Official Plan and Municipal Comprehensive Reviews

Questions & Answers

Below are some frequently asked questions and responses organized into headings for convenience along with a Glossary of Terms containing "standard" planning words and phrases.

Official Plan FAQs

ExpandWhat is an Official Plan?

In Ontario the Planning Act requires municipalities to have an Official Plan. The Official Plan is a legal document approved by Council that describes policies and objectives for land uses and how and where the community should grow. The Official Plan is prepared in consultation with residents and reflects a community vision for future change and development.

ExpandWhat is Toronto's Official Plan?

Toronto's Official Plan sets out the vision for where and how the city will grow to the year 2031. Think of it as a blueprint. It describes the general location for new housing, employment, office and retail areas, community services, parks and other land uses. The Official Plan also establishes policies for the built environment such as criteria for how new buildings relate to the street, for improvements to the City's hard services (such as transit, roads, sewers) and for the protection of the City's natural and built environment.

Toronto City Council approves the Official Plan and it is one of Council's most important strategic documents. Decision-making around public works, such as new transportation facilities or recreation centres, and any new zoning by-law cannot conflict with the Official Plan.

ExpandHow does the Official Plan affect me?

From the time you wake up in the morning until you go to bed at night, your life is affected by how Toronto is planned. This includes what kind of housing is available, the range of services in your community, where you study, work and how you move about the city. All these elements of our city life link to the Official Plan.

ExpandHow do city issues relate to the Official Plan? Can you provide examples?

The Official Plan addresses a wide range of issues related to city living. Generally the Official Plan provides policy direction while specific actions are dealt with by other processes. Here are a few examples of city issues to illustrate this. For each example two related matters are shown along with their relationship to the Official Plan.


    A part
of the
Official Plan
Not a part
of the
Official Plan (but may be related)
Public Transit Frequency of transit service
(eg bus schedule)
Identifying corridors for higher order transit
(eg subway lines)
Sidewalk construction & street furniture   Yes
Encouraging a walkable city Yes  
Urban Forestry The types of trees the City plants in parks & along streets   Yes
Policies to encourage a green tree canopy Yes  
Environment Measuring air quality   Yes
Policies to encourage sustainably designed buildings Yes  
Heritage Restoration work on a heritage building   Yes
Policies to protect heritage resources across the city Yes  


ExpandHow well is the Official Plan working?

Quite well, actually! Over 80 percent of growth is occurring in areas targeted for growth in the Official Plan. Approvals for the construction of both residential and non-residential buildings are far outpacing construction. Of all the residential applications from 2006-2010, 32 percent were in the downtown and waterfront, and 27 percent in the 'Avenues', with a majority of 'Avenue' applications being for mid-rise buildings. You can read more in the staff report here.

ExpandHow is the Official Plan Organized?

Our Official Plan is organized into seven chapters.

Chapter One articulates a vision for Toronto's future and outlines the principles for a successful city upon which the Plan is based.

The vision of the Plan is about creating an attractive and safe city that evokes pride, passion and a sense of belonging - a city where people of all ages and abilities can enjoy a good quality of life.

The policies contained within the Plan help in part to move Toronto towards this vision.

Chapter Two sets out the urban structure of the City — identifying growth areas such as the Downtown, Centres (which include North York, Scarborough Etobicoke, and Yonge and Eglinton), our Employment Districts, and Avenues (such as Sheppard and Eglinton). You can see the urban structure on Map 2 in the Official Plan.

Chapter 2 also provides the growth management strategy for directing residential and employment growth to certain areas, such as our Centres and Avenues, and away from other areas, such as our stable neighbourhoods, and provides policies integrating land use and transportation.

Chapter Three provides direction to matters that can improve our everyday lives as Toronto continues to grow. Topics range from the public realm and high quality buildings, to affordable housing, heritage, community services and facilities, parks and the natural environment.

Chapter Four contains the land use designations which tell us what uses can be built where. The Plan includes eight land use designations that fall into two groupings: designations reinforcing the existing physical character and designations for growth.

Four designations help protect and reinforce the existing physical character of the areas. These are Neighbourhoods, Apartment Neighbourhoods, Parks and Open Space Areas and Utility Corridors.

