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Information on Zoning By-laws

What is a Zoning By-law?

A zoning by-law is a precise document used by the City of Brockville to regulate the use of land.  It states exactly what land uses are currently permitted in the City and provides detailed information such as:

  • where buildings or structures may be located;
  • types of uses and dwellings permitted;

  • standards for lot size, parking requirements, building height, side yard dimensions and setback from the street.

How does a zoning by-law differ from an official plan? 

While official plans set out the general, long-range policy framework for future land use, zoning by-laws put those plans into effect and provide for their day-to-day administration.

Unlike the official plan, the zoning by-law contains very specific and legally enforceable regulations.  Any new development or construction that fails to comply with a municipality’s zoning by-law is not permitted and will be denied a building permit.

The City has a Zoning By-law that divides the entire municipality into land use zones.  A detailed map of these zones forms an important part of the written by-law.  Within each zone, the by-law specifies the permitted uses (e.g.: commercial or residential) and the required standards (e.g.: location and size of buildings).

Why are zoning by-laws needed?

To help implement the objectives and policies of a municipality’s official plan.

To provide a specialized legal tool for managing the use of land and future development in your community.

To help maintain existing property values and protect property owners from the development of conflicting land uses.

What other types of zoning by-laws are there?

A number of specialized by-laws may be used to control land use:

  • Holding by-laws set out the future use of land or buildings but delay their development until, for example, local services such as sewers and water supplies are in place.  Interim uses are usually specified.
  • Interim control by-laws are used to place a temporary “freeze” on certain land uses while a municipality is studying or reviewing its land use policies.  Such a freeze can be put in place for a year at a time, to a maximum of two years only.
  • Temporary use by-laws zone land or buildings for a specific use for a maximum of three years at time, with further extensions possible.

How is a zoning by-law passed?

When a municipality decides to prepare a comprehensive zoning by-law, it must first make adequate information available to the public.  Local councils must hold at least one public meeting to allow citizens an opportunity to express their views before a decision is made.  Notice of this meeting is given in advance, usually through local newspapers or by mail.  Anyone present at the meeting has a right to address the proposal.

Your local council may also consult with interested agencies, boards, authorities or commissions before making a decision.  When full consideration is given to all concerns, council passes an amending by-law.  If changes are made to the proposal, council must decide whether another public meeting is necessary.

What is a zoning by-law amendment? 

If you propose using or developing your property in a way that does not comply with the existing by-law, you may have to apply for a zoning change.  A rezoning or zoning amendment can be considered only if your new use is allowed by the City’s official plan.

Before you apply for a rezoning, please contact Planning Department Staff to arrange for a preconsultation meeting.  Please refer to the previous page for information about mandatory preconsultation.

The process for dealing with zoning amendments is the same as for a zoning by-law.  It may also involve review by committees or municipal staff, as well as public meetings and negotiations.  If local council refuses your zoning application, you may appeal to the O.M.B. 

How am I involved?

If you are concerned about a zoning application that may affect you or your property, you can take part in the decision making process in the community by:

  •        finding out as much as possible about the proposed by-laws;
  •        attending the public meeting and expressing your opinions;
  •        discussing the proposal with municipal staff and council members;
  •        sending your views in writing to the Director of Planning.

If local council has the benefit of your views early in the process, they can consider all the information, and make changes or modifications to resolve your concerns before the by-law is passed.

Once the by-law is passed, a notice is sent out to those concerned advising them of the council’s decision and specifying an appeal period.

What rights of appeal do I have?

If your concerns cannot be resolved at the municipal level and you do not agree with the council’s decision on the by-law, you can, as a last resort, make an appeal to the  Ontario Municipal Board (O.M.B.), an independent appeal body, by writing to the local clerk.  You have twenty (20) days from the date of written notice of the council decision to make your appeal. 

Remember to write down the reasons for your appeal in detail.  The O.M.B. will hold a public hearing at which you will have an opportunity to present your case.

The O.M.B. can either allow or dismiss your appeal, repeal or amend the by-law in any way it sees fit.  The O.M.B.’s decision is final, except when the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing declares a provincial interest in the by-law.  In this case, the Ontario Cabinet may confirm, overturn or change the O.M.B.’s decision.

An appeal to the O.M.B. is a serious matter requiring considerable time, effort and in some cases, expense on the part of everyone involved.  A hearing can be as brief as a couple of hours if it involves few witnesses and only one or two planning issues but in more complex situations involving a number of adversaries, the hearing could stretch out over several days, sometimes even weeks.

What if all I need is a minor change in the by-law?

If you have a proposal that is essentially in keeping with the zoning by-law, but does not conform exactly, you can apply for a minor variance.  This eliminates the need for a formal rezoning application in cases where, for example, because of the shape of your lot, what you are proposing to do may prevent you from meeting the minimum side yard setback.

As long as the general purpose and intent of the by-law and official plan can be maintained, a variance of “minor” significance can be considered by your municipality.

Obtaining a minor variance involves application to your local Committee of Adjustment, followed by a public hearing and full consideration of your proposal.  Committees of Adjustment are appointed by local councils to deal with minor problems in meeting municipal by-law standards.

Anyone who disagrees with the Committee of Adjustment’s decision should make sure that their appeal gets to the Secretary-Treasurer of the Committee of Adjustment setting out the reasons supporting the objection.  This must be done within 20 days of the Committee of Adjustment’s decision.

Unlike a zoning amendment, a minor variance does not change the existing by-law.  Instead, it provides relief from the specific requirements of the by-law in order to allow you to follow through with your proposal and obtain a construction permit (see Public Information Release entitled “Committee of Adjustment”).

To obtain additional information with respect to submitting an Application for Zoning By-law Amendment, please contact Lorraine Bagnell, Administrative Coordintor - Planning, (613) 342-8772; or email contact form.

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