While developers marshal more and more sophisticated arguments to justify their strategies, local planning departments lack the capacity to respond to them. Many Simcoe County planning departments are currently understaffed. Several planners noted that they are often unable to meet the 90-day response time required for development proposals, which results in many proposals being appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board. As this is a province-wide concern, the Liberal government proposes to extend this time limit to 180 days through an amendment to the Planning Act, giving municipalities more time to respond.
Local politicians are not always clear on whether they have the capacity to refuse development that is incompatible with their vision of their communities. One respondent noted that developers always have more information about possible implications of a proposed development than the local municipalities do. The same issue arose in New Tecumseth when Council asked planning staff to weigh the pros and cons of refusing the OPDI proposal outright. One of the arguments against dismissing the proposal was that allowing it to move through the pre-consultation stage was the only way for the municipality to gather information about possible implications or alternatives By the same token, local politicians feared that by allowing the development application to proceed, the developers would have more time to gather supporting research to justify the development and make it more difficult to refuse should it go to the OMB.
Simcoe County has no authority over water and wastewater services. In interviews, lower-tier municipal officials in Simcoe County said that they do not have the resources to undertake extensive servicing, environmental and planning studies by their own staff. Typically, in response to a large-scale development application, municipalities enter into agreements with developers such that the developer pays for outside consultants (of the municipality's choosing) to review studies submitted by the developer's consultants. Because it is a reactive process, this reliance on outside consultants further undermines the capacity of local authorities to generate their own creative solutions in concert with politicians.