Ontario Land Tribunal
About the Ontario Land Tribunal
The Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) is an independent adjudicative tribunal responsible for resolving appeals and applications on a variety of potentially contentious municipal and land use planning matters.
OLT members are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and typically include lawyers, architects, planners and public administrators. The OLT operates under the Ontario Land Tribunal Act, 2021, as well as its own rules of practice and procedure. It reports administratively to the Ministry of the Attorney General.
The OLT was formerly known as the Ontario Municipal Board before it was renamed the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal in 2018. On June 1, 2021 the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal was merged with the Environmental Review Tribunal, Board of Negotiation, Conservation Review Board and the Mining and Lands Tribunal into a new single tribunal called the Ontario Land Tribunal.
This section focuses on the OLT’s role in dealing with land use planning matters under the Planning Act. Its main role in community planning is to resolve disputes related to:
- land use planning applications, such as subdivisions, land severances (consents) and minor variances
- planning documents, such as official plans and zoning bylaws
If your community has a local appeal body, contact the local appeal body for confirmation of their processes and appeal fees.
Role of the Ontario Land Tribunal in the Land Use Planning System
People don't always agree on how their communities should develop or change. Disputes often arise over land use planning issues, such as where industry should be located, where roads and transit should be built, or how to protect our forests and farmlands.
When people are unable to resolve their differences on community planning issues, or have disputes with their municipal council that can't be settled, the OLT provides a forum to resolve those disputes.
The OLT also provides a body of expertise that can advise or facilitate input on questions of land use planning. For example, the OLT can review some or all of a municipal official plan, when referred by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, to provide recommendations to the Minister on whether the plan should be approved, rejected, or amended. The minister may also refer the entire official plan or amendment to the OLT for a decision.
Why you should participate in the land use planning process
People can effectively express their individual or group interest in a planning matter by participating early in the process. This is important because it offers an opportunity for information exchange, especially if there are conflicting perspectives. Typically, municipal councils attempt to deal with concerns or disputes before making decisions on planning matters.
Alternative dispute resolution techniques can be used by a municipal council in resolving the matter locally and avoiding an appeal to the OLT.
Generally, if you do not share your views, either by verbal presentation at a public meeting or by written submission, prior to council’s decision on official plan or zoning bylaw amendments, you do not qualify to appeal such matters to the OLT. Additionally, the OLT has the power to dismiss an appeal without holding a hearing if the person or public body that launches an appeal has not made verbal presentations and/or written submissions before municipal council makes a decision.
Consent, site plan and minor variance appeals may not always be dealt with by the OLT. Instead, municipalities that meet certain minimum requirements may establish their own appeal board, called a “local appeal body”, to hear consent, minor variance, and/or site plan appeals from certain key participants. For example, the City of Toronto has established the Toronto Local Appeal Body. Contact your municipality to determine the appropriate appeal body for your area.
Make an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal
If you are considering appealing a planning matter to the OLT, be aware of certain requirements and limitations, described below.
Protecting your appeal rights
To protect your appeal rights – particularly with respect to official plans or zoning bylaws – ensure that you make your views known by making a written submission or a verbal presentation at a public meeting.
Limits on appeals
Under the Planning Act, there are limits on who may appeal a planning matter. For certain planning matters only key participants (for example, applicants, the Province, public bodies, including First Nations, and utility providers, in some cases subject to requirements that they had participated in the process prior to the decision) may be able to appeal a planning matter.
In addition, there are specific matters that cannot be appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal. Generally, there are no appeals for matters related to:
- minister’s decisions on new official plans and official plan updates under section 26 of the Planning Act
- refusals or failure of a municipality to make a decision within the timeframes set out in the Planning Act (commonly known as a “non-decision”) on proposed official plan or zoning bylaw amendments that would:
- change the boundary of an "area of settlement" or establish a new "area of settlement"
- remove land from an "area of employment" if appropriate official plan policies are in place
- authorize a renewable energy undertaking, such as wind, solar and hydroelectric projects
- official plan policies and zoning bylaw provisions authorizing additional residential units (for example, basement apartments, accessory units)
- official plan policies and zoning bylaw provisions that relate to inclusionary zoning
- official plans/amendments that implement certain matters with previous provincial approval, such as source water protection boundaries, A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe employment and population projections, and Greenbelt Plan boundaries
- official plans/amendments that set out the required policies to establish a community planning permit system (CPPS) and the implementing community planning permit by-law, where a CPPS has been required by a minister’s order
- non-decisions on adopted lower-tier official plans and updates if the appropriate upper-tier municipality states it does not conform with the upper-tier official plan
- initial passing of a municipal interim control bylaw
- official plan policies and zoning bylaw provisions that designate and zone lands identified as a Protected Major Transit Station Area (lands around stations/stops for rail, subway and certain other forms of transit that are protected by official plan policies)
- to accommodate densities (number of people, jobs and building floor area per hectare) that support transit
- minister’s zoning orders and community infrastructure and housing accelerator orders
In the case of a new official plan, there is no ability for a person or public body to appeal the entire plan, although generally, any part of the plan can be appealed, with the above noted exceptions.
Timelines for appeals
Appeals must be made within the timeframe allowed. In most cases, appeals must be made no later than 20 days after the day the council/planning board or approval authority gives its notice of decision on the planning proposal.
Your appeal to the OLT should be made to the council/planning board or approval authority which gives the notice of decision. In most cases, they are required to send your appeal to the OLT within 15 days after the appeal period expires.
Reasons for your appeal
In making an appeal, cite the portion of the decision you are appealing. For example, in an appeal of a zoning bylaw or official plan matter, specify which part of the official plan you are appealing, whether you are appealing part of or all of the zoning bylaw.
Generally, you must also provide written reasons for your appeal.
