What is an Official Plan?

Section 17 of the Planning Act requires the City to have an Official Plan. The Official Plan is a legal document approved by City Council that describes policies and objectives for future land uses. The Official Plan is prepared in consultation with City residents and reflects a community vision for future change and development.

The Official Plan is a blueprint for how the City will grow over the next 30 years. It describes the location for new housing, industry, parks, office and retail areas, community services and other land uses. The Official Plan also establishes policies for the built environment, for improvements to the City’s hard services (such as transit, roads, sewers, etc.) and for the protection of the City’s natural environment.

What is a Zoning By-law?

Section 34 of the Planning Act grants the City authority to implement land use controls through Zoning By-laws. The Zoning By-law is the legal document that implements policies and objectives described in the Official Plan and regulates the use and development of buildings and land by:

  • Stating exactly what types of land uses are permitted in various areas. Examples of these uses are residential, commercial, mixed commercial-residential, institutional and industrial.
  • Outlining how the land can be developed by establishing precise standards for factors such as lot size and frontage, building setbacks, the height and built form of structures, the number and dimensions of parking and loading spaces and requirements for open space.

Official Plan Amendment

If you wish to use, alter or develop your property in a way that does not conform with the Official Plan, you must apply for a site-specific Official Plan Amendment. Any change to the Official Plan requires an Official Plan Amendment application.

Zoning By-law Amendment

If you wish to use, alter or develop your property in a way that does not conform with the Zoning By-law, you must apply for a site-specific amendment to the Zoning By-law. You can do this through either a Zoning By-law Amendment application (commonly called a rezoning) or a Minor Variance application.

  • Rezonings are used for major revisions to the By-law such as land use changes or significant increases in permitted building heights and development densities.
  • Minor Variances are used for issues such as small changes to building setback or parking requirements. Please refer to the Committee of Adjustment for additional information.

If you are uncertain whether your development proposal involves a rezoning or a Minor Variance, please contact Planning staff. You should consider applying for a Preliminary Project Review and/or a Zoning Certificate review that will identify any features of your proposal that do not comply with the Zoning By-law.

Section 37 of the Planning Act authorizes the City, through rezoning, to increase height and/or density beyond what is otherwise permitted in the Zoning By-law in return for facilities, services or matters provided by the owner, referred to as community benefits. The proposed larger development must represent good planning. You should discuss with Planning staff the applicability of Section 37 to your proposal and the type and scope of the community benefits you could provide. If community benefits are appropriate, they will be secured through a Section 37 Agreement, registered on title.

Combined Applications

Often you may have to apply to amend the Zoning By-law and the Official Plan at the same time. In most cases, development proposals that require a Zoning By-law Amendment also involve Site Plan Control approval. If you submit these applications at the same time for the same property they will be reviewed together.

To ensure the City’s interests are met and to appropriately assess the merits and technical aspects of your proposal, the City requires submission of a number of information items with your application(s).

These are outlined below as Submission Requirements (those that will be required for the majority of applications).

A pre-application consultation meeting is recommended to assist in determining which of these requirements must be provided as part of your initial application submission in order for it to be considered a complete application.

The City will endeavour to review your application and render a decision within the STAR (Streamlining the Application Review) target timelines. The City’s commitment to the STAR target timelines will only begin once a complete application submission is received.

The level of detail required for most of the reports/studies listed below can vary, depending on the nature of your property and your proposal. In some cases, a single-page letter from a qualified expert will be adequate, while in other situations a major study will be necessary. The requirement and scope of any reports/studies can be assessed during your pre-application consultation meeting.

All submissions must include a covering memo indicating all submitted materials along with either the Planning Application Checklist OR the Pre-Application Consultation Checklist received from your Pre-Application meeting.

Submission Requirements

Forms

 Plans

Information/Studies

In addition to the prescribed requirements of the Planning Act, the following non-prescribed information will also be required to evaluate a planning application, unless it is determined that certain studies, plans, drawings and reports are not applicable.

To ensure the City’s interests are met and to appropriately assess the merits and technical aspects of your proposal, the City requires submission of a number of information items with your application(s).

