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Frequently Asked Questions on the Development Permit System

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This section contains frequently asked questions and answers related to the Development Permit System (DPS). The information provided is intended to promote understanding of the DPS and facilitate municipal implementation of the system.

The questions and answers provided are categorized under the following seven topic areas:

Please check this page periodically for updates to the questions and answers.


What is the DPS?

  • The DPS is a planning tool that combines zoning, site plan and minor variance processes into one application and approval process.
  • It facilitates development by providing faster timelines for decision-making, eliminating potential duplication in approvals, and incorporating flexibility for permitted uses and development standards.
  • The DPS does not replace the lot creation or building permit processes, which continue to be separate and distinct application and approval processes. 

Why would I choose to use the DPS in my municipality? What are the advantages of the DPS that would make me consider using it?

  • The DPS incorporates many unique features that distinguish it from other planning tools, including the new tools offered through the Planning and Conservation Land Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006 (Bill 51), such as enhanced authority for municipalities to consider exterior design of buildings and the accessibility of a development proposal, and to secure streetscape improvements such as landscaping, street furniture and bicycle parking facilities.

  • The key features/benefits of the system can be categorized into five main areas:

Does it take a lot of time and work to put the system in place? Is it a complex system?

  • In order to implement the DPS, municipalities must adopt official plan policies for the DPS area, and pass a development permit bylaw for the DPS area.
  • Putting the DPS in place involves identifying the long-term goals and objectives for the community.
  • The process for adopting the DPS official plan policies and passing the bylaw are similar to that for other types of amendments and bylaws, such as zoning bylaws.
  • Municipalities have the ability to tailor the DPS to meet their needs, provided they meet the minimum requirements set out in Ontario Regulation 608/06. For example, municipalities can implement simple systems, identifying only permitted uses and development standards (like a zoning bylaw), or can build on this base by integrating more features into the system, such as discretionary uses, flexibility in development standards and conditions of approval.

How does the DPS affect certainty in the process for development applicants?

  • For landowners, the DPS maintains a similar level of certainty in key areas as exists with zoning including permitted uses, development standards, and appeal rights to the Ontario Municipal Board.
  • The discretionary uses and flexible development standards are identified up front in the official plan and the development permit bylaw, providing certainty and transparency. These also provide more flexibility and help to streamline the process.

  • The DPS builds upon the fundamental principles of planning in Ontario:

How does the DPS benefit landowners?

  • The unique features of the DPS benefit not only municipalities and the broader community, but also landowners.
  • The DPS:

Pilot Municipalities

Do any Ontario municipalities currently have a DPS in place?

  • To date, only the Township of Lake of Bays has implemented the DPS. The Township has been using the DPS and issuing development permits since January 1, 2006.
  • The Township was one of the five pilot municipalities identified to test the DPS before making it available to all single and lower tier municipalities.

  • The pilot project tested the effectiveness of the system and identified potential implementation issues with the legislative framework.

Why did only one of the five pilot municipalities proceed with the DPS?

  • The pilot municipalities all supported the principles of the DPS as a new planning tool with tremendous potential to better address land use planning challenges.
  • To date, only the Township of Lake of Bays has implemented the DPS and is issuing development permits. This is largely the result of timing and other issues experienced by the pilot municipalities, as well as a number of unanticipated challenges with the previous regulation (which were identified through the pilot-testing of the DPS) that needed to be addressed. The new regulation addresses the key challenges identified by the pilot municipalities.

What has been the experience with the DPS in the Township of Lake of Bays? How does the local community view the DPS?

  • As part of implementing the DPS, the Township of Lake of Bays, in partnership with the District of Muskoka, conducted public information meetings about the DPS to promote understanding of the system and its advantages, and build public confidence in the system.
  • The community generally supports the DPS and the advantages it offers to maintain and promote Muskoka’s unique landscape.
  • Other municipalities in the District of Muskoka have expressed interest in using the DPS.

How would I go about developing the official plan policies and development permit bylaw to implement the DPS? Are there sample official plan policies/development permit bylaws that I can use as a model? What resources are there to help me?

  • The Township of Lake of Bays has been using the DPS and issuing development permits since January 1, 2006.
  • The Township’s official plan policies and development permit bylaw are available on its website.
  • The Government of Ontario has also developed implementation support materials to help municipalities implement the DPS.
  • The Ministry’s five Municipal Services Offices can also provide assistance.

DPS in Other Provinces

I heard that other Canadian provinces also use the DPS. Can I use these systems as a model for my DPS official plan policies and development permit bylaw?

  • Different forms of the DPS are used in some provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

  • The systems used in other provinces are based on the legislative and regulatory structures in those provinces. While these systems are similar to Ontario’s in some areas, they differ in other areas. Due to these differences, Ontario municipalities should not base their policies and bylaws on those of municipalities in other provinces.

Ability of DPS to Address Today’s Planning Issues

How does the DPS support intensification and the redevelopment of brownfield sites?

