At least one of the people who received my message was astounded that municipal "democracy" works the way it does in this day and age. Given their reaction, I thought it important to share this explanation of how the OMB works with a wider audience:
Hi,(I didn't bother replacing David's name, because there are so damn many of them in this City--even just in the ottawablogosphere!--that it's sufficiently ambiguous!)
David is describing how the OMB operates. The OMB can override Council, and takes planning evidence into its decisions. Councillors' opinions are political information, not planning evidence from professionals.
The job of City Staff in terms of Council decisions is to inform Council's decisions based on the proposal by the developer, and this often takes the form of making a recommendation based on their professional analysis of the proposal. Council then makes their decision based on a variety of factors, including Staff's recommendations, their own personal opinions, and comments from the public and lobbyists.
When an appeal is made to the OMB, Staff from the planning department can be called to testify, as they have an expert opinion. Other professional planners (i.e. those acting on behalf of other parties to an OMB hearing) can also be called as witnesses, but when City Staff are called, they have to give their professional opinion, and obviously it must reflect whatever opinion they gave to Council at the time.
The Board member then makes a decision based purely on whether it makes sense from a planning perspective, not political/social/democratic considerations. And they are supposed to consider it from first principles, and not in comparison to however Council decided on the case.
I'm not saying I like this, I'm just describing how it goes (or at least, how it's supposed to go).
Keep in mind that the City of Ottawa is a creature of the Province, and so is the OMB. The OMB acts as a form of appeal for municipal decisions. Sort of like how the Governor General and provincial Lieutenants General act as representatives of the queen, and theoretically have the power to overturn the decisions of the legislature. Except the OMB, established in 1897, still holds real power to override decisions of democratically-elected representatives.
The OMB was created over a century ago. Democracy has come a long way since then. The Board should be abolished, and the buck should stop at elected municipal councils (dysfunctional as they sometimes may be).