Rethink Zoning: 2022 Zoning By-law

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The Zoning By-law is one of the City’s most important development tools. It establishes the rules and regulations that guide how development takes place in our community.

There are numerous changes in the new Zoning By-law, including the addition of backyard homes, reducing the minimum size of residential lots, and giving priority to a building’s form over its use. The new by-law will also allow offices and retail uses in more locations, reduce parking requirements, and give more flexibility for a building’s use.

Thunder Bay’s new Zoning By-law 1/2022 was passed on Monday, April 11, 2022.  Five appeals to the new By-law have been received and forwarded to the Ontario Land Tribunal.  The new By-law will not be effective until the appeals are resolved.  Until then, By-law 100-2010 remains in force and effect.   Development that occurs between April 11, 2022 and the day the appeals are resolved must comply with both By-law 1/2022 and By-law 100-2010.

View By-law 1/2022, the new City of Thunder Bay Zoning By-law and Schedules:

Zoning By-law

Interactive Zoning Map

Development Holding Provisions

Site-Specific Provisions

Who:

Zoning impacts everyone in our community.

What:

The Zoning By-law is the principal regulatory tool used to implement the policies of the Official Plan. It effects development in our residential neighbourhoods, our commercial areas, and the industries and institutions that are important to our economy. It also controls development so that our natural environment, wetlands, and waterways are properly protected. Compliance with the Zoning By-law is required to receive a building permit.

The Zoning By-law controls the use of land in our community by stating exactly:

  • How land may be used
  • Where buildings and other structures can be located
  • The types of buildings permitted and how they may be used
  • The dimension and size of lots, setbacks from the street and other property lines, parking requirements, building heights and densities (the number of homes, businesses and building floor area per hectare)

The updated Zoning By-law conforms to the Official Plan. The new Zoning By-law allows an opportunity to re-think zoning and ensure the regulations will create positive change, facilitate growth and economic development, and improve the quality of the city’s built environment.

Where:

The Zoning By-law is applicable city wide and impacts all land within the municipal boundary.

When:

Thunder Bay’s new Zoning By-law 1/2022 was passed on Monday, April 11, 2022.  Five appeals to the new By-law have been received and forwarded to the Ontario Land Tribunal.  The new By-law will not be effective until the appeals are resolved.  Until then, By-law 100-2010 remains in force and effect.   Development that occurs between April 11, 2022 and the day the appeals are resolved must comply with both By-law 1/2022 and By-law 100-2010.

Why: 
The City is fulfilling its statutory requirement in accordance with Section 26(9) of the Planning Act to ensure the Zoning Bylaw conforms to the Official Plan

The City’s Official Plan came into force and effect on March 11, 2019 following a review and update of the 2002 Official Plan. The Official Plan establishes a vision, policies and land use designations to guide growth and development while protecting the City’s natural resources.

What’s New?

Urban Neighbourhoods 
Urban Neighbourhoods are where the majority of urban scale housing exists. At key locations, a range of small-scale non-residential uses are permitted to support these areas with services and amenities.

There are five Urban Neighbourhood Zones that categorize housing based on building form (size and number of stories) and density (the number of homes permitted on a lot).

  • Urban Low-Rise Zone (UL) - permits a range of two storey housing.
  • Urban Mid-Rise Zone (UM) - permits a range of two to four storey housing.
  • Urban High-rise Zone (UH) - permits apartment and long term care housing with five or more storeys. Non-residential uses are also permitted within the first two storeys to support the higher housing density.
  • Urban Mixed Use Zone (UX) - permits small-scale pedestrian oriented commercial uses where they already exist in residential neighbourhoods.
  • Neighbourhood Commercial Zone (NC) - permits small-scale commercial nodes to support residential neighbourhoods.

Urban Low Rise Zone (UL)
The Urban Low-Rise Zone permits buildings that can contain one to four homes. The size of a property dictates the size of building that can be constructed and how many individual homes can be located within it.

Most buildings will be permitted to have two homes, this means that ‘basement apartments’ or ‘mother-in-law’ suites will be allowed in most existing single detached houses. Each home will be required to have one on-site parking space.

Within this zone, buildings of a similar size can be used differently. One building might have only one home, while the one next door might have two or four homes in it. This flexibility will provide residents with more choice and allow them to use their building with less restriction. This flexibility also creates the opportunity to increase densities within the City’s urban neighbourhoods, which is a goal of the Official Plan.

Backyard homes will also be permitted in buildings accessory to detached houses, semi-detached houses, and townhouses on appropriately sized lots. These new regulations could further increase urban densities and add to the supply of housing that is affordable to a wide range of incomes. Backyard homes will have size (height and area) restrictions that are similar to detached garages. Take the survey below to provide your feedback on the proposed backyard home regulations.

