Re-think Zoning: 2022 Zoning Bylaw

The City of Thunder Bay is updating its Zoning By-law to bring it into conformity with the Official Plan. This involves a review of the existing Zoning By-law regulations and mapping alongside the policies and land use designations of the Official Plan that was approved in 2019.

The new Zoning By-law presents an opportunity to re-think zoning and to acknowledge that the Bylaw’s regulations can instill confidence, affect positive change, facilitate economic growth and development, and improve the quality of the City’s built environment.

Learn more about the new Zoning By-law and how to have your say!

Go to the City's Get Involved page


 What is the 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. For example, in the "R2" - Residential Zone Two you may build a duplex, but you may not build an office. There are regulations that apply to specific uses permitted in each zone such as required setbacks and maximum height. There are also general regulations that apply to all properties in any zone such as parking.

The City of Thunder Bay passed its Zoning By-law in 2010. The City updated the Official Plan in 2019. The Zoning By-law has not been updated to reflect the changes yet.

How do I figure out how I can use/develop a property?

Use the steps below to figure out what zoning regulations apply to a property. If you need help after reviewing the information below or at any time during your research, call the Planning Services Division at (807) 625-2216.

1. Find out which zone applies to the property

Use our interactive zoning map to find the zoning on a property. Please note, certain properties have site-specific zoning which may not appear on this map. Find more information in the tabs below.

2. Check the current zoning by-law

This Zoning By-law currently applies to all properties in the City of Thunder Bay. However, certain properties have specific rules or permissions because they were previously granted a site-specific Zoning By-law Amendment.

If you want to use or develop your property in a way that is not allowed by the Zoning By-law, you may apply for a zoning change, also known as a site-specific Zoning By-law Amendment or a rezoning. Council can consider a change only if it is consistent with the Official Plan. These amendments are approved by City Council through a public process established by the Planning Act. Find out more about applying for a zoning change.

These amendments are tied to the property not the owner. If you are buying land, it is important to know if it has received an amendment in the past. This will affect how you can use or develop the land.  

To determine if your land is affected by an amendment see the tab below.

3. Check if any amendments affect the property

Use the index to find out if a property has an amendment. The index is organized by legal description (e.g. PL 25, LT 30). If you are unsure what your legal description is, most amendments also include a street address on the far right column. If the street address appears in the index, that means the property has had an amendment.

Amendments are laid out as a paragraph and one or more exhibits. These paragraphs are assigned a number to identify them. The paragraphs describe the changes made to the zoning by-law (e.g. an apartment building is a permitted use). Meanwhile, the exhibits are maps which describe the affected lands.

Some amendments under the former Zoning By-law are still in effect. These amendments are known as "surviving paragraphs". Surviving paragraphs are either:

  • listed in Table 2.1.1 of the current Zoning By-law; or
  • were passed between March 8, 2002 and January 1, 2011 (Paragraphs 637-822)

Use the index to find out if an address received an amendment under the former by-law. The paragraphs described the changes made to the by-law. Meanwhile, the exhibits are maps which describe the affected lands.

The former Zoning By-law applies to lands that are zoned under a surviving paragraph.

If an existing amendment applies to a property, it can be challenging to determine what other zoning regulations apply. Please do not hesitate to call Planning Services for help.

 4. Request written confirmation

We recommend requesting a Property Information Report before 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. 

What if my proposed use or development isn't permitted?

If you can't meet a regulation, you may need a minor variance or a zoning by-law amendment. You can visit the planning applications page for more information. You must pre-consult with Planning Services staff before applying.

See the Building and Planning page for more information about developing in our City.  

What if there is an "H" symbol after the zone code on the property?

An "H" symbol after a zone code means a holding symbol applies to the property. For example, a property zoned “R2” would be “R2-H” after a holding symbol is applied. 

A holding symbol is a special zoning designation applied to properties to delay or “hold” all or certain types of development. The City will apply this symbol to prevent a certain type or all types of development on land where it would be premature or inappropriate under current conditions. For example, the symbol may be used to prevent a day care or a school from being built on a contaminated site. Or, the symbol might be used to prevent all types of development on a site without water and sewer services.

There are conditions that need to be met before the holding symbol can be removed.  These are set when the holding symbol is first applied. For the contaminated site, the condition might be an Environmental Site Assessment to ensure the site meets environmental safety standards. Once the condition is cleared, the holding symbol may be removed. This allows properties to be pre-zoned for land uses that would be appropriate after the conditions of the holding symbol are met.

To begin the process of removing the holding symbol, call the Planning Services Division at (807) 625-2216.

The Holding Symbol Index below is a list of properties in which the holding symbol has been removed. The exhibits are maps of where the holding symbol has been removed from each property. 

Information requests
 Permission letters for Provincial licenses
 For some Provincial Licenses, you need to get a permission letter from the City. They include:
  • Day Nurseries
  • Motor Vehicle Sales
  • Motor Vehicle Inspection Station, and
  • Propane Distribution Stations

Please send written requests to the Planning Services Division.

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

Contact Us