McMaster's proposed student residence as shown to the Design Review Panel in February 2018. Credit: HANDOUT

McMaster University is taking the City of Hamilton to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) claiming the City is failing to approve a Site Plan for its proposed for-profit student housing project at 1190 Main Street West.

The rare appeal claiming a failure by the City to approve a site plan within 30 days will likely be rendered moot in the coming months once McMaster’s zoning appeal is settled.

McMaster alleges the City is wrongly withholding Site Plan approval, and should have acted this summer as if the zoning for the development had been settled. The City is following its routine process of not processing a Site Plan application that is not in compliance with the present zoning.

The root of the issue is the ongoing LPAT appeal which McMaster filed in early 2018 prior to changing to Ontario’s Planning Act which transitioned the Ontario Municipal Board into the LPAT. McMaster, and its private sector partner Knightstone Capital Management II Inc., filed their 2018 zoning non-approval appeal to have it heard under the old OMB rules which are more advantageous for developers.

Thousands of similar appeals to lock in OMB rules were filed across the province, causing a massive backlog at LPAT.

The City and McMaster have negotiated the past two-and-a-half years, and reached a settlement regarding the zoning for the property. The settlement is scheduled for consideration at a LPAT hearing on December 9th.

New Appeal Statement

In its appeal letter, dated July 29, 2020, McMaster’s lawyer alleges the City should process its Site Plan application because “As discussions regarding those appeals progress, our client would like to move forward with the Application and the detailed planning more appropriate for a site plan control application”.

The appeal grounds are explained in the next paragraph.

“Although there is no such mechanism under the Planning Act, by letter dated June 25, 2020, the City of Hamilton declared the Application complete and indicated the Application would be considered and reviewed by various city departments. However, by letter dated July 10, 2020, the City purported to deny the Application because the Application is allegedly premature pending resolution of the Rezoning Appeal, although the City’s letter did not indicate the Planning Act subsection under which it purported to deny the Application. In our view, there is no statutory or planning basis for the purported decision of the City.”

No hearing dates have been set in the appeal. Site Plan non-decision appeals are rare, and are often a negotiating tactic by the developer.

The City is expected to process the Site Plan application once the zoning appeal is settled and approved by the LPAT.