Skip to content
You are here > Home > Your Ministry > Land Use Planning > Municipal Planning & Development Tools > Planning Act Tools > Planning Act Tools to Support Intensification and Sustainability

Link to Follow usFollow us

Planning Act Tools to Support Intensification and Sustainability

Email this page

A brief overview of the key Planning Act tools that can support intensification, economic development and sustainability.A brief overview of the key Planning Act tools that may support intensification and sustainability.


Zoning By-law / Zoning By-law Amendment (s. 34)

A three storey building, which shows that zoning can be used to regulate building height, density, lot coverage, setbacks, parking requirements, and uses.  In this example, land uses are commercial at grade with residential above.

Description of Tool

  • Regulates land uses and physical characteristics of land use (e.g. building height, density, location and parking)
  • Required tool to implement official plan (OP)
  • Can be used on a municipal-wide or site-specific basis
  • No conditions

Development Permit System (s. 70.2 and O. Reg. 608/06)

An illustration of a 4 storey building, which shows how a development permit system can be used to provide building mass variability, and exterior design control.  An additional storey on top of the building is surrounded by a dashed line to show that public benefits could be exchanged for an increase in height and density between a specified range.  Public benefits in this example include a transit shelter, and public art.

Description of Tool

  • Combines zoning, site plan and minor variance into one streamlined application and approval process
  • Optional tool, requires OP policies and a development permit by-law
  • Form of enhanced zoning which can include site plan matters, variation of development standards within specified limits and other key features
  • Does not replace lot creation or building permit processes
  • Allows conditions which may be set out in agreements and registered on title

Minimum/Maximum Standards in Zoning-Bylaws (s. 34 (3))

Several adjoining mid-rise buildings of varying height.  A dashed line along the top of the shortest buildings and another dashed line along the top of the tallest buildings show that zoning can regulate minimum and maximum height.  An inset graphic shows a number of lots of varying sizes, and a dashed line around the smallest lot is used to show how zoning can regulate minimum lots sizes.

Description of Tool

  • Clarification about zoning by-law standards
  • Optional tool, does not require OP policies for set-up
  • Zoning by-laws can regulate minimum as well as maximum standards for height and density, and also minimum and maximum lot area

Site Plan Control - Implemented with Exterior Design Control (s. 41)

An illustration of a 3 storey building, which shows what can be regulated and/or secured through site plan control implemented with exterior design control.  This example includes on site design features that articulate scale and character, defined entrances and walkways directly accessible from the sidewalk, architectural elements that respect the rhythm and patterns of neighbouring buildings, tree planting for screening, shade and visual amenity, and permeable paving.  Off site design features include curb cuts for accessibility, energy efficient lighting, street furniture, bike racks, and native species landscaping on adjacent boulevards.

Description of Tool

  • Builds upon zoning (technical process)
  • Optional tool, requires OP policies and a by-law for set-up
  • Can regulate certain external building, site and boulevard design matters (character, scale, appearance, sustainable streetscape design)
  • Allows for limited conditions related to design matters (including agreements which may be registered on title)

Plan of Subdivision (s. 51)

A plan of subdivision showing varying lot sizes and shapes for a mix of uses and housing types, street and lot orientation to maximize passive solar energy, pedestrian and bicycle pathways and public transit rights of way, and an interconnected street network.

Description of Tool

  • Process of multiple lot creation
  • Optional tool
  • Approval authorities may consider a subdivision’s regard to street connectivity, range of lot sizes, shapes and orientation to facilitate a mix of housing types and the efficient use and conservation of energy
  • Allows approval authorities to impose conditions that require land dedications for parks, walking and cycling pathways, public transit rights of way, transit stations and commuter parking lots

Reduction in Parkland Dedication Payments (s. 42 (6.2) and (6.3))

An illustration of a 4 storey building, which shows the types of sustainability features that could be achieved in exchange for reduced parkland dedication payments.  These include: orienting buildings on the lot for maximum solar exposure, natural lighting and passive heating. It also shows green roofs, a green wall, geothermal heating and cooling, reduced parking with carshare, permeable paving materials, native trees and landscaping, publicly accessible open spaces next to the sidewalk, and bike racks.

Description of Tool

  • Enables municipalities to authorize a reduction in the amount of cash in-lieu of parkland payment if sustainability features, which meet OP criteria, are included in redevelopment proposals
  • Optional tool, requires OP policies for set-up
  • Only applies where on-site parkland cannot be dedicated in redevelopment proposals

Second Units (s.17(24.1), 17(36.1), 22(7.1) & (7.2), and 34(19.1))

An illustration of a detached house with a second unit in the basement.

Description of Tool

  • Enables municipalities to increase density by adopting OP policies and zoning by-laws that permit second units in detached, semi-detached and row houses as-of-right
  • Optional tool, requires OP policies and zoning by-law provisions to permit second units
  • Cannot be challenged at the Ontario Municipal Board unless OP policies are appealed at the time of a mandatory OP review
  • Makes more efficient use of existing housing stock and infrastrucure
  • Supports intensification while preserving community character

Height and Density Bonusing (s. 37)

Description of Tool

  • Process to allow buildings to exceed height and density of development otherwise permitted by zoning by-laws, in exchange for community benefits
  • Optional tool to implement OP but requires additional OP policies for set-up
  • Often negotiated between developer and municipality
  • Allows services, facilities or matters to be set out in agreements and registered on title

Community Improvement Plans (CIPs) (s. 28)

An illustration of 4 city blocks with buildings of varying heights of up to 4 storeys, which shows examples of municipal community improvement initiatives, including street furniture and lighting, bike lanes, curb cuts for accessibility, bike racks, native trees and landscaping, and transit stops.  Also shown are initiatives funded through a grant and loan program, including building rehabilitation, façade improvements, brownfield site remediation, new affordable housing developments, permeable paving surfaces, geothermal heating and cooling, a green roof, publicly accessible open space, and solar panels.

Description of Tool

  • Focuses on maintenance, rehabilitation, development and redevelopment (in targeted areas)
  • Optional tool, requires OP policies and a by-law designating a CIP project area
  • Prescribed upper-tiers (UTs) are now able to adopt CIPs dealing with prescribed items
  • UTs and lower-tiers can participate in each other’s CIPs
  • Municipalities can make grants or loans within CIP project areas to help pay for certain costs
  • Allows registration of grant and loan agreements on title

For more information:

DISCLAIMER: This chart deals in summarized fashion with complex matters and reflects legislation, policies and practices that are subject to change. It should not be relied upon when making decisions related to land use planning matters. In addition, all illustrations represent hypothetical scenarios of the application of various tools. Users should refer to the relevant legislation, regulations and policy documents when making land use planning decisions.

ISBN 978-1-4435-1121-6 (PDF)
ISBN 978-1-4435-1329-6 (HTML)