An Overhaul to City’s First Zoning By-law

Just over 23 years ago, the City of Thunder Bay’s first Zoning By-law came into effect as a unified and coordinated land use planning tool for the entire City. Prior to 1987, four Zoning By-laws representing the former Cities of Port Arthur, Fort William and the Neebing and McIntrye areas, regulated development.

The new proposed Comprehensive Zoning By-law is important to residents because it will be development friendly, anticipate future development opportunities, help improve the greening of our City, and be simpler to use.

A new Zoning By-law is required to shape land use planning for the coming decades, and is necessary to implement land use policies that are specified in municipal Official Plans. They create zones that specify the type of uses that may be permitted; such as residential, commercial, industrial, or institutional. These zones contain the specifics for development such as permitted uses, lot size, height, density, and buildings setbacks. Generally, zoning by-laws also define terms and set standards for landscaping, parking, and accessory uses to name a few.

Updates will reflect community values and current industry and business standards. Residents can all relate to some of the following examples of clearer definitions and greater flexibility.

To allow for transition of homeownership in existing neighbourhoods while expanding housing options for residents, the new by-law proposes to permit four unit apartment buildings on large corner lots in certain residential areas. This will allow the Boomer Generation, who may seek alternate housing options, to stay in their neighbourhood near their family and friends instead of relocating to a senior’s facility.

Another significant change is enhanced landscaping requirements that promote the greening of City streets. Currently, only a percentage of the lot is to be landscaped. With the new by-law, a landscaped strip will now be required for most developments. This will result in an improved streetscape and beautification of our City.

Regulations for drive-throughs and parking are also being introduced for the first time that better reflect industry standards in our City. A separation distance between the drive-through line up and residential zones will be required. This separation, together with privacy buffer requirements, will aid in reducing conflict between the two uses.

Input for this new By-law was gathered from a wide spectrum. The City’s Planning Division hosted several open houses, had displays at various events, and staff presented information at various meetings such as the Real Estate Board, Rotary Club, and Ward Meetings. In addition, the proposed by-law has been available on the City’s website.

It has been restructured and is a more readable and user friendly document. It’s a culmination of input from the public and the review of policy documents such as the Official Plan and the Community Environmental Action Plan. The proposed New Comprehensive Zoning By-law introduces improved development regulations that support the Community’s vision to create a more attractive, livable community.

Decio Lopes is a Senior Planner in the City of Thunder Bay’s Development Services Department.