Canada: Changes To Toronto's Official Plan And Zoning By-Law - What You Should Know

Important date

On June 18th, the City of Toronto Planning and Growth Management Committee will consider revisions to the heritage policies of the Official Plan and will formally commence public consultation on the draft revised comprehensive zoning by-law for the City of Toronto.

Five year review of the Official Plan

Anyone with land in the City of Toronto will be interested to know that the City is undertaking its mandatory five year review of the Official Plan and will bring forward proposed revisions to sections of the Official Plan for consultation and approval.

On June 18th, the City's Planning and Growth Management Committee will hear deputations and receive comments on the draft Heritage Policies, the first proposed policies of the Official Plan to be reviewed and released for comment. These policies may be finalized and adopted by City Council as early as its October meeting.

The City's Municipal Comprehensive Review ("MCR") of its Employment lands is also well underway. The results of the MCR and draft new Employment policies are expected to be released in November for public consultation.

Proposed Revised Harmonized Zoning By-law

City of Toronto Council repealed its comprehensive zoning by-law, No. 1156-2010 ("By-law 1156-2010") on May 18, 2011 and directed planning staff to have further stakeholder consultations and to bring forward another by-law.

City staff has now compiled a draft revised zoning by-law ("Revised By-law"), again intended to "harmonize" the zoning by-laws of the six former municipalities. At the Planning and Growth Management Committee on June 18th, City staff will seek the Committee's approval to release the Revised By-law for public review and comment. The initial public review period is anticipated to end on September 27th. Following consultation, including a planned Statutory Public meeting in the latter half of November 2012, the draft Revised By-law may be passed, possibly as early as February 2013.

The Revised By-law is intended to address previous concerns raised respecting, among other matters, insufficient transition provisions, the treatment of "pipeline" development applications, recognition of minor variance and by-law permissions, treatment of existing buildings, gross floor area definitions, Conservation Overlay mapping, Employment Zone regulations, Commercial Residential Zone issues including tall building regulations, as well as matters pertaining to Residential Zones.

Transition Protocol

Under the Revised By-law's Transition Protocol, the current in-force zoning by-laws will not be repealed. The City proposes that certain sites and areas be excluded from the Revised By-law on an interim basis. The Revised By-law will also contain a series of Grandfathering or "Exemption Clauses".

A new Transition Clause establishes how active applications for a zoning certificate, building permit, minor variance, site plan approval, consent to sever, draft plan of subdivision, plan of condominium, payment in lieu of parking agreement or part lot control exemption (collectively, "Application" or "Applications") under the Former By-laws will be treated after the Revised By-law is passed. If any Application deemed complete is submitted prior to the enactment of the Revised By-law, it will be reviewed and approved under the applicable Former By-law. The Revised By-law will apply to new Applications submitted after it is enacted or incomplete Applications (apart from processing) at the time of the By-law's passage. The Transition Clause provisions will be in effect for three years from the enactment of the Revised By-law, after which the standards of the Revised By-law will apply.

Properties regulated by site specific zoning by-law amendments that have existing buildings or have received building permits (that are not phased projects) will be included in the Revised By-law, but their site specific zoning permissions will be recognized in the Revised By-law as governing over any inconsistent provisions in the Revised By-law. Any future additions or enlargements to the existing buildings will be required to comply with the Revised By-law.

Why should I be concerned?

Any changes to the list of permitted uses, maximum densities, height limits and other performance standards will affect all redevelopment opportunities and directly impact the value of your lands.

It is important for landowners and developers to determine whether their properties qualify for any of the exceptions contained in the Transition Clause of the Revised By-law. The Transition Clause provides a window of opportunity to obtain development approvals and permits in accordance with the Former By-laws. There may however be transition issues that remain unresolved in the Revised By-law.

Regardless of whether you plan to develop or redevelop your land, you should take the following into consideration:

  • City Staff have not undertaken comprehensive reviews of how the new Official Plan and zoning will impact each parcel of land in Toronto. The onus is on landowners to stay informed and get involved;
  • Any landowner who fails to express concerns or issues with the proposed new Official Plan or zoning prior to Council passing the new Official Plan or zoning by-law will not be able to maintain an appeal of either document and risks not being added as a party to an appeal at the Ontario Municipal Board; and
  • For sites not omitted from the Revised By-law or developments not otherwise exempted, after the Revised By-law is passed and during the time that the new zoning is under appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, the Chief Building Official is likely to treat the new zoning, as passed by City Council, as "applicable law" when considering the issuance of building permits where new zoning is more restrictive than the existing zoning.

How Stikeman Elliott can help

Stikeman Elliott's municipal and land use planning team would be pleased to speak with you about the new Official Plan and the new harmonized zoning by-law consultation process and discuss strategies on how you can protect your land development investments and opportunities.

Our team can assist you with:

  • opportunities to participate in the City's development of the new Official Plan and revised harmonized zoning by-law;
  • examining the potential implications of changes to Official Plan designations and zoning; and
  • safeguarding appeal rights and advocating your property interests at meetings with City staff and politicians, public meetings, municipal Council and at the Ontario Municipal Board.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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