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Frequently Asked Questions

For zoning information not listed above you should determine the zoning of the property and find the applicable regulations in the Zoning By-law.

Can I build a new home, residential addition, attached garage or deck? What size and setbacks are permitted?

To answer these questions follow these steps:

  1. Determine what zone your property is located in.
  2. Review the regulations that apply to your zone. Click here.
  3. Obtain a building permit. A building permit is not required for decks under 0.6m (2ft) in height.

Building permit applications are available at the Development Services Department. Contact the Building Division for additional information on obtaining a building permit.

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Regulations for new homes, residential additions, attached garages and decks are shown in the following chart.

Zone Regulations R1/R2/R3 Zone

R1 Zone
Suburban
 

RU1/RU2 Zone

Max. Height 10m (33ft)

10m (33ft)

10m (33ft)

Min. Front/Rear Yard

6m (20ft) min.

10m (33ft)

10m (33ft)

Min. Interior Side Setback
(No attached garage or carport)
3m (10ft) on one side

3m (10ft)

3m (10ft)

1.5m (5ft) other side
Min. Interior Side Setback
(With attached garage or carport)

1.5m (5ft) each side

3m (10ft)

3m (10ft)
Min. Exterior Side Setback
(Located on corner of two streets)
3m (10ft)

6m (20ft)

6m (20ft)

Max. Lot Coverage

eg.
frontage x depth = lot area

area x %=max coverage

R2 = 40%
R1/R3 = 35%

NA

NA

Note:

  • A deck or above grade patio can project 1.5m (5ft) into the required front or rear yard;
  • If your lot is undersized for urban areas your lot coverage may be increased to 40%, interior side yard reduced to 10% of lot frontage and rear yard reduced to 20% of lot depth;
  • The minimum front yard may be reduced to the average front yards of the neighbouring properties in older areas where homes are built close to the sidewalk;
  • Multiply meters by 3.28 for feet and square meters by 10.764 for square feet.

Can I build a detached garage or shed?  What size and setbacks are permitted?

To answer these questions follow these steps:

  1. Determine what zone your property is located in.
  2. Fill out the garage size estimator. Click here.
  3. Review the applicable regulations for your zone for setbacks etc. Click here.
  4. Obtain a building permit. A building permit is not required for sheds under 10 m 2 (108 ft 2 ).

Building permit applications are available at the Development Services Department.  Contact the Building Division for additional information on obtaining a building permit.

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The regulations for sheds and detached garages are summarized in the following chart:

Zone Regulations R1/R2/R3 Zone

R1 Zone
Suburban

RU1/RU2 Zone

Max. Height 4.6m (15ft)

5.2m (17ft)

6.1m (20ft)

Front/Rear Yard 6m (20ft) min.

10m (33ft)

10m (33ft)

Interior Side Setback 1.5m (5ft) within 20m (66ft) of front lot line

3m (10ft)within 20m (66ft) of front lot line

3m (10ft)

0.6m (2ft)beyond 20m (66ft) of front lot line

0.6m (2ft)

3m (10ft)

Exterior Side Coverage
(Located on corner of two streets)
3m (10ft)

6m (20ft)

6m (20ft)

Maximum size permitted is the most restrictive of the following:



Max. lot coverage all buildings -or- 35% or 40%

NA

NA


Max. lot coverage all out bldgs -or- 15%

15%

15%


Max. floor area 100m 2 (1076ft 2 )

150m 2 (1614ft 2 )

RU2=180m 2 (1937ft 2 )
RU1=200m 2 (2152ft 2 )

Notes:

  • If your lot is undersized for urban areas your lot coverage may be increased to 40%
  • A 3m (9'10") clearance is required from overhead power lines. Greater clearances may be required from higher voltage lines and transformers. Contact Thunder Bay Hydro for more information.

  • Multiply meters by 3.28 for feet and square meters by 10.764 for square feet

 

How large can my detached garage be?  Example.

See the regulations for your zone in the chart above and insert the values into the chart below.

