The Ontario Divisional Court delivered a rare ruling involving an Ontario Municipal Board decision on what constitutes a complete planning application.
Justice Harriet Sachs dismissed an appeal request from the Town of Oakville regarding two OMB decisions on the Glen Abbey development project.
For those in planning and development, the decision provides useful guidance on when a planning application is complete; as the court supports the lengthy OMB decision in this matter.
For the purposes of The Public Record‘s coverage, the ruling serves another use, the Divisional Court shows deference to the OMB Executive Chair and the decision making of the Board.
This ruling is instructive to those considering appealing the Hamilton Ward Boundaries decision, I wrote in December about the tests of judicial review (Dunsmuir Test), and deference to specialized tribunals and bodies.
This ruling contains a couple of paragraphs I’d like to highlight:
 For the reasons that follow, I would deny the motion for leave to appeal. In summary, I find that while there may be an argument for an alternative interpretation of the Act as urged by the Town, this is not sufficient to cause me to believe that there is a serious debate as to the reasonableness of the Review Decision, especially when that decision is neither inconsistent with the express purposes of the Act, nor inconsistent with the express wording or scheme of the Act. As the Supreme Court of Canada held in British Columbia (Securities Commission) v. McLean, 2013 SCC 67 (CanLII),  S.C.R. 895, in considering whether a tribunal’s decision is reasonable, the inquiry is not whether another reasonable interpretation exists; rather, the tribunal has the “interpretive upper hand” such that deference is owed to any reasonable interpretation.
In paragraph 19, Justice Sachs clearly defers to the OMB’s exercise of its expertise in specialized areas of law:
 There is no dispute that the standard of review applicable to the issue raised in the proposed appeal is reasonableness. In the Review Decision the Board was interpreting the provisions of its home statute. Its expertise with respect to this statute and the policies underlying it were directly engaged.
Background on Glen Abbey
The Ontario Divisional Court upheld a series of decisions of the Ontario Municipal Board in regards to the Town of Oakville Glen Abbey golf course development. (The Glen Abbey development is hotly opposed in Oakville)
In short, the OMB ruled that ClubLink’s development planning application was complete, Oakville had deemed it incomplete and refused to process it. The OMB ordered the Town of Oakville to begin processing the application, starting the statutory timelines on the decision date of June 7, 2017.
ClubLink requested the Chair of the Board review the decision, specifically seeking the Chair vary the date of complete application to be November 10, 2016 when ClubLink submitted to the Town. The OMB Executive Chair and OMB Associate Chair jointly issued a ruling granting ClubLink’s review request, and deemed the application complete in 2016.
This is significant, as it grants ClubLink the right of appeal to the OMB for non-decision – the ability to bypass Town Council being very advantageous to ClubLink in this instance.
The Town Council appealed to the Divisional Court on both the original ruling and the review decision on application completion date.
In the decision released last week, the Court decided to dismiss the application for appeal, with reasons provided.