Official Plan & Land Use Bylaw Frequently Asked Questions

An Official Plan describes policies on how land in your community should be used. It is prepared by a professional planner with local public input and helps ensure that future planning and development will meet the specific needs of the community. An Official Plan makes the public aware of the municipality's general planning policies; ensures that growth is coordinated and meets the community’s needs; helps all members of the community understand how their land may be used now and in the future; provides a framework for establishing development bylaws to set local regulations for zoning and development; helps reduce conflicting land uses while meeting local and provincial interests, and shows Council's commitment to the future growth of the community. Policies within an Official Plan are statements of intent. As such, they frame zoning and development provisions. Simply stated, the policy document is what the community wants to achieve.

If an official plan describes what the community wants to achieve, the Land Use Bylaw outlines how to achieve these goals. A Land Use Bylaw outlines the rules around how land may be subdivided and used; where buildings and other structures can be located; the types of buildings that are permitted and how they may be used; lot sizes and dimensions, parking requirements, building heights and setbacks from the street. Land use bylaws provide for the day-to-day administration and contain specific requirements that are legally enforceable. Proposed development that doesn’t comply with a zoning bylaw is not allowed, and the municipality can refuse to issue a development permit.

Once the new official plan and bylaw are in place, all subdivision and development applications will be submitted to the municipality, rather than to the Province. The municipality will be responsible for reviewing and issuing the approvals. Applications for building permits will continue to be submitted to the Province for approval.

The official plan provides a policy context for decisions about land use, helping residents, property owners, and other members of the community understand the types of uses that are likely to be added around them over time. The policies describe the priorities, goals, and objectives relating to land use in the municipality.

Municipalities have a significant amount of discretion in establishing those policies and development standards but may not be any less stringent than applicable provincial minimums. These provincial requirements tend to be related to minimum standards for lot s with on-site services, setbacks from wetland and watercourses and other environmental protection standards, and transportation requirements. 

The Special Planning Area (SPA, aka buffer) rules will remain in place until such a time as they are removed or replaced by the Province, but the municipality has a bit of discretion to set out a slightly different approach to managing development – provided the official plan and bylaw meet the primary objectives set out in the SPA regulations.

Future land uses will be organized through zoning, where a range of permitted uses are established for each zone in the bylaw.

All changes in standards and zoning go through a public process before the council makes a decision on the proposed change.

Zoning and other standards apply to new subdivisions and land uses and are, generally speaking, not retroactive.

Once they are adopted by Council and approved by the minister responsible for the Planning Act, a plan and bylaw will remain in place, but the policies and standards contained in them can change over time. There is a requirement that the plan and bylaw be reviewed every five years and amendments can be proposed to Council at any time. Any change to the official plan and bylaw goes through a public process.

Some of the standards are the same, such as the rules for lots on collector highways, or are very similar. Some standards have been brought forward for consistency with the current New Haven-Riverdale standards, and others have been proposed in response to new data and guidance (future flood risk) or concerns and priorities raised in the survey or in previous public meetings. The key priorities have been public and environmental health and safety, as well as protection of the rural character of the community, balanced with the interests of residents and property owners to be able to make use of their land.

Differences from provincial approaches include the use of zoning, the requirement for public meetings on certain uses deemed to have a greater potential for land use conflicts, development constraints in future flood risk areas, directing multi-lot subdivisions to certain areas through a rezoning process, and not tying secondary suites such as garden suites to family members or people under or giving care. Further, in contrast to the provincial system, a public meeting would be required any time there is a change to the plan and bylaw.

Existing lots can be developed for uses permitted in the zone in which they are located. Existing lots that are too small for conventional on-site systems may be required to install more enhanced; systems designed to work on smaller lots or where the soil quality makes proper drainage more of a challenge.

Yes. The Rural Area Zone includes a range of uses, from the primary resource, uses to residential, commercial, and institutional.

Yes. Farm gate outlets will be permitted in all zones, pretty much as they are today. Provisions are included for hobby farms or small scale livestock on residential properties in the Rural Residential Zone based on the property size to limit the impact on neighbours, but elsewhere, there are no restrictions.

Intensive livestock operations, as set out in the Environmental Protection Act Watercourse and Wetland Protection Regulations, involve a setback to minimize land use conflicts, and there would be a similar setback for new residential uses adjacent to those operations. These include places where livestock are found in a density greater than seven animal units per acre of living space, with the calculation of animal units to be determined by reference to Schedule D of those regulations.

As proposed, a small number of lots would be permitted to be subdivided in the Rural Area Zone. If a property owner wanted to proceed with a residential subdivision, they would apply for a rezoning to the Rural Residential Zone, which would involve a public meeting and a bylaw amendment if approved.

No, existing private roads can continue as they are, recognizing that the provincial rules have only permitted certain uses such as seasonal uses, commercial rental cottages and certain other commercial uses on private roads.

Currently, there are two choices – retain the provincial SPA rules or create a system that meets the objectives of the SPA and the requirements of subsection 63(10) of the SPA rules.

