The Planning Services Division and Building Services Division, with help from other divisions and agencies, oversee private development in Thunder Bay. Each division offers their own expertise and plays a different role in the development process. 

If you have a business idea and are looking for land to buy or you own land and want to develop it,  your first stop should be the City of Thunder Bay. City staff have the information you need to make informed decisions about buying land and developing it.

The Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) is also responsible for business development in Thunder Bay. They can assist you with site selection and identify funding that may be available for your project. Find more information on their website.


If you are planning any type of construction project, whether it is building a new home or renovating an existing building, you will need a building or plumbing permit. Building demolitions require demolition permits.

You can apply for a building permit at the Development Services Office on the second floor of the Victoriaville Civic Centre. All blank forms are available at the Development Services Office or for download here. You may also apply for small projects, such as decks, garages and pool fences online.

Learn more about building or renovating in and around your home, including demolition, driveways, decks, sheds and more.

 The Building Code Act
Under the Ontario Building Code Act, you require a building permit for the construction or alteration of any structure over 10 square metres (108 sq. ft.). The following is a list of typical projects that need a permit:
  • Excavating or constructing a foundation
  • Construction of non-load bearing basement walls
  • Basement or main floor walkouts
  • New fireplaces and woodstoves
  • Installation or changes to plumbing
  • Decks, porches, sunrooms, solariums, carports, attached or detached garages
  • Fences enclosing a swimming pool
  • Dormers, new or structural alterations to windows or doors
  • Adding or removing most wall-siding, material alterations
  • Additions or repairs to a building
  • Constructing a new building or structure on your property
  • Renovating an existing building
  • Converting an existing building to a new use

Staff cannot issue a building permit until all the following is complete:

  • Staff have reviewed and approved drawings
  • The applicant has paid the necessary fees
  • The application complies with all applicable law requirements
  • The applicant has satisfied all Site Plan Approval conditions
 Applicable law 
Building permits are subject to “applicable law”. Proposals that do not follow applicable law will not receive a building permit. These proposals may need to go through more processes to become permitted. For example, if your proposed use for your building is not permitted by the Zoning By-law, you will require a Zoning By-law Amendment through Planning Services. This can extend timelines and increase costs. Consulting with the City ahead of time can help you avoid these extra processes or help you plan for them early. 


The Planning Services Division develops and maintains the Official Plan and Zoning By-law. The Official Plan and Zoning By-law provide the framework for land use planning in Thunder Bay. The Official Plan describes what kind of community we want to become in the future. It sets goals, objectives, and policies which guide our land use planning decisions. The Zoning By-law aims to implement these goals and objectives on a day-to-day basis. Our goal as planners is a safe, happy, healthy, efficient, and beautiful city.

Planning Services also reviews development proposals and processes various planning applications under the Planning Act. These include:

  • Official Plan and Zoning By-law Amendments
  • Consent to Sever, Minor Variances, and Permission
  • Plan of Subdivision and Plan of Condominium
  • Site Plan Approval

Planning Services can help you determine if your proposal requires a planning application and what type is appropriate.  

The Planning Act

The Planning Act (the Act) is provincial legislation that sets out the ground rules for land use planning in Ontario. It describes how land uses may be controlled, and who may control them.

The purpose of the Act is to:

  • promote sustainable economic development in a healthy natural environment within a provincial policy framework
  • provide for a land use planning system led by provincial policy
  • provide for planning processes that are fair by making them open, accessible, timely and efficient

The Citizen's Guide to The Planning Act offers more information.

Provincial Policy Statement

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2020 applies province wide. Its policies set out the government's land use vision for how we settle our landscape, create our built environment, and manage our land and resources over the long term to achieve livable and resilient communities. 

Planning decisions in Ontario must be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement.

Growth Plan for Northern Ontario

The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, 2011 is in part an economic development plan, an infrastructure investment plan, a labour market plan, and a land-use plan for Northern Ontario.

