The City of Montreal's Ville-Marie Borough, which is responsible for the Downtown Core, adopted on March 21, 2013 an Omnibus By-Law amending the Règlement d'urbanisme de l'arrondissement Ville-Marie (By-Law 01-282), which is scheduled to come into force mid-April, after its publication according to law.[1]

The Omnibus By-Law mainly sets out to harmonize the Zoning By-Law with the City's updated Planning Program. It also aims to clarify the various discretionary land use planning mechanisms available to the Borough.

The amendments made by this Omnibus By-Law are principally of interest to developers, promoters and other players in the real estate industry actively involved in the development of new projects in the Downtown Core. The process conducted by the Borough to arrive at this modernization of the Zoning By-Law has been ongoing for some time and it is quite probable that its elements have already been taken into consideration by City officials with respect to projects recently presented by promoters.

The amendments made by the Omnibus By-Law should have little impact on owners of existing buildings, unless they wish to transform their property.

Principal Amendments

The Omnibus By-Law amends more than 600 sections of the Zoning By-law. It essentially focuses on three aspects, namely height & density, uses and landscape units. It also contains various specific provisions, including with respect to environment and sustainable development or to measures to reduce thermal islands. The amendment to the Zoning By-Law allows the reduction of the number of existing zones on the territory.

You will find below a brief description of the principal amendments made by the Omnibus By-Law to the existing by-law.

Provisions relating to Height & Density

  • The Omnibus By-Law simplifies the existing regulation with respect to height by reducing the number of categories of maximum height applicable on the territory, as well as by establishing the applicable minimum height to sixteen metres. However, two new categories of permitted excess height (surhauteurs) are introduced.
  • The concept of a maximum height determined by a number of storeys is no longer applicable in areas of permitted excess height, except in certain exceptional cases (patrimonial areas).
  • With respect to density, the requirements applicable to several zones have been adjusted to reflect the amendments made to the Planning Program.

Provisions relating to Uses

  • Title III of the Zoning By-Law relating to uses is entirely rewritten. The purpose is to reorganize the actual categories of uses. The Omnibus By-Law does not seek to change, but rather to clarify what is permitted in each zone. The permitted uses in each zone remain essentially the same, with certain exceptions.
  • The Omnibus By-Law provides for the replacement of the existing categories of uses with three main families: residential zones (R.1 to R.3); mixed zones (M.1 to M.11) and collective and institutional equipment zones (E.1 to E.6).

Provisions relating to Landscape Units and Buildings of Interest (unités de paysage et immeubles d'intérêt)

  • The Omnibus By-Law replaces the concept of "significant areas and buildings" (secteurs et immeubles significatifs), which allows for additional architectural criteria to be imposed, with the concept of "landscape units and buildings of interest" (unités de paysage et immeubles d'intérêt)
  • The Omnibus By-Law divides the entire territory of the Borough into 19 landscape units, each unit being subject to specific architectural criteria (such as insertion (implantation), alignment and building volume or materials for building façades, for instance).
  • The requirements of each landscape unit will need to be studied in light of individual projects to determine the impact of the proposed buildings' insertion and design.

Approval by Referendum

It is interesting to note that a request for participation in a referendum with respect to the Omnibus By-Law was filed by a sufficient number of qualified voters in Zone 0987. Consequently, the Omnibus By-Law excludes provisions of the draft by-law relating to said zone, which provisions will be subject to the opening of a register for qualified voters in accordance with the Act respecting Land Use Planning and the Act respecting Elections and Referendums in Municipalities.

The adoption of the separate by-law containing provisions relevant to said zone is scheduled for April 9, 2013 and will be followed by the opening of a register in which qualified voters may demand that a referendum poll be held.