If you intend to argue that an official plan or zoning bylaw is inconsistent with a policy statement issued under the Planning Act, fails to conform with or conflicts with a provincial plan or fails to conform with an applicable official plan, the notice of appeal must also explain how the official plan or zoning bylaw is inconsistent with, fails to conform with or conflicts with the policy statement, provincial plan, or the official plan.
To find out more about the specific appeal process for each type of planning application, see:
You can also discuss your plan to appeal with the municipal clerk or local planning office.
You must provide the appeal filing fee charged by the OLT under the authority of the Ontario Land Tribunal Act, 2021. The OLT may reduce a filing fee to $400 upon request by an eligible private citizen or community group. Requests for reduced fees must be made using the OLT’s Appeal Fee Reduction Request Form at the time of filing the appeal.
For more information on the OLT's fees, contact the OLT.
How you will be informed about an Ontario Land Tribunal hearing
Written notice of a public hearing must be given in advance. It is usually provided directly by mail or email to those affected. For some hearings, where there is significant public interest, notice may be published in a general newspaper. Depending on the type of application, the OLT will provide notice itself or will require that the person initiating the appeal or the municipality provide notice, subject to the OLT's directions.
Notice is sent out at least 30 days or 60 days in advance of the hearing depending on the planning matter. While the scope and method of notice has been standardized by the OLT, it may direct more or less notice of a particular proceeding if it feels this is appropriate.
How the Ontario Land Tribunal may deal with appeals
Case management conference
A case management conference may be held before the OLT schedules a hearing to bring parties and other interested persons together to define and narrow issues in dispute and discuss opportunities for mediation or settlement.
Mediation is used to bring together parties in dispute to see if they can settle the matter with the guidance of a mediator.
Mediation is a valuable process because:
- an impartial person (mediator) helps disputing parties try to reach a voluntary, mutually acceptable resolution on some or all of the issues of their dispute
- it can take place at any time, before or after a case management conference or hearing
- at the mediation meeting, the OLT member(s) will advise parties how the mediation will proceed and will set out the ground rules. The member guiding the mediation can help make discussion of the issues easier and may offer innovative solutions. All documents and anything said in the mediation are confidential. Unlike a hearing, a mediation meeting is not open to the public
- OLT members are bound by a code of conduct to guide their conduct and promote confidence in mediation as a process for resolving disputes
The role of community groups
The OLT carefully considers all written and verbal presentations filed at the hearing.
A community group needs to be incorporated if it wants to file an appeal in the name of the group. If your group has not been incorporated, a notice of appeal may be made in the name of an individual who is a member of the association or the group on its behalf. It is important for community groups to be involved early in the municipal planning process to preserve their appeal rights and to be made aware of OLT filing requirements.
Costs involved in an Ontario Land Tribunal hearing
The OLT charges a filing fee based on the type of appeal as set out in its fee schedule. The OLT may reduce a filing fee to $400 upon request by an eligible private citizen or community group. Requests for reduced fees must be made using the OLT’s Appeal Fee Reduction Request Form at the time of filing the appeal.
In addition, the OLT has the power to award costs in certain circumstances. Unlike in court cases, costs are not routinely awarded to the successful party of an appeal to the OLT.
The powers of the Ontario Land Tribunal
When a matter is appealed to the OLT, the OLT may hold a hearing where the parties to the proceeding will have an opportunity to express their views. The OLT can decide whether to conduct a written, electronic or verbal hearing.
The OLT also generally takes the place of the municipality, planning board or approval authority and can make any decision that the original decision maker could have made. For example, if an official plan amendment is being considered, the tribunal takes the place of the approval authority and can approve, change or refuse the amendment.
After a hearing has been held, the OLT may generally either implement its decision directly, or order the original decision maker to do so.
Powers to dismiss an appeal
The OLT has powers to dismiss an appeal without a hearing based on a number of grounds which, depending on the matter appealed, can include:
- appeal is not based on any apparent land use planning grounds
- appeal is not made in good faith or is frivolous or vexatious (made to annoy or irritate), or is made only for the purpose of delay
- appeal constitutes an abuse of process, such as repeating the submission of an application that has recently been dealt with
- appeal is substantially different from that which was before council at the time of its decision
- the person/organization appealing did not make verbal presentations at a public meeting or provide written submissions to the municipal council/approval authority before a decision was made
- the person/organization appealing has not provided written reasons for the appeal, including reasons related to consistency and conformity to a provincial policy statement, provincial plan or specific official plan if he or she intended to argue these matters
- the person/organization appealing has not paid the fee required by the OLT
- the person/organization appealing did not respond to the OLT's request for further information within the time specified by the OLT
- there is an unreasonable delay by a party or a party has failed to comply with an OLT order
If you intend to launch an appeal, be well prepared for your hearing and ready to present detailed information in support of your views. Depending on the complexity of the issue, you may wish to hire a lawyer to represent you.
Lawyers and representatives may question the witnesses and make statements and arguments based on the evidence presented. You do not have to be represented by a lawyer or representative but most municipalities and people making appeals are.
If you don’t hire a lawyer or representative, you will have to:
- obtain the documents you need to present your case
- make copies for all parties (except of public documents like official plans)
- present relevant facts (evidence) clearly and logically to prove your case to the OLT
If you need help finding a lawyer or paralegal, you may wish to contact the Law Society Referral Service (LSRS), operated by the Law Society of Ontario. The LSRS provides Ontario residents the name of a lawyer or licensed paralegal who will provide a free initial consultation of up to 30 minutes to help determine their rights and options.
Contact the Ontario Land Tribunal
The OLT's Citizen Liaison is available to assist with explaining the OLT’s rules, practices and procedures as well as questions about the status of a hearing event.