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Legal Non-conforming Use

A legal non-conforming use is one that was lawfully in existence before a new zoning by-law came into effect.

The zoning by-law regulates the use of all properties in the municipality. It may, for example, change the permitted land use from residential to business office, such that a dwelling may no longer be permitted. However, if a lawfully existing dwelling was on the property before the zoning was changed, the dwelling can remain as a legal non-conforming use. In such a case the dwelling’s size and location are fixed on the site. The Committee of Adjustment is empowered to grant a physical expansion of or other major alteration to such a dwelling.

The Committee can also grant a change of use from the existing non-conforming use to another use which is not otherwise permitted by the zoning by-law. The Committee must be satisfied that the proposed new use is in closer conformity with the other uses specifically permitted or at least has no greater negative impact on the surrounding neighbourhood than the current use (e.g. changing an automobile repair garage to a variety store in a residential neighbourhood).

Apply for a change in legal non-conforming use

To apply for a change in legal non-conforming use, you must use the Application for Minor Variance.

Prior to submitting an application, consultation with the Town Planner is required. Pre-consultation may reveal other matters that might need to be addressed.

Upon receipt and acceptance of the application, the application and a location map are circulated to internal departments and external agencies for comment. Prior to the presentation of the application to the Committee of Adjustment, public notice describing the nature of the variance with an invitation to attend the meeting is given, usually by letter, to property owners and tenants within 60 metres of the specific site.

The Committee will hear representation from the applicants, and from anyone who wishes to comment, before making a formal decision concerning the request. If favourable, conditions of approval may apply.

The proponent or any other person who presented to the Committee or who submitted written comments has the right to appeal a Committee decision, provided the appeal is received within 20 days of the Committee’s decision. This appeal is made to the Ontario Municipal Board and formal steps are mandated for the acceptance and processing of the appeal. This should be discussed with the Town Planner prior to application submission or appeal of a decision.