Citizen's guide to neighbourhood development

Suburbs

Kitchener’s population is growing. Every year, more and more people are choosing to make our city their home. This growth can put pressure on established neighbourhoods as people search for housing to meet their needs. But growth, done right, provides a great opportunity to add to the rich character of a neighbourhood.

These projects can occur in well-developed neighbourhoods, such as the central areas of the city which have their own unique character, many rooted deep in the city’s history. They are walkable neighbourhoods – close to amenities, downtown, and ION rapid transit stops. 

Some of these changes could include: additions to existing homes, replacing homes, adding units to existing buildings, splitting lots into multiple lots and new multi-unit homes.

It’s important that new projects consider how they fit in the neighbourhood.

This guide helps to explain what regulations are in place, what city processes and permits are required, how developments are approved and when the public has an opportunity to get involved.

A renovation or new development is happening in my neighbourhood

What determines what can be done on a particular property?

The zoning bylaw sets the rules for what types of residences are allowed on each property in your neighbourhood. This can include varying types of residences such as single detached, semi-detached, triplex and apartments.

Each zone has different zoning requirements, and a property may have different rules than those across the street or next door.

The zoning bylaw may set regulations around:

A. Building setbacks –how close a building can be to your property lines

B. Lot coverage – how much of the property can be covered by buildings 

C. Building height – how tall a building can be 

D. Garage projection – how far the garage extends from the house

E. Driveway width – how wide a driveway can be

Drawing with alphabetical references that match text

House with alphabetical references that match text

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How can I find out about changes happening in my neighbourhood?

Depending on the renovation or new development, public information may be available to you and you will be made aware of projects happening in your neighbourhood.

A. If there is a renovation/development that meets city bylaws, the Ontario building code, and the project has been approved, there is a building permit posted on the building. Neighbours are not involved in this type of project as it meets all the requirements of the city. You can visit our active permit webpage for building permit information.

Window with building permit posted

B. If a project needs permission to change zoning rules or to create a new lot, a sign is placed on the property. You may also see a notice in the newspaper or receive a letter in the mail. In this case, there is either a zoning bylaw amendment or committee of adjustment application underway. More information about zoning amendment and committee of adjustment processes are on the following pages.

House with zoning sign on lawn

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How does the approval process work?

If all zoning bylaws are met, the project is approved by staff.

If the project does not fit the current zoning bylaws and significant changes are required, the property owner can request a zoning bylaw amendment which must be approved by city council. An example of this might be wanting to build townhomes on a property only zoned for single or semi-detached houses.

If the project does not meet all zoning bylaws, and changes are minor, the property owner can apply to the committee of adjustment for a minor variance. An example would be a house addition that doesn’t have the required setback.

View our current zoning amendments. Subscribe to the page, using the green "subscribe" button, to receive up-to-date notices.

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Process for zoning amendments

Here are the steps involved with a zoning amendment application:

  1. Property owner submits an application to the city.
  2. The public is notified of the application (letter to nearby property owners, sign on the property). If you want to give input or to get on the notification list, contact city planning.
  3. A neighbourhood information session may take place to inform the public and seek feedback.
  4. A newspaper notice is placed and a letter notice sent to those who requested to be on the notification list.
  5. A public meeting is held at a committee of council then council makes a decision.
  6. Project is approved or project is refused (Anyone may appeal the decision to the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal.)
  7. If a project is approved, site plans are reviewed by city staff (when required). Building permits acquired. Project construction can begin. 

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Process for committee of adjustment

Property owners may apply to the committee of adjustment if a project does not meet zoning requirements and changes are minor or to divide their property into two or more lots. 

Here are the steps involved with a committee of adjustment application:

  1. Property owner submits an application to the city.
  2. The public is notified of the application (letter to nearby property owners, sign on the property, newspaper notice). If you want to give input or to get on the notification list, contact city planning.
  3. Committee of adjustment hearing takes place. The committee hears comments of the applicant and the public and then makes decision on application.
  4. Project is approved or project is refused (Anyone may appeal the decision to the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal.)
  5. If a project is approved, site plan is reviewed by city staff (if required). Building permit acquired. Project construction can begin (in the case of a consent application, lot creation can begin).

Examples:

Minor variance

To build the new front porch, a variance was needed to allow it to be closer to the front than zoning permits.

House with graphic references to illustrate text

Consent application

If a property owner wants to divide their property into two or more lots, the property owner can apply for a consent application through the committee of adjustment. 

Roof of house with graphic references to illustrate text

Note:

Committee of adjustment meetings occur about once a month. Submitting the application doesn’t guarantee approval.

The Committee of Adjustment also hears sign and fence variance requests. These go to City Council for final decision.

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What happens next?

Small projects, such as a second storey on a single detached home, or the addition of a garage, will be required to apply for a building permit before breaking ground.

Larger projects, such as the development of a triplex, townhouse, or apartment building, are required to provide site plans before building permits can be issued. Site plans allow staff to review the impacts of the development on the neighbourhood as there is more to consider. This includes a review of how the development will have an impact on lighting, grading, parking, and trees, among other considerations.

Site plan review is a technical process. It is based on Council-approved documents including the zoning bylaw, urban design manual and development manual. It does not include a formal public process.

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Things the city looks for through site plan
  • Site layout: Locations of buildings and parking areas on the property
  • Parking lot layout: Design for cars to the through site, driveway locations
  • Landscape and amenity areas: Landscape buffers, tree protection where possible, tree planting
  • Grading, servicing and stormwater management: To ensure new project doesn’t impact neighbouring properties
  • Building design: Building elevations consider character of the surrounding neighbourhood
  • Site lighting: To avoid light spill on adjacent properties
  • Garbage storage: Location on site, deep well units (e.g. Moloks) or enclosures

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What other standards does the city have?

In addition to the zoning bylaw, some of the tools the city uses to review planning applications include the urban design manual and an engineering development manual.

The urban design manual includes guidelines about how to design projects that fit within a neighbourhood such as looking at:

  • Building design and massing
  • Architectural features such as roof pitch, window and door openings, and porches

The urban design manual also has standards for:

  • Site lighting
  • Parking lot design
  • Tree planting and landscaping
  • Garbage storage
  • Site safety and functionality

The urban design manual is not a bylaw. Projects must meet its general intent but may not completely address each guideline. The engineering development manual addresses stormwater management, lot grading and servicing of water and sanitary sewer.

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Where can I get more information?

For further information about the process, or a specific project, contact the planning division at 519-741-2426. If planning staff is unable to provide the information you need, they will put you in contact with the division that can further assist.

Zoning/planning inquiries:

To verify the zoning of an address and its permitted uses and regulations, call 519-741-2317, email Planning or visit the 6th floor of Kitchener City Hall at 200 King St. W.

Building inquiries:

Find out if your project will require a building permit by calling 519-741-2312, email Building or the 5th floor of Kitchener City Hall at 200 King St. W.

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