For example: the lot is located in the R3 zone , the lot area is (50x100ft) 15 x 30.48m=464.51 m 2 and the house floor area with the deck is (1000 ft 2 ) 92.9 m 2 .  The maximum garage size is then 69.68 m 2 (or 750 ft 2 ).

Note: A deck which is under 0.6m (2ft) in height is considered a patio and not included as lot coverage.

Garage Size Estimator:
Select zone:
Existing Lot Area m 2 :
All existing buildings, structures, and decks m 2 :
undefined

Maximum Size for all outbuildings

[shed( s) /garage( s) ]:

m 2 or ft 2

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What zone is my lot in?

Determine what zone your lot is in.

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What if a building is already closer than what the By-law permits, the zone regulations can't be met or the regulations are not appropriate?

If a building currently does not meet the by-law and the building has existed since March 16, 1987, the building is referred to as 'non-complying'.  Non-complying is another word for being 'grandfathered'.  A non-complying yard is considered the new required yard.  Therefore an addition can be built by extending a wall or adding a deck so long as the addition doesn't come any closer to the lot line.  However, any part of the addition must in all cases be at least 0.6m (2ft) from the property (this includes basement additions and an additional storey).  This applies to non residential buildings as well.

If you are unable to meet the zone regulations or you feel that the regulations are not appropriate for your situation you may wish to make an application to the Committee of Adjustment for a minor variance.

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Is a particular vacant lot Buildable?

A building permit to construct a single detached dwelling can be issued for a vacant lot provided that the lot has a valid deed and meets the minimum lot area and frontage for the zone that applies to the property.  Even if an existing lot is undersized, if the lot has a deed a permit can still be issued in most cases.  To obtain a written indication of whether a lot is buildable, you may request a "buildable lot letter" from the City.

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How do I locate the boundaries of my lot?

The information below is intended to assist you in locating your property lines.

The City of Thunder Bay property boundary information is limited to lot dimensions only. If you wish to find your lot dimensions enter your reach for your address on the general map. Measuring tools are available to approximate your lot boundaries and the location of your survey stakes.  If you have a survey, you should be able to measure to the property line from buildings or other features marked on the survey.  If you do not have a survey, ask your neighbours if they have a survey of their property.

Your property boundaries are marked by survey stakes . When land is surveyed, metal stakes, also known as "irons" or "monuments", mark the corners of the lot. After many years, the stakes may become buried due to landscaping and grade changes. Most are buried a few inches deep; some may be as deep as a foot. Renting a metal detector can be helpful in locating the stakes. If you cannot find a stake, it may have been removed, buried beneath retaining walls, paved driveways, hedges, etc.

Finding a survey stake does not necessarily guarantee the location of your property line. Only a licensed land surveyor can determine your actual property line.

City staff cannot come to your house to locate your property line or take sides in a dispute over a private property line. Property line disputes between property owners are a legal issue and are not regulated by the City.

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Can my lot be subdivided? What are the costs?

  1. Determine what zone your property is located in.
  2. Determine the minimum lot area and frontage by referring to the chart immediately below.  Both the severed and retained portions need to meet the minimum requirements;
  3. Ensure that any existing buildings will meet the minimum setbacks from the proposed property line. Look at the regulations for both the main building( click here) and any detached buildings (click here).
  4. Make an application to the Committee of Adjustment for consent.  If the regulations cannot be met a minor variance will be also required.  Committee of Adjustment meetings are scheduled once per month.  Be sure to bring in your application before the deadlines.
  5. Attend the Committee of Adjustment meeting.  You should be ready to say a few words to explain why you are making the application.
  6. You have 1 year to complete the conditions to finalize the consent.  See "a word of advice" below.

Note: The Official Plan policies are such that in the RU1 (Rural) Zone only 2 lots can be severed from a holding as it existed on January 1, 1978 and that variances to lot area and/or frontage are rarely supported in the R1 suburban, RU2 and RU1 Zones.

