Committee of Adjustments - Re-Zoning by a thousand cuts

Committee of Adjustments - Re-Zoning by a thousand cuts
Posted on April 16, 2015 | Neil Thomson | Written on April 16, 2015
Letter type:
Blog Post

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

Our experience with an ongoing Development Application in our Community - 1131 Teron Road - has brought to light just how many ways the City of Ottawa provides to accomodate developers.

In addition to the City of Ottawa’s “non-prescriptive” approach to the Official Plan – which allows Planning Staff to pick and choose which standards and requirements apply to any Developer’s re-zoning Application, the Province of Ontario not only provides the OMB for developers to change zoning bylaws, but also allows the Committee of Adjustments to pragmatically to re-zone through a “death of a thousand cuts” – one “minor” variance at a time.

So much for the “Certainty” as promised by Jim Watson and former Planning Committee Chair Peter Hume.

A local developer has been trying to squeeze the largest possible building onto a lot that has remained vacant at 1131 Teron Road for 40+ years for 3+ years. This is the approximately wedge shaped property between March and Teron rd. in the middle of the following Google Maps image (,-75.9044119,220m/data=!3m1!1e3).

What you can’t see easily is that the lot is dominated by 2 sets of hydro lines so that there actually only a thin triangle right on Teron road that is buildable.

The developer’s proposals went as large as a 15 storey tower (adjacent to an existing 2 storey condominium complex), which City Planning Staff reduced to eventually a 9 storey, stepped design – which is still completely out of character for our Community.

Last June, they finally got approval by Planning and it went to Planning Committee, who of course approved it – despite substantial community objections – and then to City Council, were an additional 3M setback (3M -> 6M) was added along Teron Road.

The Developer was not happy with this as it would require re-design and likely a reduction in the number of saleable units – which was fine with our Community as any reduction in size/mass/setback was better than nothing.

To change this zoning (which explicitly called out for his design to be changed to meet the new zoning) he should have had to appeal to the OMB.

However, it turns out that that wasn’t necessary – just wait a while (8 months later) and apply to the Committee of Adjustments for a “minor” variation for about 5% of the cost of an OMB appeal.

Doesn’t matter that the 3M->6M requirement was a City Council decision – it’s only a “minor” change – which the Committee of Adjustments can freely determine what constitutes “minor”. And the developer can come back again and again for additional “minor” variances – to the point that the zoning bylaw as passed by the City can be completely undone.

This is the same Committee of Adjustments that feels it is also minor to add 2 floors (10 to 12) to a "minor" variance application to a development application in  the Kanata Town Centre (which is under a Secondary Plan which explicitly specifies max 10 storeys).

The net result is that Ottawa zoning continues to be “only a suggestion…”

About The Author

NeilJThomson's picture

Current President: Kanata Beaverbrook Community Association. Member of FCA. Part of Community Panel for the 2013 City of Ottawa Official Plan Review.