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Development Permit System InfoSheet

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The Development Permit System (DPS) is a new land use planning tool available to all local Ontario municipalities. It provides an alternative approval system which facilitates and streamlines development, promotes community building, and enhances environmental protection. The DPS is part of the government’s commitment to provide municipalities with the tools they need to build strong, sustainable communities, and facilitate responsible growth for a strong Ontario.

Guelph Main StreetThe DPS helps strengthen a community’s vision for its future by contributing to strategic, integrated and long-term planning, and providing certainty, transparency and accountability on the form of future development for an area.

The DPS provides distinct advantages to municipalities as compared to other planning tools. Specifically, the DPS:

  • streamlines approvals
  • provides for faster approval timelines (45 vs. 120 days)
  • focuses third party appeals at the front end of the process, similar to site plan appeals
  • provides a more flexible approvals process, which can reduce the need for minor variances
  • provides for a broader range of conditions of approval not available through other planning tools
  • allows decisions on development permit applications to be delegated to a municipal employee or a committee appointed by Council
  • enables municipalities to incorporate their site alteration and tree-cutting bylaws into the DPS
  • combines land use and physical design considerations into one process

What is the DPS?

The DPS combines zoning, site plan and minor variance into one application and approval process. It promotes development by providing for faster timelines, eliminating potential duplication, incorporating flexibility for uses and development standards, and providing a “one-stop” planning service.

At the same time, the DPS builds upon the fundamental principles of planning in Ontario. It promotes the municipal role in developing the appropriate land use vision and policies for the municipality; it respects and maintains the role of the community in shaping the future of their neighbourhoods; it respects and maintains landowner rights in the development process; and it retains the role of the Ontario Municipal Board in resolving land use disputes.

The DPS does not include the lot creation or building permit processes, which continue to be separate and distinct from the DPS.

How do municipalities implement the DPS?

Ontario Regulation 608/06 (Development Permits) allows all local municipalities to use the DPS and sets minimum requirements for use of the system.

Before a municipality can issue development permits, the framework for the DPS must first be established in the municipal official plan. Council must amend the official plan to identify the DPS area, outline the vision and goals for the area, and provide the policy requirements for how the system will work.

Council must also pass a development permit by-law for the DPS area. Like a zoning by-law, the development permit by-law contains a list of permitted uses and standards. The by-law may also identify “discretionary” uses (uses that may be permitted subject to fulfilling certain criteria), permit some variation from development standards, and set out conditions that may be applied to the issuance of a development permit.

A development permit by-law is considered to be a zoning by-law under section 34 of the Planning Act.

Benefits of the DPS

The DPS incorporates many unique features which distinguish it from other planning tools:

DPS Facilitates Development

  • One Approval: Zoning, site plan, and minor variance are combined into one application and approval process.
  • Flexibility: The DPS is a flexible approval system, incorporating flexibility in both development standards and permitted uses (see next page).
  • Faster Review Timelines: Applicants have a right of appeal after 45 days if Council fails to make a decision on an application (this compares to 120 days for a decision on an application to amend a zoning by-law, for example).
  • Appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board: The DPS requires an official plan amendment and a development permit by-law to become operational, offering members of the public opportunities to share their opinions early in the process. Once the DPS is in place, only the applicant has the right of appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board for a decision on a development permit application that conforms to the requirements set out in the official plan policies and development permit by-law, similar to site plan applications.
  • Complete Application: To ensure municipalities have all the information needed to make the required decisions, the DPS enables municipalities to enhance information and material requirements for an application for approval of a development permit.  Municipalities may also exempt classes of development or uses of land from information and material requirements; this recognizes that it may not be reasonable, in every case, to require an applicant to provide all of the detailed information.
  • Streamlining Other Processes: The definition of “development” under the DPS builds upon the definition under section 41 of the Planning Act, to also include site alteration and the removal of vegetation. Through this expanded definition, the DPS provides the opportunity to integrate municipal site alteration and tree-cutting by-laws into the DPS.
  • Delegation: Decisions on development permits can be delegated to either a municipal employee or to a committee appointed by Council. This helps expedite development because decisions on an application do not have to be tied to Council’s meeting schedule.

Planned DevelopmentIn the DPS, the public continues to have a key role in shaping the form of their communities. By focusing input and appeals at the front-end of the process, the DPS provides more clarity and certainty to the community’s future land use vision.  