Minimum Lot Areas and Frontages

R1/R2/R3 Zone

RS Zone
suburban

RU2 Zone

RU1 Zone

Minimum lot frontage

R1 = 12m
R2 = 10
R3 = 15m 

30m
100ft

60m
200ft

60m
200ft

Minimum lot Area

R1 = 360m²
R2 = 300m²
R3 = 450m² 

2100m² 

1ha
2.5ac

2ha
5ac

Note: Frontage is measured 10m back from the front lot line for irregular shaped lots.

A word of advice: Developing lots can be costly.  Estimate your costs before applying for a severance.  The good news is that the only cost that you are committed at the onset is the cost of the application.  The significant costs occur when the conditions to complete the severance are completed. Consult the chart below to assist in estimating development costs.

Note: The North West Community Plan is a special policy area that surrounds the John St. Rd., Hutton Park Dr., Woodcrest Rd. area.  See the Official Plan for the exact boundaries.

Important! Please Read! The costs outlined below are typical and are only intended to assist you in estimating the cost of your project.  You are encouraged to contact the necessary professionals and organizations shown in italics to obtain more specific estimates.  All conditions listed are not required in every case and additional conditions may be required.

Common Conditions/Fees

R1/R2/R3 Zone

NW Plan

R1 Zone
suburban

RU2/RU1 Zone

Application fee ($550 per severed lot and $75 when conditions are completed)
Paid to Planning Division

X

X

X

X

Parkland dedication fee (5% of market value of lot(s))
Paid to Engineering Division

X

X

X

X

Reference Plan Survey ($1000-$3000)
Completed by private surveyor

X

X

X

X

Hydro Service (Cost varies substantially, greater then $5000 is not uncommon)
Required by Thunder Bay Hydro

X

X

X

X

Septic Assessment ($250 per lot < 4ha, lots > 4ha no charge)
Completed by Thunder Bay District Health Unit



X

X

Well ( up to $10000+)
Completed by private technician




X

Water well testing information (+-$500)
Completed by private technician and laboratory




X

Sewer and/or water connections ($4000-$6000)
Completed by Engineering Division

Occas-
ional

X



Lot grading and drainage plan ($1000+)
Completed by qualified technician

X

X

X


Deferred Servicing Charges (cost per metre of frontage including the retained lot)
Paving, curb, gutter and granular base  $250
Paving, curb and cutter  $250
Sidewalk  $150
Storm Sewer  $200
Street Lighting  $20
Not all charges apply in for all circumstances
Required by Engineering Division


X



Notification Agreement required if wetlands or high potential for noise nuisance are present proximity to airport or rail yard  $250
Completed by Planning Division

Dedication and registration of easements where needed $250
Completed by Realty Services Division

Legal costs including the drafting of and registration of deeds are not included


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Can I add or legalize a second (apartment) unit?

There are a number of circumstances whereby a second unit can be added in an existing single detached dwelling:

  1. A second unit can be added to a dwelling serviced by municipal sewer and water provided that a minimum lot frontage of 18m and area of 540m 2 exists.  If your lot is in the R1 zone, refer to Section 5.2 of the Zoning By-law which speaks to 'accessory apartments' for more information.
  2. Additional units can be added to a dwelling in the R2 zone for homes a) built prior to January 1, 1945; b) have a minimum gross floor area (all storeys) of 140m 2 ; and c) have at least 10m of lot frontage and 300m 2 of lot area.
  3. Temporary modular detached "garden suites" are permitted on lots with sufficient lot area and frontage pending the approval of a Temporary use By-law and necessary building permits.

*A building permit is always required to install an additional residential unit*

If you own a home that has an existing second unit and you can prove that the suite has existed for quite some time (usually 20 years or so) you may be able to inquire about legalizing the suite by applying for a compliance report.  Any documentation that you can provide will be of assistance (municipal assessment, income tax, hydro, telephone records or affidavits from owners or previous tenants).  The response will tell you what, if any, additional information is required.

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Can I conduct a business from my home?

A small scale home based business is permitted in any dwelling provided that the home occupation regulations are met.

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