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Zoning Districts and Bylaws

The primary legal and administrative means of implementing a policy plan is the zoning bylaw. It divides a municipality into zoning districts and regulates the development and use of land in those districts. A zoning bylaw permits a council to set local standards for the subdivision and use of land, and helps manage the delivery of municipal services and resources to new development.

A zoning bylaw usually has the following sections:

  1. Introduction establishes the legal authority of the bylaw;
  2. Interpretation contains definitions;
  3. Administration:
    • authorizes an officer to process development applications;
    • establishes development permit procedures;
    • establishes a Development Appeals Board;
    • provides for minor variances;
    • prescribes fees for permits and amendments; and
    • provides penalties.
  4. General Regulations apply in every zoning district e.g. restrictions for building on hazardous land, development standards, and requirements for only one principal building or use per site; and
  5. Zoning Districts divide the municipality into areas of land with common development standards or regulations. The regulations for each district may specify which land uses are prohibited, permitted, or permitted only at the discretion of a council in conformity with the policy plan.
Each zoning district may have regulations specifying:

  • the area and dimensions of new lots or parcels of land;
  • the size, location, dimensions, and types of buildings;
  • the provision of parking spaces or payments in lieu;
  • outdoor storage and landscaping;
  • the size and location of signs and lighting;
  • the removal of soil or vegetation;
  • sound or noxious emissions.

Special Zoning Provisions are not required in a Municipality’s zoning bylaw; however, they can provide greater control to development in their jurisdiction. Special zoning provisions in The Planning and Development Act, 2007,are:

  • Direct Control Districts: these may allow unique development proposals after the municipality and developer make an agreement specifying the permitted land uses, buildings, structures, services, landscaping, and related matters.
  • Contract Zoning: these allows a council to reclassify land to a different zoning district for a specific project while excluding the other land uses normally allowed in the new zoning district. The agreement may specify additional development standards.
  • Exceptions to Development Standards: This "bonus zoning" permits the relaxation of specific zoning regulations in exchange for specified benefits (e.g. a developer may be allowed to add an extra storey to a building in exchange for providing more parking spaces).
  • The Holding Provision:This allows a council to designate a future zoning district. When development is ready to begin an amending bylaw can remove the “H” (holding symbol) without notifying the public.
  • Demolition Control Districts: A council can apply the symbol "DC" to an area where it wants to control the demolition of a residential building.
  • Architectural Control Districts: A council can control the architectural details of buildings in a district.

To use any of the special zoning conditions, a council must have governing guidelines and standards in a policy plan.
Special ministerial approval and appeals procedures may also be involved.

Additional Considerations

Non-conforming Uses and Buildings
After a zoning bylaw is enacted or amended, existing land uses or buildings may not conform to the new regulations. A non-conforming use or building is not affected by a change of ownership, tenancy or occupancy. A non-conforming use may be continued and expanded inside any building in which it exists; if the use is discontinued for six consecutive months, future uses of the land or building must conform to current zoning bylaw regulations. A nonconforming building may continue to be used in an "as is" condition and can be enlarged or structurally altered in conformance with the new regulations. If damaged beyond 75% of its value above the foundation, the building must be rebuilt in conformity with the bylaw.

Appeals
When adopting a zoning bylaw, a municipality must also appoint a Development Appeals Board. The Act requires an appeal process to:

  • protect an individual's property rights;
  • deal with errors or unique situations; and
  • protect against unnecessary delays.
Applicants for development permits may appeal some decisions on their applications to the Development Appeals Board. If a party is dissatisfied with a Board's decision, a further appeal to the provincial Planning Appeals Committee may be possible.

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