Land use planning or community planning is the process of managing growth in order to meet the community’s needs and to address challenges associated with development. The goal of the planning process is to build complete and healthy communities through the efficient use of land. Planning and development affect many aspects of our community such as housing, transportation, infrastructure, municipal services, parks and recreation, cultural and natural heritage, urban design, economic growth and jobs.
Planning is a collaborative effort that involves many stakeholders. Including:
- Members of the public from individuals to community ratepayer or advocacy groups
- Markham Council and advisory committees
- City staff including planners, urban designers and engineers
- Other governmental bodies such as York Region or the Province of Ontario
- Public agencies or service providers such as Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, railway, telecommunications or utility companies
- Landowners, private developers and consultants
Planning may include:
- Preparing a vision for the community and creating plans or strategies to achieve that vision. The City’s planning vision is described in our Official Plan;
- Reviewing planning and development applications and working with all stakeholders to ensure that the proposal supports the community’s vision; and,
- Working with other public agencies and City departments to coordinate and prioritize public investments in our community such as roads, trails, hospitals, public transit, parks, libraries, community centres or conservation areas.
The Planning Act is provincial legislation that provides the legal rules for land use planning in Ontario. This includes establishing the various types of planning tools that municipalities may use to control land uses and development within their communities. The Planning Act outlines the rules and responsibilities around:
- Areas of provincial interest including the Provincial Policy Statement and Provincial Plans such as the Greenbelt Plan or the A Place to Grow: Growth Plan;
- Preparing and updating official plans;
- Preparing and updating zoning by-laws;
- Subdividing land;
- Committee of Adjustment, including minor variances and severances;
- Public consultation and public notices;
- Appeal rights and dispute resolution; and,
- Other planning tools such as community improvement plans, site plan control, interim control by-law and others;
The province may prepare a Provincial Policy Statement and provincial plans to describe land use planning decisions that must be considered by municipalities in their planning decisions.
The Provincial Policy Statement outlines the provincial policies on land use planning that apply across Ontario. It provides policy direction on the efficient use of land, provision of infrastructure and public services, protection of the natural, cultural and agricultural resources, and the protection of public health and safety. All municipal planning decisions shall be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement.
Provincial plans provide more specific policy direction within a specific geographical area or on a specific matter of provincial interest. All municipal planning decisions shall conform with provincial plans. The following provincial plans apply within the City of Markham:
- A Place to Grow: Growth Plan, 2019 is the Province’s long term growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe to promote economic growth, increase housing supply, create jobs and built communities that make life easier, healthier and more affordable for people of all ages.
- The Greenbelt Plan, 2017 identifies a protected area in the Greater Golden Horseshoe where urban development will not occur to protect agricultural, ecological and hydrological resources. The Greenbelt Plan includes the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, 2017.
- The 2041 Regional Transportation Plan, by Metrolinx, identifies an implementation plan to build an integrated transportation system for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
The City of Markham is one of nine local municipalities that collectively form York Region. The York Region Official Plan provides planning policies to manage growth and development for the region. This includes policies on natural heritage and agricultural protection, growth management, infrastructure and transportation planning and building healthy communities. Planning decisions in Markham must conform with the York Region Official Plan. As an upper-tier municipality, York Region also directly provides certain services such as public transit, health services and major servicing and transportation infrastructure.
The City of Markham’s Official Plan provides a long range vision for the growth and development of our community. It identifies how we intend to build complete and sustainable communities that meet the environmental, economic and social needs of Markham. Our vision for the community is based on four key themes: protecting the natural environment, building complete communities, increasing transportation mobility options, and maintaining a vibrant and competitive economy.
The Official Plan identifies where we will build (and where we will not), where we will focus residential, commercial and industrial development and how we intend to provide transportation and servicing infrastructure, schools, places of worship, greenspace and community/recreational facilities. The preparation of the Official Plan is guided by provincial and regional planning policies, the City’s strategic and capital plans and input from the community and stakeholders. The Official Plan is adopted by City Council and is regularly reviewed and updated to meet the community’s needs.
Zoning is the primary tool used by municipalities to implement the Official Plan. It is considered applicable law under the Ontario Building Code. Zoning allows municipalities to identify and control the permitted land uses and built form on a property. Examples of what zoning may regulate include the following:
- Permitted land uses (e.g., single-detached residential dwelling, apartment building, commercial plaza, industrial warehousing, etc.);
- Size, height and placement of buildings and structures;
- Setbacks to adjacent properties or to roads;
- Minimum or maximum number of parking spaces;
- Amount of landscaping or building coverage;
- Density or number of units;
Zoning is a municipal by-law that is adopted by City Council. The zoning webpage can help you to search for copies of zoning by-laws or your property’s zoning.
Markham’s development review process is guided by the Planning Act. Applications for development are submitted along with supporting studies or information to allow for review by the City of Markham and relevant agencies. Planning applications are circulated according to the Planning Act and may include neighbouring landowners, prescribed governmental bodies, infrastructure providers, and internal departments. The planning and development webpage provides more detailed information for developers and interested stakeholders.
The Committee of Adjustment is a panel of Markham residents that reviews and makes decisions on applications for minor variance, consent to sever and changes to legal non-conforming uses.
Minor variance applications are requests to permit small changes to the existing zoning standards on a specific parcel of land. For instance, an application may request a reduction to the side yard setback for a garage or an increased lot coverage for the residential dwelling.
Consent to sever applications are typically requests to subdivide a parcel into two or three parcels.
The Committee of Adjustment webpage provides information on meeting times, meeting agendas and the application process.
Every planning application or study is coordinated by a City planner who would be happy to answer questions you may have or to receive your written comments. If you do not know the project planner’s contact information, please contact the Development Services Front Counter at 905.475.4861 or email@example.com.