  • The DPS can help municipalities promote intensification and brownfield redevelopment by providing more certainty up front in the process about the requirements for development and faster timelines for decision-making. The DPS provides flexibility in redevelopment situations by enabling municipalities to specify minimum and maximum development standards and by allowing for a range of conditions of approval related to these.
  • Conditions could relate to matters required to be addressed for public health and safety, such as site-clean up and noise reduction in redevelopment situations. Conditions could also relate to the provision of specified community services and facilities in exchange for specified density or height or increases thereof.

How does the DPS promote public transit? Better infrastructure use? Prevent gridlock?

  • The DPS gives municipalities new opportunities to address these issues. For example, through specifying minimum and maximum development standards and the use of conditions of approval, municipalities can require more transit-supportive land use patterns in close proximity to existing or planned transit.
  • By facilitating intensification and supporting the redevelopment of brownfields, the DPS also helps municipalities better address urban sprawl and promote better use of infrastructure.

Review Timelines

How quickly must a decision be made on a development permit application?

  • An applicant can appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board if a decision, whether it is by a municipal council or its designated delegate, is not made within 45 days of receiving a complete application.

How can municipalities make decisions on applications within 45 days? The timeline seems so short.

  • The DPS facilitates municipalities’ abilities to review development permit applications faster than other development applications.

  • For example:

Appeal Structure

What is the public input and appeal process for the DPS? Why are public appeal rights restricted when a development permit is in line with the development permit bylaw?

  • The DPS is a policy-led process which streamlines approvals.
  • It focuses on having public input and allowing appeals at the front-end of the process when the DPS official plan policies and development permit bylaw establishing the use of the DPS are put in place by a municipality. At this stage, any party can appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, subject to the requirements of the Planning Act.
  • Once the DPS official plan policies and development permit bylaw are in force, decisions on applications for development permits, which conform with the bylaw, can only be appealed by the applicant.
  • Because of the focus on front-end participation and long-term visioning, applications for development permits that conform to the DPS official plan policies and the bylaw would not be subject to an additional public process.
  • Applications that do not comply with the framework would require an amendment to the development permit bylaw and/or official plan, which would be subject to full public notice, participation and appeal rights.

Technical Requirements for Establishing and Using the DPS

Do municipalities have a choice whether or not they want a DPS in their jurisdiction?

  • Yes. The DPS is an optional new planning tool. Municipalities can begin issuing development permits only after the official plan amendment for the DPS and the development permit bylaw are in force.

What kinds of areas (residential, commercial, etc.) is the DPS most appropriate for in my municipality?

  • Municipalities may implement the DPS in any area of their municipality.
  • The DPS provides municipalities with the flexibility to meet the needs of different areas. For example, a municipality may choose to structure the DPS to permit discretionary uses or variation to development standards only in certain areas. Municipalities may also wish to use the DPS for specified goals or objectives such as brownfield redevelopment, protection of environmentally sensitive areas, or promotion of intensification along transit corridors.

What are the steps in establishing a DPS?

  • Prior to using the DPS, a municipality must amend its official plan to identify the DPS area and provide information to the public on how the DPS would be administered. Interested parties would be given an opportunity to provide input into the official plan provisions and would have the right to appeal any provision to the Ontario Municipal Board.
  • The municipal council must also pass a development permit bylaw for the development permit area. This can be done along with, or after, the official plan amendment. Like a zoning bylaw, the development permit bylaw would contain a list of permitted uses and standards. It may also authorize discretionary uses and may permit a specified range of variation from the standards listed in the bylaw. As with the official plan policies, any interested party is given an opportunity to provide input into the bylaw and has the right to appeal any provision to the Ontario Municipal Board if they participated in the process.
  • Once the DPS official plan policies and development permit bylaw provisions are in effect, development permits can be issued. As with an application for site plan approval, only the applicant would be able to appeal a decision or non-decision on a development permit application to the Ontario Municipal Board.

What are the official plan requirements under Ontario Regulation 608/06?

  • The development permit regulation prescribes requirements that must be covered in official plan policies, including the identification of the development permit area, the scope of any delegation of authority, the municipality’s objectives for using the system, the range of conditions that may be included within the bylaw and the types of criteria that may be included in the bylaw by which applications would be evaluated.

What are the development permit bylaw requirements under Ontario Regulation 608/06?

  • Among other requirements, a development permit bylaw must describe the development permit area, list permitted uses, list required standards, describe internal review procedures, set out the scope of authority being delegated and describe notification procedures for decisions.
  • The regulation also provides that a bylaw may include certain matters, such as discretionary uses, permitted variations from standards, and conditions which may be imposed.

How will the DPS affect other provincial policies or plans, such as the Greenbelt, the Oak Ridges Moraine, and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe?

  • The DPS does not affect the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine and the Growth Plan. It may provide an effective way for municipalities to implement some of the policies in these plans.