What is an Official Plan?
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.
What is a Land Use Bylaw?
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.
What will change for me?
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 lots 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