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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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:
- limit the loss of primary resource lands, minimize land use conflicts, and minimize the amount of unserviced development, and
- 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 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.
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.
- 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.