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Ombudsman Finds Unfair Process for Complaints About Development Charges

Toronto’s Ombudsman says people face a system without consistency and transparency when they seek “their day in court” to complain about development charges.

Susan Opler today released the report of an Investigation into the City’s process for handling development charge complaints. Mr. D contacted Ombudsman Toronto after City staff refused to give him a hearing before City Council’s Executive Committee. He was unhappy about how the City had dealt with his building permit and the development charges he incurred.

Explanations from staff during the initial Enquiry raised broader systemic questions about how the complaint process works, so a fuller Investigation was launched.

The Investigation found that staff had no written procedures for how to handle development charge complaints, including whether or not to grant someone a hearing.

The Ombudsman says this contributed to inconsistency in the process. “City staff first told the complainant he could have a hearing to challenge the development charge, then told him he couldn’t. This came after another developer was granted a hearing on a complaint that did not meet staff’s normal criteria for granting one.”

Opler also criticized the lack of information about the process that is publicly available on the City’s website. “As a basic requirement of administrative fairness, the City must tell people what they need to do to challenge the City’s position.”

“It is essential that City divisions have clear written procedures for dealing with the public, that staff follow them, and that the rules are known to the public. This is even more important when people may have a right to a hearing.”

Corporate Finance, the City division with primary responsibility for administering development charge complaints, has accepted all the report’s recommendations, including one that it review its legal authority for screening complaints. Ombudsman Toronto will monitor implementation of the recommendations until it is complete.

The full report and an office backgrounder can be viewed on the Ombudsman Toronto website. Copies of the report and/or the backgrounder are also available on request.

For more information or to arrange interviews, contact:

Alex DiGioseffo
Ombudsman Toronto
Office:  416-397-5435

Ombudsman Toronto listens to and investigates people’s complaints about City services. We are a free and impartial office that is independent of the City administration, holding it accountable to the people it serves.