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How to get involved in the development application process

Planning Committee and Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee

What Is the Planning Committee?

The Planning Committee is a group of 10 Councillors chosen by City Council. They meet to review and make decisions on the merits of development applications and policy with an urban focus and to ensure a fair and efficient process. One Councillor is appointed as the Chairperson of the Committee. There is also a Vice Chairperson. Other Councillors, not on the Committee, can attend meetings and ask questions.

What Is the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee?

The Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee is a group of five Councillors chosen by City Council. They meet to review and make decisions on the merits of development applications and policy with a rural focus and to ensure a fair and efficient process. One Councillor is appointed as the Chairperson of the Committee. There is also a Vice Chairperson. Other Councillors, not on the Committee, can attend meetings and ask questions.

When and Where Do the Committees Meet?

The Planning Committee meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 9:30 AM in the Champlain Room at City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue in downtown Ottawa. During the summer months of July and August, the Committee meets once a month.

The Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee meets the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 9:30 AM usually in the Champlain Room at City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue in downtown Ottawa. Some of the Committee meetings are held at night within in the rural area. During the summer months of July and August, the Committee meets once a month.

Committee meetings are open to the public and to presentations by members of the public and community organizations.

How the Committee Meeting Is Organized: The Agenda

The Committee meeting is organized around the "agenda", a volume of staff reports dealing with each of the items or applications that require action by the Committee. The agenda is available on the Friday before the meeting from the Information Desk at City Hall. You or your community organization can also request a copy of the staff report on a particular application by contacting the assigned Planner in charge of that application. As well, if an individual or community organization provided comments on the application, a copy of the report will have been sent by mail.

Before each Committee meeting, copies of the agenda are made available on a table at the entrance of the room where the meeting is being held. Anyone is free to take a copy for personal reference.

The agenda for each meeting showing all of the items or applications for review and approval by the Committee is also published in The Citizen, Le Droit and The Sun, the Friday before the Committee meeting.

The agendas of previous Committee meetings with complete reports and decisions made at those meetings are also accessible.

Staff Reports:

A written report prepared by City staff accompanies each item on the Planning Committee agenda. There is a standard format for these reports and each one includes the following sections:

  • Subject (the municipal address and type of application)
  • Report Recommendation (to approve or not approve the application)
  • Background (background points or additional information)
  • Discussion or Analysis (key points for discussion by the Committee)
  • Environmental Implications (key points on environmental impacts)
  • Rural Implications (key points on rural impacts)
  • Consultation (summary of comments from circulated community organizations and agencies)
  • Financial Implications (impacts on operating or capital budgets)
  • Application Process (time frame application was processed in)
  • Attachments (supporting documentation for Committee)
  • Disposition (City Department for implementation)

The front section of the Committee Report listing the individual items requiring approval of the Committee and the recommendations associated with those items appears in both English and French while the body of the report is in English.

The Consent Agenda

At the beginning of the meeting, the Committee Chairperson conducts what is called "the consent agenda". During this process, the Committee members go through the entire agenda of reports requiring no discussion and approve those that have no community or applicant delegations associated with them. These applications or reports are usually minor or not controversial.

If you arrive at the meeting late and are following the progress of the Committee in the agenda and they seem to skip over certain items, it is because those matters have already been dealt with in the consent agenda portion of the meeting.

Making a Presentation to the Committee

Any individual or group is welcome to make a presentation to the Committee. Presentations are made in the same order of the items or applications as they appear on the meeting agenda for that particular session. However, the Committee does have the flexibility to change the order of the items.

When the Committee reaches an item on the agenda, they will ask to first hear from staff and then hear presentations from interested individuals or community organizations. If it is a controversial application, there can be a number of presentations. The Committee will hear all of the presentations.

If you would like to make a presentation or a statement to the Committee, fill out a form that is available on a table at the entrance of the meeting room. These forms are collected by the Committee Coordinator, just prior to the start of the meeting, and delivered to the Chair of the Committee. When the item you have asked to speak about comes up on the agenda, the Committee Chair will call your name and ask you to come forward and make your presentation or comments. If you arrive after the start of a meeting, you can still fill in a "request to speak" form and have it taken to the Committee Coordinator.

In situations where an item on the agenda concerns a matter of interest to the whole City, or is very controversial, the Committee will often designate a specific time of the meeting for discussion of that item. The time of the item is advertised in advance. You can also call and ask if a particular item on the agenda will be heard at a certain time or ask for an estimate as to when the item could come up for review by the Committee.

Presentations are limited to five minutes. This is about one typewritten page of material. Committee members will often ask questions of the individual making the presentation so as to fully understand the nature of his/her presentation and the points he/she is raising. Arrangements can be made with the Committee Coordinator for audiovisual or computer generated presentations. Any material you wish to distribute to the Committee can be given to the Committee Coordinator as well. Giving the Committee members a copy of your presentation on letterhead or with your identity clearly indicated is also recommended.

Sometimes larger groups of people attend a meeting because of concern about a particular application. Designating one or a few people to represent the group and to make a presentation is often the most efficient way of informing the Committee of your group's position on a particular application. If more than one presents, they should each cover different points and not repeat each other.

