Zoning, Committee of Adjustment, and HVRA P&D

Updated October, 2021

The role of the Committee of Adjustment (C of A) is to consider and rule on variances to the City Zoning Bylaws as proposed by an owner of a property. (For a detailed guide to participating in the C of A process, please refer to the new Palmerston Area Residents’ Association Guide to Navigating the Committee of Adjustment.)

Residents who wish to make changes to their homes that do not conform to the current Zoning Bylaws must submit architectural plans for the changes and an application to be heard at the Committee of Adjustment. The C of A provides a date for a hearing and places the application, plans and other pertinent data on the Application Information Centre for the City of Toronto. HVRA’s Planning and Development Committee receives notice of these applications examines them and takes action if, in their judgement, it is required.

The members of HVRA’s Planning and Development Committee (P&D), in turning their minds to the effect of proposed variances on the community, will be informed by a long history of HVRA projects as well as city policies, as exemplified by following list:

• footprint of the proposal in relation to the lot size and neighbouring properties
• density
• privacy
• shadowing
• adjacency
• enhanced greenspace (such as delineated in the HVRA Green Plan)
• soft landscaping
• trees (note: the HVRA Board passed a 40% canopy policy and has carried out tree inventories)
• heritage (i.e. Harbord Village Heritage Conservation Districts and expansion of same)
• sustainable development/green standards/heating/cooling etc. (as part of HVRA’s NetZero Carbon Project)
• environmental impacts (such as stormwater management)

The following are possible scenarios where HVRA’s P&D Committee might choose to participate in a C of A process or in larger projects requiring a by-law revision.

I. Committee of Adjustment process

A. Before plans are presented to C of A or in the case of a Rezoning

City of Toronto Councillors and City planners often encourage proponents to meet with residents’ associations to discuss proposals and, in some cases, share preliminary sketches for a project. Such meetings are not compulsory. When they occur, such meetings are typically conducted in a confidential and without prejudice manner to encourage an open discussion.
When this occurs, P&D explains up front that we are not there to express approval of any plan. Rather we offer advice on the feasibility of certain features or the project as a whole, in contemplation of anticipated neighbourhood concerns. In some cases, P&D may flag various City departments, including Planning, Forestry, Transportation, or City Heritage, to provide input on the project.
If P&D eventually expresses support or opposition, it will only be after final plans are presented, usually on the Committee of Adjustment website and after we complete our reasonable efforts to ascertain whether the plans are in order, that the community has been notified, and that the proponent has responded to concerns that City departments may take. In the case of C of A process, this is frequently on the day of a hearing.

B. After plans have been posted on the C of A Website

City Planning posts applications, zoning notices describing variances and other communications on the City Application Information Centre. Once items are placed on hearing agendas, the Committee of Adjustment mails public notices of the project and variances sought to all residents within 60 metres of the project address.
Following this process, possible steps by P&D include:
1: We may reasonably determine that the variances sought are benign and take no further action.
2: We may reasonably determine that the variances are significant and warrant supplementary notification to HVRA members nearby the address of the proposed project.
3: If there is enough interest, a meeting of residents might be called. P&D may attempt to determine concerns and offer advice as to how to register objections and organize opposition at the C of A hearing. If warranted, P&D may reach out to the proponent or call a public meeting to meet with the proponent before the hearing to discuss and/or negotiate changes.
4: If individuals or groups of residents wish to oppose, we may recommend they hire professionals such as planners to make their case. P&D comprises only lay people with some experience at the C of A, and P&D itself would not take carriage of appeals or interventions in C of A matters on behalf of concerned residents. Community members always have every right to appear at City tribunals as individuals or collectives and to hire representation.
5: If there are material issues/precedents for the Harbord Village neighbourhood, P&D may compose a letter either opposing or approving the project. It is also an option for P&D to appear at the C of A Hearing on its own behalf.

II. Larger projects that require a by-law revision (Rezoning)

1: Occasionally we will encounter larger projects for multi-storey structures or similar projects. Because they are major projects, they will not proceed through the typical Committee of Adjustment process, but rather will proceed through the City Planning department. These are generally on the main streets on the periphery of Harbord Village.
2: Such projects must have at least one public meeting called by City Planning and may also involve open consultation sessions with City Planning and participation in councillor-led working groups.
3: In some cases, P&D may attempt to organize individual working groups of residents to share opinions and concerns on larger projects. Such working groups can be useful for working through the finer details on a particular project with a view to seeking concessions from project proponents, or in some cases, producing legal agreements that can be signed on by all parties prior to the final plans appearing on the docket of Toronto and East York Community Council and City Council (TEYCC).
Note: Residents always have a right to speak at Community Council to voice concerns outside of HVRA / P&D organized processes or lead their own parallel processes which may or may not be consistent with the views & processes put forth in the HVRA / P&D process.

In the case of both types of files, HVRA may or may not appear before Community Council, the Toronto Local Appeal Body (TLAB) or the Ontario Land Tribunal. It is always useful for those wishing to oppose a file to hire a registered planner.

Here are two historical examples of HVRA P&D operating in concert with the community and the councillor for interventions in disputes with two separate local entertainment venues. These took place prior to 2010.
In cases such as the Brunswick House or Comfort Zone, we have held public meetings co-chaired by HVRA and the councillor, the object being to ensure that good process is followed. In essence we put the residents and protagonists in a safe environment where  the neighbours ask the hard questions and let the consensus of the meeting decide the results
It must be emphasized that the Board does not decide things as much as it facilitates process. But it can advocate once a position has been taken by members and adopted by the Board.  In 2009, for example, when the specific case of the Silver Dollar/Comfort Zone reached the OMB, HVRA in concert with the neighbours argued vociferously for and achieved severe restrictions on the operation that went some way to alleviate the distress that this business had been bringing to the nearby residents.