These are outlined below as Compulsory Requirements (those that will be required for the majority of applications).

A pre-application consultation meeting is recommended to assist in determining which of these requirements must be provided as part of your initial application submission in order for it to be considered a complete application.

The City will endeavour to review your application and render a decision within the STAR (Streamlining the Application Review) target timelines. The City’s commitment to the STAR target timelines will only begin once a complete application submission is received.

The level of detail required for most of the reports/studies listed below can vary, depending on the nature of your property and your proposal. In some cases, a single-page letter from a qualified expert will be adequate, while in other situations a major study will be necessary. The requirement and scope of any reports/studies can be assessed during your pre-application consultation meeting.

All submissions must include a covering memo indicating all submitted materials along with either the Planning Application Checklist OR the Pre-Application Consultation Checklist received from your Pre-Application meeting.

Submission Requirements

Forms

Plans

Information/Studies

In addition to the prescribed requirements of the Planning Act, the following non-prescribed information will also be required to evaluate a planning application, unless it is determined that certain studies, plans, drawings and reports are not applicable.

Submission of Application

After receiving your application and application fees, the City will:

  • Circulate your application to City divisions and external agencies for detailed technical review and comment (refer to Application Circulation section below); and
  • Issue a written decision on the completeness of your application within 30 days, in accordance with the legislative requirements of the Planning Act and assign it a STAR (Streamlining the Application Review) stream (refer to Complete Application Decision section below).

Within 14 days of submitting your application, you will be required to post a sign on the subject property in accordance with the procedures outlined in the application form. Contact the district Planning Consultant to obtain the name of the Planner assigned to your file and the City Application File Number.

Complete Application Decision

The Toronto Official Plan provides the City the statutory authority to require information, studies and plans for a complete application submission beyond the minimum requirements of the Planning Act. The City will consider your application(s) to be “complete” if it meets the complete application submission requirements of the Planning Act and Toronto Official Plan.

Within 30 days of payment of the application fee, you will be advised in writing as to:

  • the completeness or incompleteness of your application(s) in accordance with the requirements of the Planning Act and Toronto Official Plan; and
  • the assigned STAR stream and application file number.

A complete application submission will allow a more efficient and comprehensive review of all supporting material by the City and will trigger the following:

  • The City’s commitment to meet the STAR target timelines. Official Plan and Zoning By-law Amendments will be assigned a STAR Stream of “Complex” and are targeted for a decision within 9 months from a complete application submission; and
  • The timeframe under the Planning Act for the City to make a decision on the application.

Within 15 days of your application being deemed complete, the City will also issue a formal Notice of Application to the public in the newspaper, confirming receipt of your application in accordance with the requirements of the Planning Act and Toronto Official Plan.

The City will consider your application(s) to be “incomplete” if it does not meet the complete application submission requirements of the Planning Act and Toronto Official Plan. Incomplete Application(s) Notifications will be accompanied by a listing of outstanding information and/or material that must be submitted for your application to be considered complete.

The Planning Act provides an administrative process that allows you to appeal the City’s decision on your application completeness within 30 days after receipt of a negative notice by filing a motion for directions to have the Ontario Municipal Board determine:

  • whether the information and material have in fact been provided; or
  • whether a requirement made was reasonable

You are encouraged to submit all outstanding information and material as one comprehensive package. The City will process all applications to the greatest extent possible, however, the City’s STAR target timeline commitments for review of your application will only commence once a complete application is submitted.

Application Circulation

Your application will be circulated to a number of City Divisions and/or Agencies, Boards and Commissions for detailed technical review and comment. A complete application submission allows staff to undertake a more comprehensive review of your proposal and will help to reduce overall processing times.

The STAR process targets the first internal comments be provided to the City Planning Division within eight (8) weeks of the initial application submission.

Depending upon the circumstances of your property, various external agencies may also be asked to comment on your proposal. For example, if your property is close to a watercourse, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority will be asked for their input and/or approval (a service for which the TRCA charges). If your property is next to a rail line, the appropriate rail authority will be asked to comment. Refer to the External Agencies, Boards and Commissions page for a list of external agencies that may be asked to comment on your application.