Submitting Written Material to the Committee

Community organizations, their members and individuals are welcome to submit written comments to the Committee on any report coming before Committee. (There is a standard comment sheet available at every Committee meeting that can be filled out and submitted to the Committee). The Committee can also receive letters, in hard copy form or electronic form, prior to the actual Committee meeting. As a courtesy, you should also send a copy of your letter to the assigned Planner for that particular development application.

Address written correspondence to:

Committee Coordinator
Planning Committee


Committee Coordinator
Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee

City of Ottawa
110 Laurier Avenue Avenue West
Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1

Staff Presentations

When it is a complex matter, the Committee will also ask for a presentation by City staff. After the presentation, Councillors often ask questions of staff for further clarification. City staff from other Departments, such as Legal Services and Finance, are usually on hand throughout the Committee meeting to respond to any additional questions.

Presentations by the Applicant or Agents of the Applicant

For most applications that come before the Committee, the applicant or an agent of the applicant (professional planner, lawyer, architect) is welcome to make a presentation to Committee about his/her application. In that presentation he/she can respond to any points of concern raised by the community organization in their presentation. The same five-minute limit on his/her presentation applies.

Voting on Staff Reports and Report Amendments by Committee

Committee members are free to make amendments to the report or to its recommendations. Amendments require an additional member of the Committee to "second" or support the motion proposing the amendment. Typically, the Committee member will make a short statement about the amendment. The other members of the Committee are also free to speak for or against the proposed amendment. The Committee Chairperson then puts the matter to a vote. In the case of a tie vote the item is defeated. There is no limit to the number of amendments a Committee member can put forward. Once all the amendments are dealt with, the Committee then votes on the report as a whole and as amended. This is done by a show of hands or in some cases the Committee Coordinator records the vote of each Committee member, for or against. Once a report is voted on, the matter is considered finished and the Committee moves on to the next item.

Use of English and French at Committee

While Committee and City Council meetings at City Hall are conducted in English and the written documentation is also in English, community organizations and individuals are welcome to submit their comments on development applications or other matters in the Committee agenda in either English or French. Requests can be made for simultaneous translation. Contact the Committee Coordinator to make such a request.

What Happens to a Report after the Committee Meeting?

Once the Committee has met and discussed all of the items on a particular agenda, the report of the meeting with their recommendations is forwarded to the next meeting of City Council. Council makes the final decision on all matters coming forward from the Committee meetings, however some applications do not go beyond the Committee and are dealt with at that level only.

There are no presentations by members of the public or community organizations to City Council. City Council is free to debate any item on the agenda, to approve, amend or defeat any decision made by the Committee.

If you are not satisfied with the decision of the Committee, or if you want to support their decision, your community organization can write to the Mayor and members of Council prior to the Council meeting at which they will vote on the item of interest. Your community organization can also contact the members of City Council by telephone to make views known about a particular matter. You can also ask to meet with individual Councillors before the Council meeting to explain your community organization's position in person.

Objections and appeals

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB)

The OMB is an independent and impartial adjudicative tribunal. It is made up of a Chair, Vice-Chairs and Members. The Ontario government appoints all Board Members, who have diverse backgrounds and come from different parts of the province.

The OMB listens to the appeals and concerns of people, public bodies or corporations who object to the decisions of public or approval authorities such as local or regional Councils, Committees of Adjustment, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, or an expropriating authority. The Board holds public hearings throughout the province.

If a community organization wishes to appeal Committee or City Council's decision, they can appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board. Only individuals or incorporated bodies can appeal to the OMB. However, an individual may appeal on behalf of an unincorporated community organization.

OMB hearings take place regularly in Ottawa to deal with appeals. These meetings are chaired by a member appointed by the Province and deal with the planning merits of the application.

Municipal planners and expert witnesses usually represent applicants and those appealing a decision. At OMB hearings, community sentiment and opposition are not considered. The decisions reached at an OMB hearing are based on the planning merits of the application. In essence, the Board ask whether the City Council had the authority to pass the By-law and whether it is in compliance with applicable provincial legislation and the City's Official Plan. A community organization can, however, ask the OMB for "standing", a status which recognizes that your community organization has something to say about the matter, and present information based on planning principles or community impact.

For more information about the OMB, visit their web site at:

The OMB address is:
655 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M5G 1E5

Telephone: 416-326-6800
Fax: 416-326-5370

Awarding of Costs

Appealing a decision to the OMB is a very important and difficult decision for an individual or organization to make. Appeals are expensive since lawyers, municipal planners and expert witnesses are necessary in order to present a case that a decision by the City should be overturned.

OMB hearings can take up to a week or more during which time delegations make presentations and witnesses can be cross-examined by opposing lawyers. All of these processes are expensive and any individual or community organization should carefully consider the costs involved in presenting a case to the OMB.

In addition to the costs involved in mounting an appeal to the OMB, the applicant may ask that costs be awarded in the event that the appeal is refused. In other words, the applicant may ask and receive compensation for costs. These costs would become the responsibility of the appellant (the individual or group that appealed).

Although the OMB does not often award costs, it can do so.