Planning decisions in Northern Ontario must be consistent with the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.

The Official Plan

The Official Plan is our City's key land use document. This plan plays an important role in the development of our City. It describes what kind of community we want to become in the future. It sets goals, objectives, and policies which guide our land use planning decisions. Everything the City does related to land use needs to conform to the Plan. That includes passing any by-laws and undertaking any public works.

The Official Plan contains maps of land use designations for the entire City. These describe the future intended use of land. The text of the Official Plan has policies relating to each land use designation.

The City of Thunder Bay updated the Official Plan in 2019. The vision for Thunder Bay is a city that is healthy, safe, successful, and adaptable. The Plan uses four approaches that speak to the climate, the economy, the community, and the natural environment. Learn more on our Official Plan page

The Citizen's Guide to Official Plans offers more information. 

Zoning By-law

The Zoning By-law manages the present and future land use in the City. It is a tool used to implement the Official Plan's vision for the City on a day-to-day basis. The Zoning By-law divides the City into land use zones. Each zone has a list of permitted land uses and a set of regulations. There are regulations that apply to specific uses permitted in each zone. There are also general regulations that apply to all properties in any zone.

The City of Thunder Bay passed its Zoning By-law in 2010. Since the City has recently updated the Official Plan since then, the Zoning By-law must also be updated to reflect the changes. 

Most properties are zoned under the current Zoning By-law. Some properties have surviving paragraphs which means some parts of the previous Zoning By-law apply. Learn more on our Zoning page. 

The Citizen's Guide to Zoning By-laws offers more information. 

Urban design guidelines

Urban design is both visual and practical. People are more likely to visit a site, a neighbourhood, or a city if it looks good and functions well. Well-designed sites maintain their value and increase the values in their area.

The vision for Thunder Bay is a city that is attractive, accessible, walkable, and resilient. The City of Thunder Bay has two documents that guide the design of private and public lands: Urban Design Guidelines (24 MB) and the Image Route Guidelines.

Staff have also developed Sample Landscape Strips that make it easy for you to meet the City’s landscape strip requirements and enhance your property. The intent of these planting designs is to improve both the quantity and quality of landscaping along City streets and sidewalks and within private lands.

Learn more on our Urban Design Guidelines  page.

Planning application forms and fees

You should contact Planning Services before you buy land or apply for a building permit. A Planner can determine if you need to complete a planning application and what type is appropriate. They can also identify what information you may need to submit with your application. Call (807) 625-2216 to set up an appointment.

Find more information on our planning application page. 

Application forms and fees

As of January 1, 2021 the Planning Services Division will be collecting a fee on behalf of the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority (LRCA) for their review of planning applications. The LRCA is responsible for assessing Planning Act conformity to Section 3.1 (Natural Hazards) of the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS).

Application Forms


Active development proposals and planning notices

Find out the status of active development proposals including public meeting dates and appeal periods. Thes proposals include proposed amendments to the Zoning By-law and the Official Plan. 

Planning Services posts planning application notices on the City website. The Public Notices page includes notices for active planning applications. These include applications heard by both City Council and the Committee of Adjustment

Appeal process and support

The Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) hears cases in relation to a range of municipal planning and land matters. These include matters such as official plans, zoning by-laws, subdivision plans, consents and minor variances, and other issues.

The Citizen's Guide to OLT offers more information. 

Community Improvement Grants

 A Community Improvement Plan (CIP) is a tool used to focus municipal initiatives in areas in need of development and/or redevelopment. Adopting a CIP empowers the City to offer grants to cover all or part of the cost of eligible improvement projects.

There are two CIPs with actively funded financial incentive programs: the Airport CIP and the Strategic Core Area CIP.

If you require a PDF in an accessible format, contact our Municipal Accessibility Specialist.

Contact Us

Building Services
Victoriaville Civic Centre
111 Syndicate Ave S.
Thunder Bay, ON, P7E 6S4
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