“The Planning Act grants authority to Municipal Councils to appoint committees to approve a number of minor applications. Section 45 of the Planning Act permits the Committee of Adjustment to make decisions on Minor Variances from the Zoning By-law and to grant permission for altering or changing a lawful non-conforming use of land, buildings or structures. Section 53 of the Planning Act permits the Committee of Adjustment to make decisions on applications for changes to land configuration in the form of Consents.” (City of Toronto website)


This, simply put, means that they are the people who give you permission to build something on your property that exceeds limits set by zoning bylaws. Generally speaking, in order to be successful, the proposed variances have to be minor. For example, say you want to build a third storey addition and the bylaw has a maximum height that you wish to exceed by half a metre. The Committee of Adjustment can grant permission to build it. Maybe you want a rear addition and you need to go a little bit closer to the property line than you’re allowed. It could be that either of these proposals increase the gross floor area of your home so that you exceed the maximum allowable on your property. Perhaps all three apply. These are examples of minor variances from the zoning bylaw and these are exactly the types of things Barrett Municipal Consulting gets approved for you.


The idea of “lawful non-conforming use” usually refers to situations where the existing conditions on a property predate the zoning bylaw. One example would be a sideyard setback situation where the bylaw requires a certain distance between your home and the property line, but your home was built in the 1950s, long before this rule was in place, and it's already too close to the property line. It would be ridiculous if the city were to force you to move your entire home to comply with this bylaw, so the Committee of Adjustment can (and usually will) legalize a non-conforming use like this. These situations can come up when renovating or adding on to older homes. Quite often, when seeking approval for other minor variances (height, lot coverage, etc.), we must also seek approval to legalize non-conforming uses. 


Consent refers to land severances. Perhaps you’ve got a large lot and you want to split it in two and build a second house on the property with the intention of selling the newly created lot. Barrett Municipal Consulting has handled several of these cases, both residential and commercial, and we know how to navigate the process. Quite often, when seeking permission to sever land, it becomes necessary to apply for minor variances as well. This is because a newly created or resized property can trigger new variances, especially in terms of setbacks, but also with respect to lot coverage, gross floor area, and so on. 


Committee of Adjustment meetings typically occur bi-weekly at City Halls around the GTA, and somewhat less frequently in smaller municipalities. The fees charged by each municipality vary, as do the waiting times to obtain a meeting date. There are also different application requirements and preparations required depending on where your property is located. Contact us to discuss the specifics of your project and we can determine the best course of action.

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