Four designations distribute most of the increased jobs and population growth anticipated by the growth management strategy in Chapter 2. These are Mixed Use Areas, Employment Areas, Regeneration Areas and Institutional Areas.

Each land use designation establishes general uses that are permitted as well as development criteria that apply when new proposals are being evaluated.

Chapter Five sets out how to implement the Plan. This includes the various tools, such as Site Plan Control, By-laws and Section 37.

Chapter Six contains the Secondary Plans providing more detailed local development policies to guide growth and change for defined areas of Toronto. We have 31 Secondary Plans. Examples include Highland Creek, Etobicoke Centre, King-Parliament, North York Centre, and Sheppard East Subway Corridor.

Chapter Seven contains site and area specific policies for specific lands across Toronto.

That's the quick overview. Want to take a closer look at your Official Plan? Wondering where to start?

Why don't you start by reading Chapter One, Making Choices, which articulates a vision for our future and outlines the principles for a successful Toronto.


Official Plan Review FAQs

ExpandWhy is the City reviewing its Official Plan now?

It is no secret that Toronto is a great city. What kind of city will Toronto be in the twenty-first century is a question that we must continually ask ourselves to ensure we stay on course.

Our Official Plan sets out the vision for where and how Toronto will grow to the year 2031. That's a fairly long time, so it is important to do regular "check-ups" to ensure that the Official Plan is working to implement the vision. That is why it is important that we hear from you and learn about what you think is working in the Official Plan, and what you think should be improved.

The Province's Planning Act also requires a municipality to review its Official Plan at least every 5 years. Toronto's Official Plan came into force in June 2006, requiring that the City commence an Official Plan Review in 2011.

ExpandWhat's involved in the Official Plan Review?

It is important to remember that the purpose of the Review is not to create a new Official Plan from first principles but to review the Plan and adjust if necessary.

The Official Plan Review will review what policies are working, what policies need to be updated, revised or deleted, and what new policies are required to be added as a result of more recent provincial legislation. For example, the Plan's heritage policies need updating to align with The Ontario Heritage Act of 2005. There are other instances where an individual policy or map needs updating to reflect changed legislation or 'facts on the ground', such as new public parks.

The Review will also include a number of civic policy initiatives referred by City Council to the 5 Year Review of the Official Plan. Some of these matters include: implementation of key elements of the Avenues and Mid-rise Buildings Study; and policies to encourage the development of units for households with children in the Downtown.

In addition, the Province's Planning Act requires that certain matters be included in a review of the Official Plan. The City is required to ensure the Official Plan conforms with Provincial Plans, has regard for matters of Provincial interest, and is consistent with Provincial Policy Statements. This includes reviewing growth patterns in Toronto to confirm the City is on course to meet Provincial targets of 3.08 million people and 1.64 million jobs by 2031.

The Planning Act also requires that the City review its Official Plan policies dealing with areas of employment, including the designation of lands as areas of employment.


ExpandHow long will the Official Plan Review take?

An Official Plan Review is not a new Official Plan, and therefore will take less time than the creation of a new Plan. However, the Review is a significant undertaking involving substantial public consultation. We are hoping to send recommendations to City Council for its consideration in late 2012.

ExpandWho's involved in the Official Plan Review?

The City Planning Division is leading the Official Plan Review. Through this process, City Planning Staff will also be actively seeking input from residents and businesses. In addition, staff from across the Toronto Public Service, City agencies and commissions, school boards, and other public bodies will be involved.

ExpandWhy should I participate in the Official Plan Review?

The Official Plan contains policy direction for the economy, environment, built environment, transportation, and other considerations that affect your daily life. For example:

  • a balance and diverse economy, jobs and the generation of future jobs
  • a full range of housing and affordable housing choices that meet the needs of everyone throughout their life
  • appropriate locations for new housing and jobs
  • the natural environment, including ravines, water courses, and open space
  • transportation options, connectivity, and moving people and goods
  • environmental health, including clean air, soil and water
  • healthy communities, including parks, recreation facilities, community services and sustainable development
  • the beauty of the city, including heritage, public art and the design of our buildings and public realm

This list is not exhaustive, yet you can imagine that changes to even one of these items could directly influence your quality of life. That's why it is important to be involved in the Official Plan Review

ExpandWhat ways are there to participate in the Official Plan Review?

