Toronto’s many parks and open spaces offer residents, workers and visitors a range of experiences – everything from the extensive urban wilderness of the Crothers Woods to the intimacy of the community parks that are scattered throughout the city. They are places where we can take a break from the bustle of city life, participate in a sporting activity, or observe local wildlife. But as the city grows, so does the pressure on the city’s parks. If we do not continually improve or expand our existing parks, and find opportunities to create new ones, then the same number of parks must serve more and more people.

Section 42 of the Planning Act allows the City of Toronto to harness growth by requiring all new development to contribute to the expansion and enhancement of the City’s parks and open space system.

Parkland Dedication in the Development Review Process

The amount of parkland required from any development proposal is governed by the City of Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 415, Article III and is determined by the type of development and its location.

For residential development, the amount of parkland required depends on where in the city the development is proposed. The City is divided into two categories for parkland dedication purposes:

  • Parkland acquisition priority areas (PAPAs)
  • Non-priority areas

A map showing which parts of the City are PAPAs can be found in City of Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 415, Article III. In non-priority areas, the amount of parkland required is five per cent of the development site. However, the majority of the City falls within a parkland acquisition priority area. In these areas, the amount of parkland required is 0.4 hectares per 300 units, with a cap of 10 to 20 per cent of the site area depending on the size of the development site.

For non-residential development, the amount of parkland required is two per cent of the proposed development site. For example, if a small office building is to be located on a site that is 1,000 square metres, the amount of parkland required would be 20 square metres.

In applications where a development has both residential and non-residential uses, such as an apartment building with retail on the ground floor, the parkland dedication is calculated in proportion with the different uses.

Exemptions to Parkland Dedication

Some types of development are exempt from a parkland dedication requirement. The types of development that are not required to provide parkland include, but are not limited to, industrial uses, public schools and public hospitals. For a full list of exemptions, review Chapter 415-30 of Exemptions of the Toronto Municipal Code.

Not all Development Sites Have New Parks

There are many reasons why not all development sites result in parkland. Some development sites may be too small to contain both a proposed park and the proposed development, some developments may not generate a functional park size, and there may be instances where it may make more sense to add a parkland dedication to an existing park in close proximity to the development site instead of creating a small park on the development site. In this situation, the City will request that the required on-site parkland be provided off-site, in effect requesting that the applicant purchase property for equivalent value to be conveyed to the City. Alternatively, the City may elect that parkland be provided as cash-in-lieu of land, which the City can use to purchase land for new parks and improve existing parks amenities in the City.

Cash-in-Lieu of Parkland Dedication (Parks Levy)

For applications where the City elects that parkland should be provided as cash-in-lieu of land, also known as a parks levy, the value of the required payment is determined by Real Estate Services in response to a request from Toronto Buildings. When a building permit application is submitted, an appraisal request is sent to Real Estate Services from Toronto Buildings as part of the standard permit review process. No additional action is required on the part of the applicant to initiate an appraisal request. Upon receipt of the appraisal request, professional appraisal staff in Real Estate Services require four to eight weeks to assess the proposed development and generate an appraisal. Once the appraisal is prepared, it is circulated to Toronto Buildings and to the applicant. The appraisal includes contact information for the Real Estate Services staff person assigned to the file. Payment of cash-in-lieu of land is required to be submitted to Toronto Buildings prior to the issuance of the first above-grade building permit.

Parks Levy Payment Under Protest

In the event of a dispute between the City and an applicant on the value of the cash-in-lieu of parkland dedication payment, as per Section 42 of the Planning Act, an applicant can pay the amount required by the City under protest and make an application to the Ontario Land Tribunal. The applicant should consult with their legal counsel to ensure that they are following the proper protocol and submitting the correct application and supporting documentation.