Provincial Standards

  • 1 lot from a parcel existing on July 9, 1994
  • That lot may be used for 1 of 7 uses identified in the regulations
  • Property owners with more than one child may be permitted additional residential lots, but must promise that the lots will be conveyed only to those children and the lot be used for single-detached dwelling only.

Proposed Approach

  • As much as possible, a consistent approach was developed across the municipality to minimize the differences.
  • If the approach is different from the provincial rules, the rules must:
    1. limit the loss of primary resource lands, minimize land use conflicts, and minimize the amount of unserviced development, and
    2. limit the number of residential lots in a subdivision to no more than five lots per existing parcel of land, unless (i) central water service, central sewerage service, or both of them, by a municipal water utility, municipal sewerage utility, or both of them, is available, and (ii) an irrevocable agreement has been signed between the developer and the municipal water utility, municipal sewerage utility, or both of them, to provide central water service, central sewerage service, or both of them, to all lots prior to the conveyance of any lot from the approved subdivision.
  • Differentiation is not made on the basis of whether or not the property owner has children.
  • 4 lots would be permitted in Rural Area Zone, based on parcels existing on effective date of bylaw, a maximum of 2 of which may be commercial.
  • 2 lots would be permitted in the Commercial Industrial Zone
  • Additional lots would be permitted in the Rural Residential zone, if serviced by central municipal water or sewer or both.

The Rural Residential Zone was applied to existing clusters of residential lots that share access roads off main highways or in areas identified as potential future clusters. The intent is to direct larger multi-lot subdivisions to areas already shifting to that type of use rather than having them spread out, in order to protect the rural nature of the area. New areas would go through a public rezoning process.

The Commercial Industrial Zone was applied to most parcels where the existing principal use was commercial or industrial.

The Open Space Zone was applied to municipal parks, provincial parks and adjoining property, and federal parks and historic sites.

The Rural Area Zone was applied to all other areas to protect the predominantly rural nature of the community but contains a mix of permitted uses, including resource uses, commercial uses, and residential uses.

The Environmental Reserve Zone was applied to watercourse and wetlands, as well as coastal areas, plus their buffer. It also includes areas identified by the Province as being in the 2100 flood plain, properties in the Cornwall wellfield area, and any registered contaminated sites (of which there is 1 currently). The rules for using properties in the ER zone depend on the reason for that zone to have been applied – the watercourses and wetlands and their buffers are similar to the provincial standards. The wellfield area includes consultation with the Town of Cornwall to identify any potential concerns with proposed uses, and the contaminated site has a different list of permitted uses and would no longer fall under the ER zone if the contamination is no longer considered to exist.

The 2100 flood plains have been identified in information released in late 2021 by the Province and take into account projected sea-level rise, erosion, and storm surges. The flood risk areas are based on elevation above sea level.

Where there is a restriction based on the elevation of the property outside of the primary watercourse/beach/wetland buffer, the property may still be developed if the grade of the property can be raised and all other requirements can be met (on-site systems, access, etc.). There are exemptions from these restrictions for a range of water-related structures such as fishing or bait sheds, aqua-culture operations, boat launches, wharfs, or structures or buildings on a property in which a wharf is located.

It depends on the location. If the proposed cottage is within the watercourse/wetland buffer, it is not permitted for environmental protection reasons. If it is in a flood or erosion risk area, there are long term public health and safety considerations in addition to damage to private property.

The Province has identified the problem of future flooding but has not yet changed its approach to address the new flood risk data. There is a responsibility for the municipality to take future flood risk into consideration when setting out development standards. This approach has been reviewed with the climate change secretariat that has been leading the flood risk work.

The intent was to limit those larger commercial and industrial uses that are more appropriate to urban areas and serviced business or industrial parks.

Parkland dedications are intended to protect elements of open space and build up recreational areas as communities develop over time. The intent with regards to Council discretion over the location of the parkland is primarily to ensure that unusable areas are not identified for parkland, although the location or the option to go with a cash-in-lieu is generally agreed to in discussion with the developer.  

Parkland in subdivisions approved under previous systems would continue as they are, which in many cases means they are held in common ownership by the property owners in the subdivisions or by the original developer.

The intent is for Council to identify priorities for parkland and open space over the coming years, including active recreation parks, trails, significant stands of trees or other priority open spaces.

Short-term rentals are permitted in any single-detached dwelling but would be licensed provincially. Further, tourism establishments, which are considered a commercial use, are permitted in the Rural Area Zone.

It depends on whether someone had begun the process of seeking approval from the Province. If a project had been started and approvals have not yet expired, the project would continue to be assessed under the provincial rules (or in New Haven-Riverdale, under the rules currently in place).
  • If an application for preliminary approval is underway or has been granted by the Province, the subdivision development would continue with the Province through to final approval.
  • If an application for a development permit is underway with the Province, the process would continue with the Province until a decision has been made on the application.

All three would be treated as single-detached dwellings.

This plan seeks to direct development in a way that balances community priorities and individual interests. While concerns have been raised that there has not been development in New Haven-Riverdale, despite factors outside of Council’s control (arterial highway and special planning area rules), there has still been a fair amount of directed development within that area in the past.