What is a Minor Variance?
The question of what constitutes a 'minor variance' is not a question that can be, or has been definitvely answered. The Ontario Municipal Board has said, "there is no inflexible rule as to what is or is not minor. It is a relative term and must be interpreted with respect to the particular circumstances involved." In addition, the Divisional Court has stated, "no hard and fast criteria can be laid down, the question of whether a variance is minor must, in each case, be determined in light of the particular facts and circumstances of the case. It is for the Committee and, in the event of an appeal, the Ontario Municipal Board, to determined the extent ot which a By-law provision may be relaxed and a variance is still classed as minor." It is therefore up to the Committee of Adjustment, when considering applications for minor variance to take all of the particular circumstances of the application into account and to determine whether or not the variance requested is, in the opinion of the Committee, minor.
Essentially, if your proposed change doesn't conform exactly to the Zoning By-law, but follows its general intent, you can apply for a minor variance. For example, you might want to locate something on your property but the shape of your lot won't let you meet the minimum setback.
A minor variance does not change a Zoning By-law, it simply excuses you from a specific requirement of the By-law and allows you to obtain a building permit, or other necessary approvals.
What is the process for a minor variance application?
Before you apply for a minor variance, you should consult with municipal staff and any other applicable agencies (i.e. Regional Municipality of Niagara, Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority).
When applying for a minor variance, you may be charged a fee for processing the application. To determine the most up to date processing fee, please contact the Secretary-Treasurer of the Committee of Adjustment.
You are required to fill out a minor variance application form provided by the Committee of Adjustment.
A typical application form contains both the information, which is prescribed by minister's regulation, as well as additional information, which the Committee may require. The more information provided, the less likely delays will occur in the review.
The Committee must give notice of application before a decision is made. The owner is required to post a sign on their property, which outlines the requested variance(s). Notice is also mailed to owners of land wihtin 60 metres (200 feet) of the subject property. Any person or public body may submit his or her views to the Committee.
The Committee may consult with agencies, boards, authorities or commissions before making a decision.
When the Committee has decided on your application, it is required to send a notice of decision approving or refusing the application within 15 days of the decision being made, to any person or public body requesting to be notified. When a notice of decision is given, a 20-day appeal period follows.
The application for minor variance approval can be found by clicking on the following link, or at City Hall, 2nd Floor, Planning Department.
How does the Committee reach a decision on a minor variance application?
The Committee, when reviewing a minor variance application, must consider the following, known as the four tests:
- Is the variance minor?
- Is the variance desirable for the appropriate development of the lands in question?
- Is the general purpose and intent of the Official Plan maintained?
- Is the general purpose and intent of the Zoning By-law maintained?
In order for Decisions of the Committee of Adjustment to be valid, all these matters must be considered and included in the Committee Decision.
For more information regarding minor variances, or to make a minor variance application to the Committee of Adjustment please contact:
Secretary-Treasurer, Committee of Adjustment
Ph. 905-835-2901 ext 205
Email Heather Mahon