DPS Provides More Flexible Approval Process

  • Flexibility in Uses: Like a zoning by-law, a development permit by-law must identify and define a list of permitted uses. However, a development permit by-law may also identify discretionary uses that may be permitted if specified criteria are met. This is important for areas such as environmentally sensitive or contaminated areas where appropriate development has, in the past, been prohibited or hindered.
  • Flexibility in Development Standards: Like a zoning by-law, a development permit by-law must also identify minimum and maximum development standards. However, a development permit by-law may also establish a specified range of variation from these standards, avoiding the need for minor variances for applications that fall within the prescribed range of variation.

DPS Promotes Strong Communities

The DPS supports the development of strong, healthy, and sustainable communities. The system enables a range of conditions of approval to be applied to a development permit. This includes conditions that must be fulfilled before a development permit is issued, as well as conditions imposed on the issuance of a development permit or both. At the municipality’s discretion, one or more of these conditions can also be included in a development agreement which may be registered on title.

The DPS also allows municipalities to better ensure compatibility of development with existing or desired community character, by allowing for conditions related to exterior and sustainable building design, as permitted by section 41 of the Planning Act.

DPS Promotes Environmental Protection

  • Development in Environmentally Sensitive Areas: Through the discretionary use provisions discussed above, the DPS provides municipalities with a greater range of options in dealing with environmentally sensitive or hazardous areas, including those lands described in section 34 of the Planning Act (such as marshy or flood-prone lands and contaminated lands).
  • Ability to Regulate Site Alteration and Removal of Vegetation: “Development” is defined, in the DPS, to include site alteration and the removal of vegetation. This helps protect water quality, for example, through the requirement for vegetative buffers and erosion control measures.
  • Conditions on Development Permits: With the DPS, a municipality has the ability to apply conditions that are required to be fulfilled prior to, or imposed upon, the issuance of a development permit. Conditions supporting environmental protection may include, for example, conditions related to ongoing monitoring requirements that are considered necessary for the protection of the natural environment and public health and safety.

Wildlife in the CityCriteria for discretionary uses may include technical studies to determine whether a proposed use is appropriate, and under what conditions.

Permitted height could be varied by a certain amount (up to 5 per cent, for example) subject to identified criteria being fulfilled, such as stepping back of additional height from the streetline. Variations outside the specified range would require an official plan and/or by-law amendment.

Conditions supporting strong communities may include, for example, conditions related to protecting public health and safety, the natural environment and vegetation, community character, and providing the necessary infrastructure and facilities for a desirable quality of life.

DPS Benefits Landowners

The unique advantages of the DPS benefit not only municipalities, but also individual landowners. From the landowner’s perspective, for example, the DPS:
  • provides a streamlined, integrated and flexible approvals framework
  • provides certainty and clarity for landowners and the community by identifying the requirements for development up-front, through the municipality’s official plan policies and development permit by-law

  • promotes investment and facilitates development by significantly reducing the time required to obtain development permission

  • provides the convenience of a “one-window” approach to approvals, eliminating potential duplication 

  • requires 1 application instead of 3, eliminating the need for separate approvals

  • maintains a similar level of certainty for landowners as exists with zoning in key areas such as permitted uses, development standards, and appeal rights on development permit applications

  • facilitates and promotes development at the development permit applicant stage, as only the landowner can appeal refusal of a development permit or any conditions on a permit to the Ontario Municipal Board

  • provides similar appeal rights to the Ontario Municipal Board for all persons as under zoning, when the requirements for development are being established, or when these are being changed.

Passive Solar Mixed UseFrom the community’s perspective, the DPS also has important public benefits by promoting strategic, long-term planning, and providing certainty, transparency and accountability for the community and other parties in the land use planning system. This is achieved through the up-front, policy-led process of the DPS, which requires community involvement in the development of the appropriate land use vision and requirements for development in the DPS area. Once the system is implemented, the DPS reaffirms and supports the importance of this community vision. Any changes to the requirements for development require community input and participation, and are subject to appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board.

This InfoSheet was developed to assist participants in the land use planning process to understand O.Reg. 608/06 made under the Planning Act. As this InfoSheet deals in summarized fashion with complex matters and reflects legislation, policies and practices that are subject to change, it should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialized legal or professional advice in connection with any particular matter. This InfoSheet should not be construed as legal advice and the user is solely responsible for any use or the application of this InfoSheet. Although this InfoSheet has been carefully prepared, the Ministry does not accept any legal responsibility for the contents of this InfoSheet or for any consequences, including direct or indirect liability, arising from its use.

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