What is a Zoning By-law

    The Zoning By-law is one of the City's main tools for controlling what is built within its boundaries. It is a set of regulations by which the intent of the Official Plan is put into effect, and provides for its day-to-day administration in a legally enforceable way.

     A Zoning By-law governs: 

    • how land and buildings may be used (e.g. residential, retail store, light industrial use); 
    • the height and massing of buildings and other structures, and their location on the lot; 
    • the density of development and land use; 
    • lot sizes and dimensions; 
    • permissions, requirements and standards for on-site parking; and 
    • some aspects of the character of buildings and development. 

     By regulating the use and development of land, the Zoning By-law is a tool by which Council can in turn address a wide variety of topics of interest and concern to the municipality. Zoning influences the supply and affordability of housing, greenhouse gas emissions, economic development, public health, protection of agricultural land and many other priorities.

     In short, zoning is the tool by which we make the City’s planning vision a reality.

    Why do we need a new Zoning By-law?

    The current Zoning By-law 2008-250 is adapted from older Zoning By-laws written for a very different City, with different goals, than we have today. They are rooted in an era before Ottawa had light rail transit, before intensification, and before climate change, when the region was never expected to grow past half a million people.

    Having evolved a bit at a time over sixty years, it’s also one of the most complicated and difficult zoning regulations in Canada.

    That’s no good for anybody. Clunky, obsolete zoning adds needless cost, delay, and frustration for everyone who uses it, from residents and homeowners to builders, developers and businesses. It undermines the City's planning goals and creates friction, uncertainty and undue delay and expense for good developments, while opening up  loopholes to be exploited by bad ones. Perhaps worst of all, it undermines trust in the planning system, especially when residents struggle to understand the By-law that led to development outcomes they might not agree with. 

    The new Zoning By-law will be designed from the ground up to be efficient, effective and enforceable. It will be accessible and easy to use by all stakeholders, from residents and homeowners to developers and businesses.