Below is a brief overview of some aspects of the development process. It is not intended to be comprehensive or a substitute for legal or planning advice.
THE COMMITTEE OF ADJUSTMENT
Infill construction and renovations are governed by City zoning bylaws. Often the owner of the property – either an end-user or a developer – is seeking to exceed the limits of the bylaws with respect to height, depth, width or some combination of the three. Minor deviations from zoning bylaws – minor variances, changes to legal non-conforming uses (“permissions”) and land configuration (“consents”) – require an application to and approval by the City before a building permit will be issued. A variance is considered minor if it meets the four tests that have been established in the Planning Act: 1. Is the variance minor in size and impact? 2. Is it appropriate for development of the site? 3. Is the variance within the intent of the Official Plan? 4. Is the variance within the intent of the Zoning Bylaw?
Under The Planning Act Toronto City Council has appointed an administrative body known as the Committee of Adjustment to approve these applications.The Committee of Adjustment is divided into four small panels administered in the following districts: Etobicoke York, North York, Toronto and East York, Scarborough. North York Committee of Adjustment has jurisdiction over development in the Lytton Park area.
The City of Toronto has prepared a detailed brochure on the Committee of Adjustment:
City of Toronto Committee of Adjustment Brochure
LPRO has also prepared a Guide with some useful general tips for residents going to the Committee of Adjustment: LPRO C of A Tips
In the spring of 2021 LPRO became involved with Committee of Adjustment applications for selected new homes in the area. Our work includes educating and supporting local residents who want to advocate for themselves and their neighbourhood. This initiative is necessary to combat an increasing number of applications for oversized houses which fail to respect the character of our historic neighbourhood and disregard the zoning bylaw, which is intended to regulate development. These applications are eroding the character of the neighbourhood. We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback about this new initiative.
THE APPEAL PROCESS
If the applicant is denied by the Committee of Adjustment or if the applicant is successful and the person opposing the application wishes to challenge the Committee’s decision, either party can appeal. Most appeals must be made to the Toronto Local Appeals Board (TLAB), however decisions regarding certain types of applications must be appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), the new “super” tribunal formed in June 2021 after the merger of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) with four other tribunals. OLT will now to hear land and environmental matters in Ontario.
For information on TLAB see City of Toronto Public Guide to TLAB: City of Toronto TLAB Guide
For information on OLT:
Ontario Land Tribunal
THE PLANNING PROCESS AND THE ONTARIO LAND TRIBUNAL (OLT)
When the proposed development does not meet the intent of the zoning bylaw or the Official Plan for the property, the developer needs to apply for a zoning bylaw amendment and/or Official Plan amendment. This is often the case for larger condominium developments, mixed-used buildings and even certain townhouse developments.
This process requires an application to City Planning and other departments and agencies for initial review. A preliminary report, written by the City Planner responsible for the file, is presented to the local Community Council identifying a preliminary set of issues to be addressed and directing the scheduling of a community consultation meeting. A community consultation meeting is held. City Planning continues to assess the application, comparing it to planning policies and taking into account community feedback. City Planning then presents a report to the local Community Council recommending that the application be approved or refused. The final decision is made by Toronto City Council. The Developer can appeal in two ways: if Community Council does not make a decision within the prescribed timeline or if City Council denies the application. Residents have the right to appeal if they disagree with Council’s decision, but this rarely occurs. The appeal body is The Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT).
The Province’s former appeal body, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), was criticized for its wide-ranging authority and discretion to overrule City Council, often in favour of developers. In 2017 the Province of Ontario made changes to the appeals system in attempt to address this concern and renamed the OMB the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). Those substantive changes were largely reversed following the 2018 provincial election. In June 2021 LPAT was merged into a new body, the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT). Although the full impact of this latest change is not yet clear, OLT’s authority and discretion remain wide-ranging.
Under the OLT, affected parties such as residents groups are able to request “Party Status”, allowing them to take part in an appeal. Interested parties may also request “Participant Status” but will generally be limited to written submissions only. OLT cases can be resolved through a settlement or a contested hearing. A settlement can be reached through mediation led by the Tribunal or an outside mediator. Contested hearings involve “expert witnesses” and lawyers from each side. Taking the information presented by all Parties into account, the OLT issues a decision approving, approving with modifications or refusing the application. OLT decisions can be appealed to the Divisional Court, but this rarely occurs. While there are no rules which prohibit residents’ associations from participating in the process, a contested hearing can cost tens of thousands of dollars which poses a major barrier to participation.
For information on OLT:
Ontario Land Tribunal
To see Planning’s development applications site to locate applications in your neighbourhood:
City of Toronto Development Application Information Centre
RELEVANT DEVELOPMENT POLICY DOCUMENTS
The Official Plan is a planning document which outlines planning policies for the entire City. This includes a citywide “land-use” map which regulates how land can be used and guides the development of the City at a high level. Most of the LPRO Area is designated “Neighbourhoods” which permits low-rise residential development. Yonge Street is primarily designated “mixed-use.” Mixed-use areas permit both commercial and residential development and are intended to accommodate growth. Other parts of LPRO’s area are designated “Parks” which covers most parkland and “Natural Areas” which applies to naturalized spaces such as ravines. The land use map that includes LPRO’s area can be found here.
YONGE-EGLINTON SECONDARY PLAN
The LPRO area is affected by one secondary plan- the Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan. A secondary plan is more detailed than the Official Plan and applies to a specific area. The portion of the LPRO affected by the Plan includes Avenue Road to Yonge Street between Briar Hill Avenue and Roselawn Avenue and properties fronting onto Yonge Street between Briar Hill Avenue and Alexandra Blvd. The City engaged in a collaborative process with residents for several years to develop a new secondary plan for the Yonge-Eglinton Area to ensure development occurred in a responsible manner. After the new Plan was approved by City Council in 2018, the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing made numerous changes to weaken policies designed to restrict development. This included increasing height limitations and relaxing other policies such as setbacks of new buildings. The Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan as modified by the Minister is now in-force. Additional information can be found here.
AVENUE ROAD STUDY
Adopted in 2009, the Avenue Road Study applies to Avenue Road between Lawrence Avenue West and Wilson Avenue. The Avenue Road Study permits a maximum height of 5 storeys on smaller sites and 7 storeys on larger sites, both subject to angular plane and setback requirements. The Avenue Road Study can be found here.
Development on Yonge Street is evaluated using the “Mid-Rise Guidelines” which apply to a number of “Avenues” across the City that do not have specific studies such as the Avenue Road Study. Avenues are major roads designated for growth in the Official Plan. These Guidelines set out specific performance standards for new buildings including height, angular planes, and setbacks. The Mid-Rise Guidelines can be found here.