Minor Variances in the City of Ottawa

The Planning Act, R.S.O. 1990 authorizes the Committee of Adjustment to grant “minor variances” from the provisions of the City's Zoning By-law.  The variances must be minor and in the opinion of the Committee, be desirable for the appropriate development or use of the land, building or structure, and maintain the general intent of the by-law and the official plan.

A minor variance does not change the zoning of a property. It will only allow for minor relief from specific requirements of the by-law to obtain a building permit. Applications may be made to request relief from matters such as minimum lot area, widths and setbacks, gross floor area, height, and parking provisions of a Zoning By-law.

It is advised that you consult with the City Development Information Officer and City Planner to discuss the requirements of the Zoning Bylaw for your property. This will help determine:

  • The need for a variance.
  • The nature of the variance.
  • Whether or not there might be servicing requirements.
  • Whether or not an amendment to the zoning by-law is required, rather than a variance.

After the application is submitted, a Hearing Date will be assigned, and a public notice is sent to property owners within a 60-metre radius of the subject property. A notice will also be posted on the subject property. The application will be circulated to external agencies for reports containing advice and provisions of their requirements. These reports will be considered at the Public Hearing.  

When considering the application, the Committee looks at what is called the “four tests” of a minor variance according to the Planning Act.

  1. Does the application meet the intent of the City's Official Plan? Is the use in keeping with the policies of the Official Plan and considerate of the surrounding environment.
  2. Does the application meet the intent of the Zoning By-law?  What is the purpose of the requirement for which a variance is being applied and will the purpose of that requirement still be maintained if the variance is granted?
  3. Is the application considered minor in nature? Considers the impact on the subject land and area/neighbourhood.
  4. Is the application appropriate? Is the variance in keeping with the area and allow proper use of the property?

After hearing all evidence, a decision to approve (with or without conditions), deny, or defer the proposed severance will be made and publicly circulated.  If no appeal is made by the end of the 20-day appeal period, the decision is final and binding.

If an application is refused, you may make an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board for a final determination of the matter.

For full process details and applications forms, visit the City of Ottawa Committee of Adjustment at https://ottawa.ca/en/planning-development-and-construction/committee-adjustment.

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