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An Investigation into the City’s Process for Handling Development Charge Complaints and Education Development Charge Complaints

The Issue

A member of the public complained to Ombudsman Toronto after he was denied a hearing concerning a development charge—fees, established under provincial legislation, that the City charges property owners and developers when it issues a building permit.

When deciding whether or not to send a complaint to a hearing, City staff are essentially deciding whether complainants will have access to an appeal body. This raises serious questions of administrative fairness. As a result, we launched a systemic Investigation to examine how the City handles these complaints, including the process by which they do or do not result in a hearing.

Our Investigation

In carrying out our Investigation, we interviewed staff from seven divisions, as well as staff at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. We also performed significant legal and cross-jurisdictional research and requested and reviewed numerous documents from Toronto Building, Corporate Finance and the City Clerk’s Office.

What We Found

The City receives very few development charge complaints, relative to the number of building permits it issues. However, we found that the City’s current process for handling development charge complaints lacks consistency and transparency. The process needs improvement to ensure that it is fair for those who do complain.

Our findings included the following:

  • Staff’s authority to screen development charge complaints in order to decide whether to bring them to a hearing is unclear
  • There is no written procedure to administer the complaints process
  • There is no written procedure specific to development charge complaint hearings
  • The City has not produced any publicly-available information about the complaint handling process
  • Staff are not advising complainants of their appeal options in writing.

Our Recommendations

We made 13 recommendations to improve how the fairness of the City’s process for development charge complaints works.