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. Visit our service counter in the Development Services Office or call 625-2216 to set up an appointment.

For a list of planning applications currently being processed see our active development proposals page. 

Pre-consultation 

If you know you need a planning application, then your next step is pre-consultation. Through pre-consultation, staff will identify the appropriate application process for your proposal. The City will also determine what material or studies your application needs to include. Your application may need extra public consultation, such as an open house. City staff may identify this during pre-consultation or at any time during the process.

You may need professional reports such as a traffic study or environmental assessment to support your proposal. For example, certain changes of land use require a Record of Site Condition through the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks. The processing time of your application depends on the timely submission and/or revision of these studies, as needed. 

Find a full list of these reports on Page 101 of the Official Plan

Application requirements

Each application will include a list of required submissions. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • a complete application form
  • proof of ownership
  • proposed site plan and other drawings
  • the appropriate fee

Planning Services staff may request other materials as needed. You must pre-consult with Planning Services staff before you submit your application. This will help to determine what those materials might be. Staff can explain the process and discuss what else you might need to provide. Incomplete or missing information will delay the processing of your application.

When you apply you may be asked how your proposal meets the policies of the Provincial Policy Statement, Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, and the City's Official Plan. Find more information about these documents below:

Provincial Policy Statement

The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014 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. 

Application fees

Each Planning Services application has an associated fee.  The intent of each fee is to recover some of the costs associated with the processing of the file. This includes printing and mailing of the notices and producing the notice signage. Extra notices, re-circulation of notices, and legal costs (in the event of an appeal) have their own fees. See our full list of planning fees.

Application forms & additional information

Application forms are available for download below or you can pick one up at our service counter. A brief description of each type of application is also included below. 

Property information report

We recommend this service when you are thinking about buying or leasing a property. Property Information Reports give zoning and building information about a specific property. They include the applicable zoning and whether the proposed use is thought to be a permitted use on that property. They also note whether Site Plan Approval is needed and if there are any open or revoked building permits or orders.

If you provide a survey, City staff will also complete a zoning review of the lot and buildings. This includes whether the lot and buildings follow regulations such as minimum lot size, required yards, etc.

The report can also be used to show legal non-conforming status. The Applicant is responsible for providing any materials necessary to meet the requirements for legal non-conforming status. 

You must submit a completed request form to Building Services with the $100.00 application fee. You may provide a survey, but this is not required. You may need to submit extra materials to prove legal non-conforming status. 

Consent to sever

Consent to sever application form

You may need this application if you wish to divide your property and create a few new lots. This is the most common case. Other cases include, adjusting a lot line, creating an easement, or leasing land for more than 21 years. The Committee of Adjustment decides whether or not to grant consent. They consider criteria such as:

  • Does the application meet the intent of the Official Plan and Zoning By-law?
  • Does the site have services well suited for what is proposed?
  • Is the proposal compatible with surrounding uses?
  • Is there suitable access for vehicles?
  • Is there a risk to public safety or property?
  • What natural heritage features are present?

The change you request needs to fit with the policies and goals of the Province. It must be in line with the Provincial Policy Statement and the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.

Complete applications include a filled in form, site plan drawing, and fee. Planning Services staff may request other material as needed. We recommend meeting with staff before you submit. Staff can explain the process and discuss what else you might need to provide. Staff will not process an application that is incomplete.

Find more information in our Guide to Committee of Adjustment Applications

Minor variances

Minor variance application form

If you wish to change your property, but cannot meet one or more of the Zoning By-law rules, this application may be the one you need. Minor Variances give some relief to certain rules in the by-law. They do not make major changes. The Committee of Adjustment decides whether or not to permit a Minor Variance. There are four tests that every variance request must meet. The variance must:

  • be minor
  • be desirable for the appropriate development or use
  • maintain the general intent and purpose of the Zoning By-law
  • maintain the general intent and purpose of the Official Plan

This application varies rules such as lot size, setbacks, etc. It does not deal with rezoning or adding permitted uses. If you wish to rezone or add a permitted use, you'll need to apply to amend the Zoning By-law.

