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Zoning By-Law

What is a Zoning By-Law?

A zoning by-law controls the use of land in your community. It states exactly:

  • how land may be used
  • where buildings and other structures can be located
  • the types of buildings that are permitted and how they may be used
  • the lot sizes and dimensions, parking requirements, building heights and setbacks from the street

An official plan sets out the Town’s general policies for future land use. Zoning by-laws put the plan into effect and provide for its day-to-day administration. They contain specific requirements that are legally enforceable. Construction or new development that does not comply with a zoning by-law is not allowed, and the municipality will refuse to issue a building permit.

The Town of East Gwillimbury's zoning by-law was passed in 1997. It divides the municipality into different land use zones, with detailed maps. The by-law specifies the permitted uses (e.g. commercial or residential) and the required standards (e.g. building size and location) in each zone.

Why Do You Need a Zoning By-Law?

A zoning by-law:

  • implements the objectives and policies of a municipality’s official plan.
  • provides a legal way of managing land use and future development
  • protects you from conflicting and possibly dangerous land uses in your community

What is a Zoning By-Law Amendment?

If you want to use or develop your property in a way that is not allowed by the zoning by-law, you may have to apply for a zoning change, also known as a zoning by-law amendment or a rezoning. But council can consider a change only if the new use is allowed by the official plan.

Before you apply for a rezoning, you should talk to the municipal staff for advice and information. You are required to complete an application form which contains information prescribed by the minister and any other additional information that the municipality may require. There is an application fee to get your application processed by municipal staff.

The process for dealing with zoning by-law amendments is the same as for a zoning by-law. If local council refuses your zoning application, or if it does not make a decision within 120 days of the receipt of your application containing the prescribed information, you may appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) directly by writing to the secretary of the OMB, 655 Bay Street, 15th floor, Toronto, ON M5G 1E5.

The OMB is an independent administrative tribunal responsible for hearing appeals and deciding on a variety of contentious municipal matters

How is a Zoning By-Law Passed?

When council decides to pass a zoning by-law, it must first give as much information as possible to the public. There must be at least one public meting before a by-law is passed and everyone who attends the meeting must have a chance to speak. Notice of this meeting is given 20 days in advance, usually through local newspapers or by mail.

The Planning Act encourages early up-front involvement and the use of mediation techniques to resolve any conflicts. Make sure you make your views known early in the planning process. If you don’t, this may mean that the OMB could dismiss any appeal you may make later on, without holding a hearing.

Your local council must also consult with interested agencies before it makes a decision. After hearing everyone’s concerns, council may decide to pass, change or reject the proposed by-law. If it decides to make some changes, it may also decide to hold another public meeting.

Once council has passed the by-law, it must give notice of the passing of the by-law within 15 days after the by-law is passed. Any person or public body may, not later that 20 days after the notice of the passing of the by-law is given, appeal to the OMB by filing a notice of appeal with the municipal clerk. The appeal should set out the objections to the by-law and the reasons in support of the objections accompanied by the fee required by the OMB.

How are Zoning By-Laws Evaluated?

When Council considers a zoning by-law they evaluate it against criteria such as:

  • conformity with the official plan and compatibility with adjacent uses of land
  • suitability of the land for the proposed purpose, including the size and shape of the lot(s) being created
  • adequacy of vehicular access, water supply, sewage disposal
  • the need to ensure protection from potential flooding

When council considers a zoning by-law, it must be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement issued under the Planning Act. The Provincial Policy Statement contains clear, overall policy directions on matters of provincial interest related to land use planning and development.

How Can You Get Involved?

If you have concerns about a proposed zoning by-law or amendment that may affect you, you should:

  • find out as mush as possible about the proposed by-law and how it affects your property
  • go to the public meeting and give your opinions
  • discuss the proposal with municipal staff and council members
  • write to your council member or municipal clerk

If council knows about your concerns early in the process, it can try to take them into account before passing the by-law.

What Rights of Appeal Do You Have?

Appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) can be made in two different ways:

  1. Any person or public body may appeal the council’s passage of by-law to the OMB within 20 days from the date the notice of the passage of the by-law is given. The notice of appeal should be filed with the municipal clerk.
  2. Any person or public body requesting a rezoning may appeal to the OMB if the council refuses or fails to act on such a request within 120 days of the receipt of the prescribed information. The notice of appeal should be filed with the secretary of the OMB, 655 Bay Street, 15th floor, Toronto, ON M5G 1E5.

Your appeal must be accompanied by written reasons and the fee required by the OMB.

What are the Ontario Municipal Board's Powers Relating to Appeals?

In appeal cases, the OMB holds a hearing at which you, and any other affected parties, will have an opportunity to present and discuss your views. The OMB can allow or dismiss your appeal, or repeal or amend the by-law. The OMB also has the power to dismiss an appeal without holding a hearing.

Appealing a local decision to the OMB is a serious matter. It can take considerable time, effort and in some cases, money for everyone involved. A hearing may last only a few hours if the matter is quite simple, but for more complicated matters, a hearing can last for several days or even weeks. The OMB will make a decision based on the facts presented at a hearing.