We can assist will all stages of the planning approval process, from the concept design stage through to permit implementation. We have worked on development applications spanning the whole of the Planning Act and related legislation. Here is a summary of some of the services that we can provide.
Minor Variance Applications
Most new houses or new additions require minor variances. Zoning by-laws are sometimes dated or simply do not reflect existing development standards. In the City of Toronto, we have multiple by-laws to contend with because the City enforces both the former municipal by-laws and the new Comprehensive Zoning By-law 569-2013. Regulations restricting coverage/gross floor area, below-grade garages, wall and roof heights, and flat roof (modern) houses affect the design of a home, particularly on narrow lots. These restrictions drive design such that variances are necessary to achieve a well-functioning home.
We assist with the preparation and submission of minor variance applications to the Committee of Adjustment, and appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board. If appropriate, we will attempt to negotiate a resolution with the municipality and objecting neighbours. If a settlement is impossible, we work with a land use planner and other experts to prepare a comprehensive case to address the “four tests” under s. 45(1) the Planning Act:
- Does the proposal maintain the general intent and purpose of the Official Plan?
- Does the proposal maintain the general intent and purpose of the Zoning By-law?
- Is the proposal desirable for the appropriate development or use of the land, building or structure?
- Is the proposal minor?
Consent (Severance) Applications
The Province has mandated intensification as an important and necessary planning objective to address urban sprawl. In appropriate circumstances, one or more lots may be amalgamated and subdivided to create additional lots that are more compact but still provide for diverse housing with appropriate built form.
We can assist with providing advice regarding the likelihood of obtaining a severance on a prospective property, and with the filing of consent applications and appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board. We work cooperatively with a land use planner and other experts to assess the lot fabric in a neighbourhood and prepare a comprehensive case to support the proposed severance, having regard to the factors in s. 51(24) of the Planning Act. If possible, we work with the City and any neighbours to reach a mutually satisfactory built form for the proposed new houses. Our fist objective is always to obtain the severance.
Draft Plan of Subdivision
A draft plan of subdivision is required for more complex divisions of a property. A draft plan can be used to subdivide a rural property into individual residential lots, new roads, parks and stormwater management blocks. It can also be used to subdivide a vacant or underutilized parcel of land into various blocks for commercial retail “big box” plazas.
We typically become involved earlier on in the application stage, to work with the municipality and external agencies to address comments and reach an appropriate draft plan submission. We assist clients with negotiations with adjacent landowners to resolve issues related to the coordination of adjacent plans of subdivision, including with respect to servicing and other cost sharing items.
We direct and manage the strategy for complex appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board, including coordination of various project consultants and the coordination of evidence at lengthy hearings.
We also have experience negotiating and drafting Subdivision Agreements, and assisting clients with clearance of conditions as necessary.
Development proposals that do not meet the principal requirements of the applicable zoning with respect to use or performance standards will require an amendment to the applicable zoning by-law. For example, a rezoning application will be required to permit a more intense form of apartment building development on lands zoned for low rise residential, or to permit retail commercial development on rurally zoned lands.
We can advise clients throughout the more complex rezoning process, including preconsultation with municipal staff, lobbying efforts, submissions at statutory public meetings and participation in community meetings, all with a view to obtaining a positive staff report and council approval.
We also conduct all related appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board. More complicated appeals require coordination of prehearing requirements, including preparation of witness statements (written evidence), document briefs, and visual exhibits for the hearing. We work with land use planners and other consultants to develop a coordinated and comprehensive case to support the project.
We can similarly assist affected landowners in large, municipally initiated zoning by-law proceedings, which are often complex and involve a large number of parties.
Official Plan Applications and Appeals
Rezoning applications are often accompanied by Official Plan amendment applications, which are necessary when a proposed use does not conform with applicable Official Plan policies. For example, an OPA may be required to redesignate lands from a rural use to a commercial use, or to permit residential uses at a higher density than contemplated in the applicable residential designation.
Where an OPA is filed as a companion application to a rezoning, we address the consolidation of the applications at the Ontario Municipal Board, and the conduct of a consolidated hearing. As noted in the rezoning section above, we can assist with all stages of the application, including preconsultation, lobbying and negotiation efforts, attendance at public meetings, and conduct of the appeal before the Ontario Municipal Board.
We can similarly assist affected landowners in large, municipally initiated OPA proceedings, which are often complex and involve a large number of parties.
A site plan is an implementation application that is required in areas and/or for development projects subject to site plan control. Site plan drawings address the more detailed aspects of a development proposal, such as site circulation, lighting, and landscaping requirements.
We can assist with negotiating and resolving the details of a site plan with a municipality, including by addressing comments raised by external agencies. We also have extensive experience drafting Site Plan Agreements.
Where site plan applications are referred to the Ontario Municipal Board, we seek to finalize all details of the application prior to the hearing.
Employment Lands Conversions
The Province has identified the protection of employment lands as a matter of provincial interest. The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 provides that applications to convert lands designated for employment uses (including industrial and office uses, for example) to non-employment uses (residential) may only be considered in the context of a municipally initiated comprehensive review of its Official Plan, which should occur every five years (but often takes longer).
We can assist landowners in preparing conversion requests, and participating in the municipal OPA process. We are currently involved in the Ontario Municipal Board appeals of OPA 231, which is the City of Toronto’s broad amendment of its employment lands policies.
Working for Other Interested Parties
Our practice is almost exclusively focused on development-side work. But on occasion, we do assist existing or new clients who are neighbouring landowners with concerns about a development proposal. We are not “yes men” – we always give a frank and realistic assessment about the merits of the concerns, and the likelihood of success in opposing a development at the Ontario Municipal Board. We believe that this is a practical approach that ultimately achieves the best result for our client; our focus in opposition cases is to see if we can mediate a resolution with the developer that addresses our client’s legitimate planning concerns in a manner that is satisfactory to all parties involved.
Related issues that can arise in any development – and we can help!
Implementation (Permitting) Issues: We often assist clients when they run into road blocks after obtaining their requisite Planning Act approvals. For example, we can assist with problems obtaining tree permits, and demolition or building permits.
Heritage Issues: A heritage listing or designation adds another layer of regulation to the development application process. We have experience navigating the implications of the Ontario Heritage Act and municipal heritage by-laws, including working with consultants to preserve the heritage aspects of a building, and advising clients how to dispute a proposed heritage designation.
Conservation Authority Issues: We have broad experience working with Conservation Authorities both as a commenting agency, and in the permitting process under the Conservation Authorities Act. Being subject to the jurisdiction of a Conservation Authority has serious implications for a development project, and we can help you navigate that process.
Ravine By-law Issues: Some municipalities, including the City of Toronto, also have municipal by-laws regulating lands that are within or near ravines. We assist clients in working with municipal staff and consultants to identify the extent of developable lands, and to implement mitigation measures that compensate for development, such as ravine restoration plans.
Multidisciplinary Experts: A myriad of issues can arise in any development project. We have experience working with experts in many disciplines, including:
- land use planning
- transportation engineering
- geotechnical engineering
- stormwater management and servicing
- hydrogeological engineering
- ecology and biology
- architecture and urban design
- heritage preservation
- market consulting
Appeals: Although we specialize in Ontario Municipal Board proceedings, we have appeared before tribunals and courts of all levels in Ontario, including the Court of Appeal. We are experienced in section 43 reviews, and appeals with leave to the Divisional Court. On the rare occasion that appeals are filed, we can see your project through to completion.