws, site plan control, park land, plans of subdivision, consents, tariffs and more. The granting authority is therefore not required to act on these timed matters during the period of the emergency; and
- if between March 17, 2020 and April 15, 2020
- a period of time ended, it is deemed not to have ended;
- an appeal was filed, it is deemed not to be filed; and
- a motion was made, it is deemed not to have been made.
Section 6 of Ont. Reg. 149/20 extends the period of time of any interim control bylaw which expires during the COVID-19 emergency period.
Review the law: Before advising on any Planning Act matter, lawyers need to carefully review the Act, Ont. Reg. 149/20, and check for any subsequent orders.
For easy reference, you can find copies of the following by clicking on the link below:
- Planning Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P-13
- Declaration of Emergency, March 17, 2020
- O. Reg. 73/20: ORDER UNDER SUBSECTION 7.1 (2) OF THE ACT – LIMITATION PERIODS
- Ont. Reg 149/20
Communicate with your clients: The current COVID-19 situation may be impacting clients with projects which fall under the Planning Act. Communicate with your clients about their needs, and work with them to consider what impacts, if any, the Planning Act changes may have on their project timelines / deliverables.
Manage client expectations and potential legal ambiguities: As the situation evolves, there may be ambiguities or further complexities. In such cases, it is important to communicate these ambiguities and provide clients with options for their consideration.
Continue to monitor for updates, and advise clients of changes.