Preliminary Report

All Official Plan and Zoning By-law Amendment applications are presented to Community Council or the Planning and Growth Management Committee (if the application has city-wide significance) for review and direction through a Preliminary Report. This report provides an early opportunity to raise and discuss any issues of concern, recommends direction on the extent of community consultation and indicates the expected timing for a final report to City Council.

The Preliminary Report will be presented to Community Council or Planning and Growth Management Committee within two meeting cycles of the date you applied.

Technical review of your application will continue during this process.

Community Consultation Meeting

Although not required by the Planning Act, a community consultation meeting is held on almost every Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendment application. The meeting is organized by Planning staff and usually attended by the Ward Councillor.

The meeting provides staff an opportunity to outline the planning process to the local community and provide you an opportunity to publicly present your proposal. It also provides the local community an opportunity to comment on the proposal. This input is taken into account by City staff when discussing revisions to your proposal.

The STAR process assumes this meeting will be held within two months from the date that Community Council considers the Preliminary Report.

Response to Applicant

The Planner assigned to your application(s) co-ordinates responses from the circulation, political input received through the consideration of the Preliminary Report and any comments from the public. These responses are then forwarded to you for the purpose of revising your proposal.

While the Planner may provide you with early responses from City divisions, the STAR process targets the Planner to give you a response within nine (9) weeks of your application submission.

Application Revision and Resubmission

In response to the comments on your initial submission, you may be required to revise your proposal and/or provide additional information and material. Revised and/or additional information and material should be discussed, co-ordinated and submitted to the Planner.

Please Note:

  • You must include a covering letter with all resubmissions that clearly indicates how and where your proposal has been revised and, if appropriate, why any requested revisions were not made.
  • The target timelines of the STAR process assume you will make an appropriate resubmission to the City within six (6) weeks of being advised that additional information and/or material is required. Should this not occur, the STAR target timelines may not be met.

It is during this step that the value of Pre-Application Consultation and the submission of a complete application is realized. The time and cost incurred by you from additional cycles of revisions and resubmissions can be significantly reduced by these actions.

Public Meeting at Community Council

The Planning Act requires that the City hold a Public Meeting to consider all applications for amendments to the Official Plan or Zoning By-laws. This responsibility has been assigned to the four Community Councils and, if the application has City-wide significance, the Planning and Growth Management Committee.

Once your application(s) has been finalized, the City will issue a formal notice of the Public Meeting in accordance with the requirements of the Planning Act, or as directed by Community Council through the Preliminary Report. The City also requires you to post the date and time of the Public Meeting on the sign erected on the property.

A Final Report that contains staff recommendations on your application(s) is prepared for Community Council. The purpose of the Public Meeting is to consider the staff report and provide a public forum for debate on the merits of your application(s). You will have an opportunity to present your proposal, the public can write in or attend to make their views known and Community Council has the opportunity to evaluate your application(s).

City Council Decision

Community Council and/or the Planning and Growth Management Committee will make recommendations on your application(s) to City Council for a final decision. Based on these recommendations, City Council can amend the Official Plan and Zoning By-laws through enactment of an amending bylaw.

Official Plan or Zoning By-law Amendment Comes Into Effect

The Planning Act provides an administrative process to appeal City Council’s decision to the Local Planning Approval Tribunal (LPAT) on amending the Official Plan and/or Zoning By-laws.

  • The City must issue a notice of approval within 15 days of City Council’s decision.
  • After this notice has been issued, there is a 20 day period within which a party can appeal this approval to the LPAT.
  • If no appeal is submitted, the amendment(s) comes into effect.

A similar administrative and appeal procedure applies should City Council refuse your application(s).

If no appeal is submitted, the Official Plan and Zoning By-law Amendment(s) come into full force and effect on the day that they were passed.

This complex flowchart shows the application process for Official Plan Amendments, Zoning By-law Amendments and Combined Applications. For more information, please email developingtoronto@toronto.ca