We want to have as many people as possible providing their observations on what works and what could work better in Toronto today, and their ideas on how to better plan for Toronto's continued success.

There are many ways for you to connect with us and talk about your Toronto:

Events and Meetings

  • attend a session to learn more, review display material and share your comments with City staff and fellow Torontonians

    If you are unable to attend one of our sessions, you can still participate. All the material will be posted under the "Events and Meetings" page allowing you to review the material at a time and place that works for you.

    Summaries of the six open houses in September 2011 will also be posted so you can review the feedback we are receiving.

Your Say

  • provide comments online or by mail
  • complete a survey online or by mail

Contact Us

  • contact us at any time by email, telephone or mail

Sign Up Here

  • join our distribution lists to stay informed and receive updates


Municipal Comprehensive Review FAQs

ExpandWhat is a Municipal Comprehensive Review?

In conjunction with the 5 Year Review of the Official Plan, the City is also undertaking a Municipal Comprehensive Review as required by the Provincial Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

This Review will look specifically at the City's designated areas of employment and how the Official Plan policies and designations are working. The Provincial Growth Plan requires the City to address specific criteria if it wants to consider changing the land use permissions for designated areas of employment. Since the City's 5 Year Review of the Official Plan includes a review of policies and designations for employment lands, it is an appropriate opportunity to undertake the Municipal Comprehensive Review at the same time.


City Planning and Development Activities FAQs

We hope that the videos and the above Questions & Answers helped to answer your questions about the 5 Year Review of the Official Plan and Municipal Comprehensive Review. You may also contact us with additional questions on the Reviews.

Glossary of Terms

This website contains a number of "standard" planning words and phrases. To enhance our common knowledge base, the following is a list of some of those terms together with an explanation of their meaning.

If you are curious about a planning word or phrase not listed below, contact us with your question.

ExpandMid-Rise Building

Mid-rise buildings on the Avenues are no taller than the width of the street right-of-way or between 4 and 11 storeys. The as-of-right height of a mid-rise building will be determined by a series of factors. The maximum height is established based on a 1:1 ratio where the maximum height of a building is equivalent to the width of the right-of-way.

To learn more, see the City's Avenues and Mid-Rise Buildings Study


ExpandOfficial Plan

The Planning Act requires each municipality exercising planning powers in Ontario to have an Official Plan. The Official Plan is a legal document approved by City Council that describes policies and objectives for future land uses. The Official Plan is prepared in consultation with residents and reflects a community vision for future change and development. The Official Plan is a blueprint for how the City will grow over the next 30 years. It describes the location for new housing, employment, parks, office and retail areas, community services, and other land uses. The Official Plan also establishes policies for the built environment, for improvements to the City's hard services (such as transit, roads, sewers, etc.) and for the protection of the City's natural environment.

The City of Toronto Official Plan is available here

ExpandOfficial Plan Amendment

An Official Plan Amendment identifies changes to the Official Plan required to permit a proposal. A draft Official Plan Amendment is required if a proposal seeks to use, alter or develop a property in a way that does not conform to the Official Plan. This includes a proposal seeking to add permission(s) to a land use designation's permitted uses and/or amend Official Plan policy.

To learn more, see the City's Official Plan Amendment application process.


ExpandPlanning Act

The Planning Act is provincial legislation that governs planning in Ontario. The Province of Ontario sets out rules and regulations in the Planning Act which describe how planning processes should be dealt with, how land uses may be controlled and by whom. The Planning Act gives the City the power to create Official Plans and Zoning By-laws which in turn provide direction to the various officials, staff members and other authorities involved in the planning and development decision making process.

The Planning Act is available here.

You can learn more by reviewing the Province's Citizen Guide to the Planning Act.


