Mediation Pilot Project
In 2016, Toronto City Council approved a trial city-wide Mediation Pilot Program with respect to minor variance and consent applications being considered by the Committee of Adjustment’s Panels in Etobicoke & York, Scarborough, North York and Toronto & East York.
The Mediation Pilot Program is intended to evaluate the benefits of mediation in resolving disputes related to minor variance and consent applications.
Mediation sessions forming part of the Pilot Program will be at no cost to the applicant or other affected parties disputing an application and will be conducted in several of the City’s Civic Centres.
This city-wide pilot program uses a third party mediator to assist disputing parties reach a voluntary, mutually-acceptable solution for some or all of the issues in dispute for minor variance and consent applications being considered by the Committee of Adjustment.
The program will rollout across the city and will be available through the Committee of Adjustment starting with North York on February 9, followed by Toronto and East York on February 15, Scarborough on February 16 and Etobicoke and York on February 23.
Mediation is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) tool that uses a neutral third party to assist disputing parties reach a voluntary, mutually acceptable solution for some or all of the issues in dispute.
Benefits of mediation may include a collaborative process with neighbours; reduced costs in settling the dispute; access to neutral professional expertise; and an increased likelihood of settlement.
It is important to note that the Committee of Adjustment renders the final decision and is not bound by the mediated agreement.
Mediation sessions will involve the applicant(s) and other affected parties, including their agents, if warranted. The option for mediation will be extended to all minor variance and consent application types.
To be eligible, an affected party is:
- A person who makes a written or oral submission at the Committee of Adjustment hearing; and/or
- A local area ratepayer association representative who makes a written or oral submission at the Committee of Adjustment hearing on behalf of their association
The mediation sessions will be conducted by a neutral third party mediator and a neutral and experienced professional planner with knowledge of the City’s Official Plan and Zoning By-laws and applicable minor variance and consent legislation.
Participation in the mediation process will be voluntary and mediation cannot proceed without the consent and involvement of the applicant. Mediation will be offered:
1. Before the Committee of Adjustment has made a decision
The Chair of the Committee of Adjustment suggesting that disputing parties pursue mediation prior to a decision being made will trigger this option for mediation. If the Committee Chair determines that the matter may benefit from mediation, the applicant and eligible affected parties will be invited to participate (see “Eligibility criteria”).
When an applicant and affected parties indicate willingness for mediation, they will complete a mediation request form and the Committee of Adjustment will defer the matter to a subsequent hearing. A mediation session will then will be scheduled.
2. After the Committee of Adjustment has made a decision
Mediation can also occur when the applicant or other affected parties request mediation immediately after the Committee of Adjustment renders a decision, by registering with the Committee of Adjustment Panel’s Deputy Secretary Treasurer and completing a mediation request form.
Requests may also be accepted after the Committee of Adjustment decision was made and before an appeal is heard by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mediation will be offered on a one-time basis per application, either before or after the Committee of Adjustment makes its decision.
The Mediation Pilot Program is not intended to replace informal discussions between parties as a means to resolve disputes. Applicants are still encouraged to speak to neighbours and other interested and affected parties to address issues prior to making their formal applications.
The mediation sessions will be conducted privately. It will be up to the mediator to determine the style of mediation preferred in a particular dispute. If a settlement has been reached, Minutes of Settlement will be drafted by the mediator and the planner and signed by the applicant and affected party or parties. The applicant will receive the original, and all other parties will receive copies, as well as a post mediation information sheet detailing the next steps.
If a settlement is not reached, a Report of Outcome will be prepared and the applicant will receive the original, and all other parties will receive copies.
Before the Committee of Adjustment has made a decision: Mediated settlements that result in revisions to the original application will return to the Committee of Adjustment for a hearing.
The Committee of Adjustment has no obligation to accept the mediated outcome and will make its own decision on the revised application. This may result in the application being approved, approved with conditions or refused.
After the Committee of Adjustment has made a decision: A mediated resolution that follows a Committee of Adjustment decision may result in a new application (which reflects the outcomes of the mediated settlement) being submitted to the Committee of Adjustment for a new hearing. The Committee of Adjustment will make its own decision on the new application. This may result in the new application being approved, approved with conditions or refused.
The other option is to take the mediated settlement to the appeal authority. The appeal authority will make its own decision on the application.
If a settlement is not reached, the original application will either be heard by Committee of Adjustment for its decision or if the mediation was held after the Committee of Adjustment has made a decision the applicant or other affected parties will have the option of exercising their legislative appeal rights for the application under dispute by requesting a hearing by the Toronto Local Appeal Body or the Ontario Municipal Board (if applicable).
A mediated resolution that results in an applicant choosing to file a new application, will not affect the applicant’s or other affected parties’ right to appeal the Committee of Adjustment’s decision with regard to the original application in question.
As this is a pilot program, parties involved in the Mediation Pilot Program will be asked to fill out an evaluation form after the mediation process has been completed. The evaluation of the Mediation Pilot Program will assist staff in reporting the results to City Council.