“Talk about Byzantine – try getting a reno permit for a flying buttress in Centennial”

By Rob Elbertsen

Many residents across the GTA and here in Centennial are renovating their homes. The City of Toronto has complex rules in place to regulate this process. Any resident wishing to redevelop a property must apply to the city for a building permit. The permit and associated inspections are necessary to ensure that the project is structurally sound and follows the Ontario Building Code, municipal zoning and other applicable laws.

Some examples of when a building permit is required:

  • Building a new structure that is larger than 10 metres squared (108 square feet).
  • Building any addition to an existing structure.
  • Demolishing all or part of a building.
  • Installing new or altering existing mechanical or plumbing systems.
  • Pool fence enclosure.
  • Deck/porch/balcony (if the deck is more than 60 centimetres/24 inches above the ground).

Most applications are compliant with Building Code and zoning bylaws and applicants are issued a Building Permit. When applications are not compliant, applicants can adjust their plans to comply, or they can apply for relief from bylaws from the Committee of Adjustment. This relief request is known as a minor variance request.

The Committee of Adjustment mainly considers minor variances and grants consents related to the municipal zoning bylaw. It considers applications for:

  • Minor variances for relief from zoning bylaws. This could involve building/renovating homes larger, taller or closer to property lines than zoning permits.
  • Consent for land transactions, such as severing property or creating long-term easements or rights-of-way.

One important step for residents in the Committee of Adjustment process is the public hearing. Anyone having an interest in any application before the committee has an opportunity to have their views submitted. When an applicant for a minor variance or consent is scheduled to appear before the committee, the city has to ensure that those wishing to contest applications can do so. The city will mail a Notice of Public Hearing to all landowners within 60 metres of the subject property at least 10 days prior to the hearing date. Also, the applicant must prominently post a public sign on the property for 14 days prior to the hearing.    

If a resident is opposed to a minor variance application, it is extremely important that they act immediately upon receipt of a Notice of Public Hearing. They should follow instructions contained in the notice for filing any objections and concerns prior to the Public Hearing before the due date.  Properly filing an objection will allow a resident to appear before the committee to further air their views. Residents should speak with their neighbours and other residents to ensure that all those opposed also submit their objections prior to the Public Hearing.

Strong community involvement in opposing an application is important. Residents may also wish to contact the ward councillor to discuss their opposition. The councillor’s office can provide valuable assistance in understanding the Committee of Adjustment process. In addition, residents may wish to contact the CCRA to ensure that the community association is also aware of their concerns. The CCRA can work along with the councillor’s office to support residents to ensure their voices are heard.