Canada: Bill 73 Planning Act Amendments Come Into Force On July 1, 2016

On July 1, 2016, many of the Planning Act amendments introduced by Bill 73, Smart Growth for Our Communities Act, 2015, will come into force and effect.1 As summarized in our previous newsletter, Bill 73 introduced significant reforms to the planning regime in Ontario.

While a few of these Planning Act amendments came into effect when Bill 73 was passed on December 3, 2015, the vast majority of the amendments will not come into effect until July 1, 2016. To coincide with these legislative changes, the Province recently filed new and revised Planning Act regulations, which will also come into force on July 1, 2016. The following is a summary of some of the key changes introduced by the new and revised Planning Act regulations.

Transition Regulations

The new transition regulations (O. Reg. 174/16) are particularly noteworthy considering that Bill 73 introduced a two-year prohibition on applications seeking:

  1. amendments to a new official plan, from the date that any part of that plan comes into effect;
  2. amendments to a new comprehensive zoning by-law, from the date on which council repeals and replaces the pre-existing zoning by-laws; and
  3. variances to an owner-initiated site-specific rezoning, from the date that the by-law is amended.

Exceptions to these two-year prohibition periods are permitted only by council resolution.

Under the transition regulations, if a municipality introduces a new official plan, and the first day that any part of the new plan comes into effect is on or after July 1, 2016, then the two-year prohibition period applies to subsequent official plan amendment applications. If the first day that any part of the new official plan comes into effect is before July 1, 2016, then the two-year prohibition period does not apply to subsequent official plan amendment applications received by the municipality before July 1, 2018.

The statutory language is unclear as to what constitutes a "new" official plan, especially considering that some municipalities (example, Toronto) update their official plans through thematic amendments that are phased in periodically (e.g., amendments for employment, heritage, transportation, etc.). Staff from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing have clarified that this new two-year prohibition does not apply to official plans that are updated through phased thematic amendments, unless the existing official plan is repealed in its entirety. Notwithstanding Ministry staff's comments, we note that this concept of a wholesale official plan "repeal" is not expressly stated in the text of Bill 73 or the accompanying regulations, and may be subject to some dispute.

If a new, comprehensive zoning by-law is passed on or after July 1, 2016, then the two-year prohibition period applies to subsequent zoning by-law amendment applications. If the new, comprehensive zoning by-law is passed before July 1, 2016, then the two-year prohibition period does not apply to subsequent zoning by-law amendment applications received by the municipality before July 1, 2018.

With respect to minor variance applications, if an owner-initiated zoning by-law amendment is passed on or after July 1, 2016, then the two-year prohibition period applies to subsequent minor variance applications. If the owner-initiated zoning by-law amendment is passed before July 1, 2016, then the two-year prohibition period does not apply to subsequent minor variance applications received by the municipality before July 1, 2018.

Community Planning Permits

Through the new Community Planning Permit regulation (O. Reg. 173/16), the Province renames the "development permit system" to the "community planning permit system" (the former Development Permit regulation, O. Reg. 608/06, will be repealed on July 1, 2016). The new regulation introduces a 5-year prohibition period, which begins to run from when a by-law establishing a community planning permit system is passed. During this 5-year prohibition period, no person may apply for or request an amendment to the community planning permit by-law or the relevant official plan policies with respect to a community planning permit system, unless Council makes a resolution declaring such application or request for amendment to be permitted. The 5-year prohibition period on requests for official plan amendments does not apply to policies applicable to an area that is broader than the area to which the community planning permit by-law applies.

In terms of transitioning, if a by-law establishing community planning permit system is passed before July 1, 2016, then the 5-year prohibition period does not apply to subsequent applications to amend that by-law, provided that such amendment applications are received before July 1, 2021.

A request to amend official plan policies relating to a community planning permit system will not be subject to the 5-year prohibition "unless it is a request to amend policies relating to a community planning permit system that was established by a by-law that was passed on or after July 1, 2016", provided that such amendment requests are received before July 1, 2021.

Other Regulations

Other changes to the regulations implement various aspects of the Bill 73 amendments, including revised notice requirements and other transitional matters.

For more information on Bill 73, the new Planning Act regulations, and what these changes may mean for your business, please contact any member of our Municipal & Land Use Group.

Related Links


1 After July 1, 2016, the only remaining Bill 73 amendments yet to come into effect are those which are largely technical in nature.

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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