ExpandPlanning and Growth Management Committee

This Committee is one of the Standing Committees of Toronto City Council and is responsible for the following:

  • the Official Plan and city-wide planning policy and research
  • City-initiated studies and privately-initiated planning applications having City-wide interest
  • transportation policies and plans
  • building permit policies
  • changes to key infrastructure, transportation, public transit and open space systems and publicly-owned lands affecting the entire City of Toronto



If you wish to use, alter or develop your property in a way that does not conform with the Zoning By-law, you must apply for a site-specific amendment to the By-law. You can do this through either a Zoning By-law Amendment application (commonly called a Rezoning) or a Minor Variance application. Rezonings are used for major revisions to the By-law such as land use changes or significant increases in permitted building heights and development densities. City Council makes decisions on rezoning applications. Minor Variances are used for issues such as small changes to building setback or parking requirements, and are considered by the Committee of Adjustment.

ExpandSection 37 of the Planning Act

Section 37 of the Planning Act allows the City, through a rezoning, to grant additional height and/or density (beyond what is otherwise permitted in the Zoning By-law) in return for community benefits. These community benefits may be facilities, services, or matters provided by the owner. If community benefits are appropriate, they are secured through a Section 37 agreement which will be registered on title.

ExpandThe Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe

The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe is a Provincial Plan within the meaning of the Planning Act and the Provincial Policy Statement. It provides a framework for managing growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

The Plan was developed and approved under the Places to Grow Act (2005). The Act allows the Province to designate areas as growth plan areas, and to develop growth plans for all or parts of those areas. The Plan came into force on June 16, 2006.

City Council's planning decisions are required by the Planning Act, to conform, or not conflict, with the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

To learn more about the Plan and obtain a copy, see the Province's website.


ExpandThe Provincial Policy Statement

The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) is a document prepared and released by the Province of Ontario, which provides policy direction on matters of provincial interest related to land use planning and development. Issued under the authority of Section 3 of the Planning Act, the PPS sets the policy foundation for regulating the development and use of land.

The PPS supports and complements many of the policies contained in the City's Official Plan. City Council decisions, in respect of the exercise of any authority that affects a planning matter, are required, by the Planning Act, to be consistent with the PPS.

To learn more about the PPS and obtain a copy, see the Province's website.


ExpandUrban Design

Urban design is the pursuit of creating successful places for people. It is concerned with the appearance, functionality and arrangement of buildings, streets and public space. It examines the connections between people and places, movement and urban form, nature and built fabric. Good urban design contributes to city beauty, vibrancy, safety, and inclusivity, and is an essential ingredient of city building.

ExpandUrban Design Guidelines

Urban Design Guidelines are a written and graphic text for the design of the built environment. They describe how streets, parks, buildings, open space, built form, and landscape elements relate to each other and work together to create successful places and spaces.

Urban Design Guidelines are used by the City of Toronto to illustrate the Official Plan's built form and physical planning objectives to create an attractive, healthy, safe, and sustainable city.

There are three types of Urban Design Guidelines:

  1. General City-Wide Urban Design Guidelines

    General city-wide guidelines deal with general urban design matters such as streetscape design, public safety, accessibility and general urban design principles. They apply throughout the City.

    Examples include: Percent for Public Art Program Guidelines and the Streetscape Manual.

  2. Building Type Urban Design Guidelines

    Building Type Guidelines provide built form and physical design direction for a particular type of building, such as a tall building or a townhouse. Each built form guideline applies to all buildings of that type throughout the City.

    Examples include: Drive-through Guidelines, Infill Townhouse Guidelines, and Avenues and Mid-Rise Building Guidelines.

  3. Area or Site Specific Urban Design Guidelines

    Area Specific Urban Design Guidelines deal with the creation or improvement of the public realm and built form for a defined geographic area of Toronto. These guidelines include development, context or area plans for large sites, guidelines for sites which will be developed in phases, and guidelines for nodes or the development of discrete sections of Avenues or major streets. They are often generated during the consideration of site-specific Official Plan amendments, Zoning By-law amendments, subdivision applications or Site Plan Control applications.

    Examples include: Yonge and Eglinton, Bessarion-Leslie Context Plan, and Clairtrell Context Plan.


ExpandZoning By-law

The Zoning By-law is the legal document that implements the policies and objectives described in the Official Plan. The Zoning By-law regulates the use and development of buildings and land by stating exactly what types of land uses are permitted in various geographic areas and by establishing precise development standards for lot size and frontage, building setbacks, the height and built form of structures, the number and dimensions of parking and loading spaces, requirements for open space, etc. The Planning Act grants the City the authority to implement land use controls through Zoning By-laws.