To ensure our communities are built safely, Municipalities in the Province of Ontario have building standards that must be followed – these standards are set out in zoning by-laws. These by-laws manage the types of use permitted on a property, including the minimum development requirements for those uses. Whenever changes are made to a particular site and regulations are not complied with, home/property owners will need a minor variance to legalize the property. A minor variance can relate to the land, building, structure or its use.
When Might I Need To Apply For A Minor Variance?
There are certain situations in which a home or property owner might need to apply for a minor variance:
Sale of A Property
When listing a home for sale, a seller must ensure that all existing buildings on the property were constructed in accordance with the by-law and all the necessary building permits were obtained. If a seller is unsure of the status of his or her property, a Compliance Report can be requested from the Planning and Building Department at their local Municipal office. If it is shown that one or more of the requirements of the by-law have not been met, the home/property owner may be able to obtain a minor variance approval to ensure that the property is legal.
If a home/property owner plans on constructing or renovating, a building permit needs to be obtained. If the project does not comply with the zoning by-law, or if a permit or zoning certificate of occupancy (change of use of property) has been denied, the property owner can apply to the municipality for a minor variance. Examples of minor variance applications may include, but are not limited to:
* New buildings or additions to existing buildings
* Porch enclosure or new deck
* New accessory buildings such as garages and sheds
* Enlargement, extension or change of use of any legal non-conforming building
* Parking spaces required for new or expanded businesses
How Do I Apply for a Minor Variance?
Home/property owners who wish to apply for a minor variance are required to submit an accurate, detailed application. Minor Variances are heard by the Committee of Adjustment – a group of individuals from the community who are appointed by the Municipal Council. The Committee of Adjustment meets monthly to consider minor variance applications. The Committee of Adjustment must be satisfied that an application for a minor variance satisfies four points — that the variance requested maintains the intent and purpose of the Official Plan and Zoning By-law; that it is considered desirable for the appropriate and orderly development or use of the land; and that the variance(s), in the view of the Committee of Adjustment, is truly minor in nature.
The Minor Variance application must include a sketch, drawn to scale, illustrating:
• size and location of all existing and proposed buildings, garages, pools, sheds, etc. on property
• all property lines and dimensions
• distance between all structures and the property lines
• details about ownership, property description, building dimensions and an outline of the proposal
• application fee
• written authorization for an appointed representative (if required)
The application is circulated to a number of city departments and other agencies for comments. Property owners within a 60 metre (approximate 200 foot) radius of the applicant’s property will be given notice of the proposal. A public hearing before the Committee of Adjustment will be scheduled and they will hear evidence and decide whether to approve or not approve the application proposal. The evidence includes the applicant’s verbal submission, written submissions from commenting agencies and the views of any individual receiving notice of the application or who attended the meeting.
Will I Require Professional Assistance With My Application?
While it is not legally required, applicants may wish to seek professional assistance with their application. Since they will be required to explain their application at the public hearing with the Committee of Adjustment, applicants need to feel confident and comfortable, with a clear understanding of the process. Professional representation in a minor variance application can be provided by a surveyor, a lawyer, or another professional in a related field. In cases where the proposed development needs justification, a professional may be needed to provide relevant studies as well as answer technical questions.
Approximately four weeks after the application is submitted, The Committee of Adjustment hearing will take place. If the application approved, it will not take effect until the 20 day appeal period following the decision has ended. If the application has been turned down, applicants can file an appeal to a higher authority – the Ontario Municipal Board. Applicants will have twenty days following the date the Committee of Adjustment decision is made to file an appeal with the Secretary-Treasurer.