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Enquiry into a Complaint about Committee of Adjustment Notice Procedures

The Issue

A member of the public contacted us, concerned that his next door neighbour had started building a two-storey rear addition to their home – they were unaware that his neighbour would be building this addition.  

After contacting the City, they discovered that several months before, the neighbour had applied to the Committee of Adjustment (Etobicoke York District) for a number of minor variances required to build the addition. 

The Committee of Adjustment had held a hearing in January, 2016, at which they approved the minor variances.  

Staff from the Committee of Adjustment advised him that due to a computer error, they had not mailed him notice of his neighbour’s minor variance application. They had also failed to notify 19 other homeowners nearby. 

He complained that the neighbour’s addition will block some of his windows, and the neighbour’s balcony will look directly into his backyard, reducing privacy. He told us that had he known about his neighbour’s application, he would have appeared at the hearing to oppose it.

Our Enquiry

We made inquiries with staff at the Committee of Adjustment. They advised that 77 properties should have received the notice, but 20 properties, including the complainant’s, did not. Staff were unaware of this issue until the complainant raised his complaint with them. 

We made additional inquiries with staff in the City’s Information & Technology Division. They advised that they had also regenerated the “send to” list and it captured all the properties this time, including the complainant’s. 

Staff in the Information & Technology Division could not provide a technical explanation for what had happened, and stated there was no other further analysis they could do.

What We Found

The City failed to meet its obligation to provide appropriate notice to the complainant, and to several other property owners, before the COA hearing. The City was also unable to identify why it did not send proper notice. This was unfair.  

Our Recommendations

In consideration of the information gathered through this Enquiry, we make the following recommendations: 

  • The Committee of Adjustment (all districts) should monitor the applications it processes to identify any other instances where the “send to” list does not properly generate. 
  • The Committee of Adjustment should report back to my office on its findings after three months, and again after six months. Following this, we will be better able to determine if this issue has systemic implications, and if further action is required.

The City’s Response

The Committee of Adjustment has agreed to implement our recommendations.