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Holding By-law (s. 36)

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An illustration of a 3 storey building with commercial uses on the first two stories and residential uses on the third storey. It shows that a holding by-law can be used to permit a range of uses, some of which are subject to a hold until pre-determined conditions are met.  In this example, restaurant and bar uses on the first two floors are on hold until a traffic impact study and noise impact study are completed.

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Description of Tool

  • A zoning by-law with a holding symbol (“H”) restricts future uses until conditions for removing “H” are met
  • Optional tool that requires additional official plan policies for set-up
  • Requires two council processes: 1) Council enacts zoning by-law with H-symbol and 2) Council agrees to remove the H-symbol to enact the use


  • To use this tool, a municipality must have approved official plan policies related to its use
  • A municipal council passes a zoning by-law with holding provisions (“H” symbol)
  • An application must be made to council for an amendment to the by-law to remove the holding symbol
  • Requires an additional council process to approve a request to remove “H”
  • Timeline: the approval authority has 120 days to make a decision to remove “H”

Potential Benefits

  • Can provide municipalities with the time required to evaluate the impact of a proposed change in land use before development takes place
  • May benefit the community by identifying necessary requirements (such as a traffic impact study) that are needed before a development can take place
  • Can minimize impacts on the community by requiring measures to mitigate environmental disturbances from a use of land, such as noise or odour
  • May ensure that adequate community infrastructure is in place prior to future development

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This sheet deals in summarized and conceptualized fashion with complex matters that reflect legislation, policies and practices that are subject to change. All illustrations represent hypothetical scenarios of the application of various tools. For these reasons, this fact sheet should not be relied upon as a substitute for the relevant legislation, regulations and policy documents, or for specialized legal or professional advice when making land-use planning decisions.

ISBN 978-1-4435-1165-0 (PDF)
ISBN 978-1-4435-1164-3 (HTML)