Many Leaside residents have experienced receiving a notice from the Committee of Adjustment that a neighbouring house is being renovated or torn down, with new construction proposed that doesn’t quite meet the by-law requirements, and the owners are asking for “minor variances.” As we’ve all seen, some of those variances are not minor – and have significant effect, often negative, on immediate neighbours and the streetscape. So…what can you, as a neighbour, do? We’ve prepared some guidelines to help you figure that out. Do let us know if you’ve got questions – we’ll add to the guidelines as necessary.
The LRA board routinely deputes at Committee of Adjustment opposing variance requests that we feel are not minor nor in the neighbourhood’s best interests. However, neighbour input is crucial, and so we’ve put together a short guide to the Committee of Adjustment. Please feel free to email us with questions or if you want advice or want us to review letters. We do attempt to notify those located near properties going to the Committee, and especially those living just outside the limited 60-metre City notification zone. (Adding yourself to the LRA email list will help with that.)
Committee of Adjustment Mandate
Minor variances must satisfy the 4 “tests” set out in s. 45(1) of the Planning Act.
- Must maintain the intent and purpose of the Official Plan whose policies are directed to ensuring that new development in a neighbourhood respects the existing physical character of that neighbourhood.
Objection example: The proposed dwelling is not within the physical parameters of other residential development comprising the character of the neighbourhood;
- Must respect the intent and purpose of the zoning by-law (City By-law 569-2013 and Leaside By-law No.1916), wherein restrictions on setbacks, building and wall heights, floor space and integral garage provisions ensure that the massing of new development is appropriately scaled to other existing development.
Objection example: The proposed dwelling exceeds a size that is consistent with other homes on (your street);
- Must be “minor”:
Objection example: Negative impacts of the proposed dwelling are significant
- The variances must be desirable for the appropriate development of the property:
Objection example: The proposal represents significant “massification” not necessarily intensification of the housing stock. It is neither consistent with the prevailing character and policies of the community nor reinforces the stability of the Leaside Community.
The Committee of Adjustment meets during the day on alternating weeks, usually on Thursdays, though recently, sometimes on Wednesdays as well, at the North York Civic Centre Council Chambers at 5100 Yonge St, or – since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtually. The schedules and agendas are available on the City of Toronto website.
If in person:
- Sit in the North York Civic Centre council chamber until the item is called.
- When it is called, move forward (using the right hand stairs). Those who plan to speak should go forward to sit at the table on the right side. Those who do not plan to speak should also go forward and sit in the row behind.
- Speakers speak from the podium at the left of the floor.
- There is an overhead projector for showing photographs. Use of photographs helps to explain the nature of the street
- The applicant/proponent or agent describes the request; the Committee can ask questions
- Other stakeholders (neighbours, Resident Assn.) describe their concerns (max 5 minutes per person, trying not to duplicate the points made by others)
- The Committee can ask questions but this is the only opportunity for the neighbours to raise concerns – they do not get a second chance
- The proponent speaks to the concerns raised
- The Committee discusses, a motion is made, seconded, and voted on.
You can receive a mailed copy of the CofA decision by taking and completing a card at the hearing. The applicant and all persons making a written request will be notified in writing of the Committee’s decision within 10 days of the decision being made.
The CofA decision can be appealed to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) within 20 days of the CofA decision (cost of $125).
- The street/neighbourhood context of the application is of course very important and it is advantageous to bring photographs and illustrate your comments by pointing to the photographs – they have an overhead projector that works well with printed images
- The hearing is a tribunal that hears evidence and makes a decision. It is important to be respectful to the members of the Committee.
- The Committee is only concerned with “planning matters” i.e. not with personal concerns you may have about the applicant or their behaviour. Do not raise issues such as property values.
- Letters to the Committee of Adjustment should be submitted via email prior to the hearing (we recommend a minimum of a full day before)
- Attending and speaking at the hearing is important, as the Committee seems to pay more attention to those who make the effort to appear in person. If a number of neighbours are objecting, it is suggested that you choose several speakers who will speak to different aspects of the proposal. Try not to repeat each other.