When six former municipalities amalgamated in 1998 to form the new City of Toronto, the City inherited 43 individual zoning by-laws applying to its former municipalities. Each of these 43 zoning by-laws came with its own unique set of permitted uses, definitions and performance standards (such as maximum permitted heights, setbacks, gross floor area, etc.). Since 2002, municipal staff in Toronto have attempted to address the patchwork of current zoning by-laws by undertaking the "Harmonized Zoning By-law Project". Its goal: to create a single, comprehensive, city-wide zoning by-law. The City recently announced that the first draft of the new zoning by-law will be available on-line for review and comment in May 2009.

How Will the New Zoning By-law Impact You?

It is important for all owners and developers of land, buildings and structures in the City of Toronto to assess the impact of the proposed zoning by-law on existing developments and land use permissions. The new zoning by-law for the City of Toronto is generally intended to reflect the "intent" of the existing 43 zoning by-laws while creating common zoning standards. However, a number of substantive changes are expected,including new standards for large format, stand-alone (big box) retail; new performance standards for 'tall' buildings; new performance standards for land uses that store dangerous substances on site; and new performance standards (e.g., new massing and scale standards) in the City's designated growth areas, such as 'Avenues'.

Impacts on Land Use Permissions and Land Value

The new zoning by-law for the City of Toronto, once it comes into force, will potentially impact existing development permissions and opportunities and, in turn, may impact land values across the City. For existing developments, the new zoning by-law may impose new restrictions on the expansion or redevelopment potential of sites. While the new zoning bylaw will allow the continued legal use of existing buildings and structures, initiating any subsequent development approvals process will likely trigger the requirement to bring any "legal non-conforming" situation into conformity with the standards of the new zoning by-law. In the absence of specific exemptions or other such provisions in the new zoning by-law, land currently approved for redevelopment (pursuant to a minor variance approval or a site-specific zoning by-law amendment), but for which a building permit has not been issued, will be required to comply with the new zoning by-law when it comes into force.

Consultation and Approval Process

When the draft city-wide zoning by-law is released on-line in May 2009, interested land owners and developers may participate in the public consultation process and raise questions and concerns, as prescribed by the Planning Act, which includes appeal rights to the Ontario Municipal Board. The consultation period is anticipated to be complete in October 2009, when municipal staff will convene a special public meeting of City Council and present a final report with recommendations on the new zoning by-law.