Complete applications include a filled in form, site plan drawing, and fee. Planning Services staff may request other material as needed. We recommend meeting with staff before you submit. Staff can explain the process and discuss what else you might need to provide. Staff will not process incomplete applications.

Find more information in our Guide to Committee of Adjustment Applications

Official plan amendments

Official Plan amendments application form

You need this application if you wish to make a change to the Official Plan. This means changing a policy or a property's designation. The policies of the Official Plan guide growth and change in the city. Designations are groups that each property is sorted in. The Official Plan explains the goals for development in these groups. For example, one designation is meant for homes while another is meant for stores and offices.

The change you request needs to fit with the policies and goals of the Province. It must be in line with the Provincial Policy Statement and the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario. City Council decides whether or not to grant the change.

Complete applications include a filled in form, site plan drawing, and fee. Planning Services staff may request other material as needed. We recommend meeting with staff before you submit. Staff can explain the process and discuss what else you might need to provide. Staff will not process an application that is incomplete.

Find more information in our Guide to Zoning By-law and Official Plan Amendments

Plan of subdivision and plan of condominium 

Subdivision application form

If you want to create more than a few lots, this application is what you need. Subdivisions are more complex than severances. They often mean new roads and city services. So, these applications need more information and take much longer. Plan of Condominium allow the units within an apartment building to have different owners. Both types of applications are heard by City Council.

What makes complete application will vary. It depends on the property and the proposal. We recommend meeting with staff before you submit. Staff can explain the process and discuss what you need to provide. Staff will not process an application that is incomplete.

The Citizen's Guide to Subdivisions offers more information. 

Status letters on planning agreements

If you have a planning agreement with this city, this letter will confirm conditions have been fulfilled. Please send written requests to the Planning Services Division. Find contact information below. 

Site plan approval

Site plan approval application form

Sites that need Site Plan Approval are designated “areas of Site Plan Control” under Section 41 of the Planning Act. Currently, the City of Thunder Bay designates properties on a site-specific basis. Many properties are areas of Site Plan Control in the City of Thunder Bay. Applicants should contact Planning Services to confirm whether they need to apply for Site Plan Approval.

The Site Plan Approval process allows City staff to review drawings above and beyond the building permit process. This allows staff to ensure that developments are:

Staff have also developed Sample Landscape Strips. This document includes planting designs that make it easy for you to meet the City’s urban design objectives for landscaping and streamline the Site Plan Approval process. 

If your property is an area of Site Plan Control, you need to apply to develop it. This application is the start of getting the agreement you need to receive a building permit. The City will ask for changes and give suggestions. Once staff approve the drawings, the agreement is ready for signing. The agreement must be registered on title. The City's Legal Services Division registers the agreement, following payment of a registration fee. 

You must provide a site plan and elevations for this application. We recommend meeting with staff before you submit. Staff can explain the process and discuss what else you might need to provide. They can also discuss what they look for in drawings. Staff will not process an application that is incomplete.

Zoning by-law amendments

Zoning by-law amendments application form

This application is for changing the rules of the Zoning By-law. You need it to make major changes like changing zones or adding permitted uses. You don't need it if you just need to make a minor change. A minor variance is usually all you need to get relief from certain rules. So, if you wish to make a major change, this application is for you. If you also need minor changes, like changes in lot size or setbacks, you can include them in the application.

The change you request needs to fit with the policies and goals the Official Plan. It also must be in line with the Provincial Policy Statement and the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario. City Council decides whether or not to grant the change.

Complete applications include a filled in form, site plan drawing, and fee. Planning Services staff may request other material as needed. We recommend meeting with staff before you submit. Staff can explain the process and discuss what else you might need to provide. Staff will not process an application that is incomplete.

Find more information in our Guide to Zoning By-law and Official Plan Amendments.  

Appeal process and support

The Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) 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 LPAT offers more information. 

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

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