Under the Planning Act, municipalities are required to hold public consultations before the passage of an Official Plan or Zoning By-Law Amendment. This occurs when development applications do not conform to the existing zoning regulations, for example, a condo application for a height of 100 meters in a zone that is limited to 40 meters. These public meetings are intended to provide attendees a chance to voice concerns related to the development proposal and potential impacts on the neighbourhood. Consultations are required to be held for both developer-initiated amendments and amendments initiated by the City of Toronto itself.

In this Development Proposal sign for an addition to the property at 66 Isabella Street, a Statutory Public Meeting is required and scheduled with the location, place, date and time, as the developer is requesting an amendment to the zoning by-law.

Development Proposal sign for 66 Isabella Street, image by Michael Batt

This is how the property looks at the moment. The proposal is for an additional 23-storey building to be built where the park is in the foreground. Note that the park is not a city park; it is private property.

66 Isabella Street, image by androiduk

Public consultation enables City Council to make informed decisions on development in Toronto’s neigbourhoods. Community Councils are responsible for public meetings on amendments that are local in nature. Amendments that affect the city at large fall under the jurisdiction of the Planning and Growth Management Committee, such as changes to the Green Roof By-Law.

As part of the development review process, staff reports are prepared for Council by city divisions affected by an amendment application, such as City Planning and Transportation Services. Their expertise provides advice on the potential impacts the proposal relating to road capacity and traffic generation, among others. Staff reports are available at public meetings, where the public has a chance to provide input on the application’s merits. Community Council takes staff reports and public advice into consideration when evaluating an amendment. 

A recent example of the influence of public consultation on a development proposal is that of the Daniels Corporation's HighPark Condominiums at 1844 Bloor Street West. The public consultation process yielded results from community concerns in the redesign of the building and was reflected in its resubmission to City Planning. The community was concerned with building height (a usual primary concern in consultation) and massing, but also with proposed building materials in the original application, specifically the amount of glass and lack of masonry.

Below is a rendering from the applicaiton before consultations:

Original HighPark Condos rendering, image courtesy Daniels Corporation/Diamond Schmitt Architects

And after consultation; stepbacks were increased on the east side to reduce shadowing on the neighbourhood, glass on the balconies was fritted to mitigate bird-strike (a major concern across from High Park), and masonry was incorporated into the structure to blend the project in better with its context, a concern the community raised at the public meetings.

HighPark Condominiums, image courtesy Daniels Corporation

The changes made to the proposed design are a direct result of public consultations with the affected community. The community's voice was heard and its concerns were taken into consideration when redesigning the building elements.

The public consultation process is a pragmatic and effective way of influencing neighbourhood change as an individual, a stakeholder or as a group (such as a Business Improvement Area or Residents' Association). If you have questions or concerns about a proposal in your neighbourhood, you can attend public meetings and have your voice heard by developers and the City.

Related Companies:  Diamond Schmitt Architects, Isotherm Engineering Ltd., Land Art Design, Public Studio, tcgpr (The Communications Group), The Daniels Corporation, Tomas Pearce Interior Design Consulting Inc