Why your neighbours can’t mine nickel in their backyard and other things you need to know about Ottawa’s new Zoning By-law

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Published on
March 7, 2023
Planning, development and construction

The City’s Zoning By-law defines what you’re allowed to do or not do on, literally, every inch of space in Ottawa. It’s not a subject that everyone will find interesting, but it is a subject that impacts everyone.

The City is preparing a new Zoning By-law to implement the new Official Plan. This guide will give you a sense of what’s changing in Ottawa’s new Zoning By-law. You can find more information about the new Zoning By-law and the Official Plan, and recent Provincial changes to the Planning Act, at engage.ottawa.ca.

In March consultation will begin on the new Zoning By-law and you’ll find discussion papers on each of the topics listed below on the Zoning By-law engagement page.

You are invited to complete a survey for each discussion paper. Your input and feedback will help city planners develop a Zoning By-law that will allow our city to grow and evolve in an equitable and sustainable way.

Land use
Each land use is defined in the By-law, and every zone has a list of permitted land uses to guide what activities are allowed. If you’re wondering which By-law prevents someone from opening a petting zoo in the Byward Market or a leather tannery in Bells Corners, it’s this one. The new Zoning By-law will use simpler, clearer and more flexible land use definitions.

The new Zoning By-law will revisit each land use’s impact through the lens of the new Official Plan with a goal of increasing economic development opportunities in the city while promoting 15-minute neighbourhoods.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Ottawa is made up of a rich diversity of people who deserve a city with equally diverse options for housing, working and getting around town. Equitable zoning regulations have the potential to shape a city where everyone can benefit from health, dignity, and full participation in everything that life in Ottawa has to offer.

The new Zoning By-law aims to create zoning for a fair city by focusing on five issues:

  • Housing Affordability and Choice
  • Social Fragmentation
  • Mobility and Access to Services
  • Environmental Health Equity
  • The Climate Emergency

There are many ways the City of Ottawa is working to make Canada’s capital a more inclusive and welcoming place. The new Zoning By-law can play a role by implementing the equity-advancing policies found in the new Official Plan.

Neighbourhood Character
The policies of the new Official Plan acknowledge that urban, suburban, and rural neighbourhoods have characteristics that differ from each other and that areas near major hubs and corridors have different priorities than the interiors of neighbourhoods. You may shop in Carp, the ByWard Market and the Glebe all on the same day, but all three neighbourhoods are distinct from each other.

A neighbourhood’s character is defined by:

  • Building height, size, floor area, bulk and massing
  • Exterior design
  • Location and treatment of parking and driveways
  • Landscaping and trees

Neighbourhood Zones
The new Zoning By-law will create Neighbourhood Zones to allow neighbourhoods to evolve in a way that is appropriate based on their location, age, maturity and the needs of the people living in and around them.

The approach to these zones will include:  

  • Fewer zones and more integration of uses
  • Provisions for some small-scale, locally-oriented commercial services within residential areas
  • Zoning to permit equal or higher density, depending on neighbourhood context.
  • Protecting and expanding the tree canopy
  • Removal of discriminatory zoning rules

Neighbourhood Zones will move us toward the model of 15-minute neighbourhoods detailed in the new Official Plan.

The benefits of trees as part of the City’s landscape are almost too many to count. To name just a few, trees:

  • provide shade and cooling to people, neighbourhoods and infrastructure
  • beautify landscapes
  • can help mitigate climate change and clean the air
  • help reduce stormwater runoff

The new Zoning By-law will include provisions to support the important role that trees play in healthy, livable neighbourhoods. It can achieve this in part through:

  • landscaping requirements for fronts and backs of properties
  • regulations to protect trees and discourage their removal in new developments

Resiliency, Climate Change and Public Health
The Official Plan incorporates eight strategic goals in multiple sections intended to support climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation. The Zoning By-law can implement some, but not all, of the climate change policies in the Official Plan.
Some of these policy areas include:

  • Food security, urban agriculture and the preservation of agricultural lands
  • Local Renewable Energy
  • Stormwater management
  • Flood Plains
  • Extreme Heat
  • Preservation of natural systems and access to green space
  • Reduced parking requirements or maximum parking requirements for cars
  • Increased parking requirements for bicycles
  • Electric Vehicle charging stations

Rural areas
Ottawa has one of the largest rural areas of any city in Canada. The new Zoning By-law aims to implement rural policies in the new Official Plan. Zoning provisions in the By-law for the rural area will address issues such as:

  • Providing opportunities for small-scale businesses
  • Rezoning lands around certain highway interchanges
  • Renewable energy generation facilities
  • Protection of natural environment

Did you read this entire article? You must be very interested in planning issues. Please make sure you visit the engagement page where you will find many more pages of information that dive much more deeply into these issues.