The City of Toronto receives many planning applications with varying degrees of complexity. City Planning organizes applications into categories based on the principles of the Streamlining The Application Review Process, or STAR, contained in Building Toronto Together: A Develoment Guide. Applications that deal with small changes to the Zoning By-Law or land severance are not subject to STAR and are instead sent to the local Committee of Adjustment for approval.

Below are a few images of a standard City of Toronto Development Proposal signs. These signs are mandatory and are posted on the site of the proposed development with a rendering of the structure, application file number and contact information for the city planner responsible for the application.

Development Proposal sign for 17 Dundonald Street:

City of Toronto Development Proposal sign, image by Michael Batt

Development Propsal sign for 66 Isabella Street:

City of Toronto Development Proposal sign, image by Michael Batt

Development Proposal sign for 501 Yonge Street:

City of Toronto Development Proposal sign, image by Michael Batt

The STAR Process

The STAR Process applies to important applications that require Official Plan Amendments (OPA) and Zoning By-Law Amendments. There are three categories in the STAR Process – Complex, Routine and Quick. Complex applications take about 9 months to go through the process and cover large developments with significant community impacts. Less controversial applications are categorized as Routine or Quick.

Many large mixed-use condominium developments featured on UrbanToronto require OPA and Zoning Amendments, as development of the property often does not conform to the Official Plan or existing Zoning By-Laws. Of particular interest are the rezoning applications, as many condominium proposals call for a change in land use and substantial increases in permitted building heights and floor space. Recent developments that required such amendments are listed below.

Living Shangri-La Toronto at 180 University Avenue: 214 metres in a 76 metre zone.

Living Shangri-La Toronto, image by Westbank Corp

Living Shangri-La Toronto height zoning by-law, image by City of Toronto

Massey Tower Condos at 197 Yonge Street: 207 meters in a 46 metre zone.

Massey Tower, image by MOD Developments

Massey Tower height zoning by-law, image by City of Toronto

Building height and density beyond what is prescribed in the Zoning By-Law can be granted through Section 37 of the Planning Act, which allows the City to grant increases in exchange for community benefits provided by the developer. Examples of Section 37’s use include improvements to local parks, sidewalks, street furniture, etc., or the inclusion of cultural facilities in the development. The recent Mirvish/Gehry King Street West proposal includes art galleries and an OCAD University facility in exchange for an increase in height well beyond the current Zoning By-Law limit of 30 metres.


Mirvish & Gehry Toronto, image by Gehry International

Mirvish & Gehry Toronto height zoning by-law, image by City of Toronto

Applications for Official Plan Amendments and Zoning By-Law Amendments follow the process outlined in the chart below:

Toronto Development Guide, image by City of Toronto

The first step for OPA and Zoning By-Law Amendments begins with the pre-application consultation, during which developers obtain counsel from planning consultants to ensure the application is complete. The application is then submitted to City Planning and is circulated to other City Divisions for comment. At this point, community consultations are held to obtain local input, technical responses from experts (such as the Design Review Panel) are obtained, and a Preliminary Report is prepared for Community Council.

The Design Review Panel carefully reviews renderings such as this one below for E Condos.

Design Review Panel Rendering for E Condos, image by RioCan, Metropia & Bazis Inc.

Community Councils are organized into four groups based on the City's districts of Toronto and East York, Etobicoke-York, North York and Scarborough. Members of City Council from these districts sit on their respective Community Councils to provide a forum for local planning and development matters.

Toronto Community Council Districts, image by City of Toronto

A response to the applicant is then prepared with recommendations. Recommendations can ask the applicant to revise building design, height or density, among many other possible items for revision to mitigate the development's impact on the neighbourhood. The applicant then revises and resubmits the application, which is recirculated in preparation for a final Staff Report.

A Public Meeting at Community Council is the final stage before the application goes to a vote at City Council. Once Council has rendered its decision, there is an opportunity for a third party to appeal the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). In the absence of an OMB appeal, the Official Plan and Zoning By-Law Amendments go into effect.

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