Getting Your Development Approved – Step One: Pre-consultation
How important is Pre-consultation?
Prior to filing an application under the Planning Act, most municipalities now require applicants to attend a pre-consultation meeting. The purpose of a pre-consultation meeting is to clarify the details of the proposed development and to determine the studies and supporting documentation that will be required to accompany a complete application submission. However, is pre-consultation just another step in the already lengthy and strenuous planning process?
Pre-consultation is an important first step in processing development applications. It allows municipal staff and key agencies, such as the local conservation authority, the opportunity to review the development proposal. It also gives the applicant an opportunity to present and discuss their proposed project with municipal staff and get a clearer understanding of what will be required. At this meeting, a level of certainty as to whether the development proposed will be supported by Staff is conveyed.
The following development applications may require pre-consultation:
• Site Plan Control
• Official Plan Amendment
• Plan of Subdivision/Condominium
• Zoning By-law Amendment
The following development applications may be exempted:
• Application for Consent to Sever Property
• Application for Minor Variance
Topics Discussed at a Pre-consultation Meeting
Typically at a pre-consultation municipal staff members: 1) provide feedback on the proposed project, 2) identify any constraints or opportunities that may have been missed or misinterpreted, 3) establish whether the development complies with the planning policies of the municipality, including the Official Plan and Zoning By-law, 4) indicate the technical studies (i.e. environmental impact study, traffic impact) required to support the development application. In summary, Staff identify what is required to deem an application ‘complete’ as described under the Planning Act.
What is a Complete Application?
After the pre-consultation meeting, the applicant will receive written comments from the municipality that describe the requirements, as discussed at the meeting, necessary for an application to be complete.
For example, the Engineering Department may require that a Functional Servicing Report is prepared to establish available capacity of municipal sanitary sewer, storm sewer and water supply systems and connection locations for the development; the local Conservation Authority may require an elevation study to confirm the floodline; the Planning Department may require the applicant to submit a rezoning for the proposed development.
The items identified during the pre-consultation are pertinent for the consideration of a development application. Under the Planning Act, which governs how land may be used and controlled in the Province of Ontario, local municipalities may request additional information when considering development proposals. These additional studies are important as they show that the lands are suitable for a particular development proposal. The information and material required by the municipality deems and application complete.
What to bring?
• A brief description of the development proposal
• A concept plan of your property that can be reviewed by staff, which should include:
o Location, size, existing and proposed use of land
o Location of existing and proposed buildings and structures
o Location of any significant features on the site or adjacent (i.e. wetlands, hazard lands, watercourses, drainage ditches, woodlands, wells, septic tanks, etc.)
o Proposed development concept, including setbacks from lot lines and significant features
The Importance of a Planning Consultant during Pre-consultation
Although the pre-consultation process may seem straightforward, it is important to have a planning representative with you at a pre-consultation meeting. With all the information that will be provided to you during this meeting, having a planning professional that understands the plan-speak used at the meeting, and can delve into the scope of associated plans and studies required to support a proposal is beneficial. A planning representative can also prepare a concept plan for the meeting and ask important questions relevant to the project so the best outcome is achieved for your project.
What is next after Pre-consultation?
Now that you know what is needed to deem your application complete, you can begin to assemble the detailed information you will need to submit with your development application, as discussed at the pre-consultation meeting, and begin the next step in the development application review process.
Next week the second step of the development application review process will be discussed à Application Circulation and Review