Backyard home – a type of home contained within a building that is accessory to a detached house, semi-detached house, or townhouse on the same lot. Cannot be used as a care home or a shared home.

Several built form regulations have been revised to improve urban design outcomes in urban neighbourhoods. These include reduced front setbacks to a house’s livable building face and increased front setbacks to a garage building face, increased exterior side setbacks, and increased lot coverage requirements.

Liveable building face – the portion of the ground floor building façade which faces the street, and which is occupied by habitable living space area

Pedestrian Commercial Areas

Pedestrian Commercial Areas are made up of traditional shopping streets at a walkable scale. A wide range of uses are permitted including housing, retail, and offices. The built form prioritizes the pedestrian experience.

These areas represent the City’s two traditional downtowns as well as the Westfort business area. There are three zones within the Pedestrian Commercial Areas:

  • Main Street Zone (MS) - the purpose of the Main Street Zone is to create a continuous and vibrant commercial street. Active uses such as shopping and restaurants will be permitted on all storeys, while housing is restricted to upper floors only.
  • Downtown Neighbourhood Zone (DN) - The purpose of the Downtown Neighbourhood Zone is to permit a wide range of uses to support the Main Street Zone.
  • Waterfront Commercial Zone (WC) – permits a range of uses that support waterfront initiatives and community activities, waterfront-related commercial uses, and recreational and entertainment facilities.

Commuter Commercial Areas
Commuter Commercial Areas are shopping and service areas primarily designed for motor vehicle travel. These areas include a wide range of commercial uses such as retail, offices, drive-throughs, and motor vehicle dealerships.

There are three zones within the Commuter Commercial Areas:

  • Service Commercial Zone (SC) - permits appropriately scaled shopping and service areas along major streets.
  • Community Commercial Zone (CC) - permits appropriately scaled shopping and service areas at key locations to serve surrounding neighbourhoods.
  • Regional Centre Zone (RC) - permits large format shopping and services to serve the region.

Office and Retail Uses
Office and retail uses are permitted in all Commercial Areas. This will provide businesses with greater flexibility and the ability to establish in a wide range of locations.

Business Areas
Business Areas include offices and workspaces for various industries. Industrial activities must take place indoors, must not be disruptive, and must screen any outdoor storage from view from streets and adjacent properties. Restaurants and recreation uses also support these areas.

There are two zones within the Business Areas:

  • Light Industrial Zone (LI) - permits a range of commercial and non-disruptive industrial uses. Industrial facilities may have outdoor storage provided it is screened from view from streets and adjacent properties.
  • Business Zone (BU) - the purpose of the Business Zone is to create an ideal location for business offices. Complementary uses such as hotels, recreation uses, and restaurants are also permitted.

Heavy Industrial Areas
Heavy Industrial Areas provide land for land uses that should be separated from sensitive land uses. Major industries and utilities belong in these areas.

There are three zones within the Heavy Industrial Areas:

  • Heavy Industrial Zone (HI) - permits a range of industrial facilities and utilities. Appropriate separation distances from sensitive land uses are also required.
  • Airport Zone (AP) - permits and supports the functioning of the Thunder Bay International Airport.
  • Utilities and Services Zone (US) – provides for facilities related to a range of public uses and services such as electricity, gas, water, television and telecommunication, drainage, sewage, etc.

Institutional and Community Areas
Institutional and Community Areas provide land for major institutions, community centres, and parks. These areas include large open spaces and campuses.

There are two zones within the Institutional and Community Areas

  • Institutional Zone (IN) - permits major institutions. These include hospitals, colleges and universities, secondary schools, and correctional institutions.
  • Community Zone (CM) - permits public or semi-public recreation and cultural facilities.

Natural Heritage Areas

Natural Heritage Areas contain significant natural features and areas, such as wetlands that require protection.

  • The Environmental Protection Zone applies within the Natural Heritage Areas and protects natural features by limiting development. Lands adjacent to the Environmental Protection Zone are subject to a Holding Zone requiring an Environmental Impact Study demonstrating that any impacts will be avoided, minimized, or mitigated prior to development.

Definitions
Generalized and simplified use definitions have been introduced to provide additional flexibility. These definitions focus on the characteristics and qualities of a use in a general way so that it will be easier for businesses to identify the use category that applies to their particular operations. In a commercial or industrial context, this means that buildings can be used for a wide variety of purposes. Uses that have similar needs in terms of building size, parking, outdoor display, etc. will be permitted broadly providing added flexibility for businesses seeking to change and modify the way they operate within a building.

Site Development Standards
Standards for site features such as parking, landscaping and outdoor storage that apply to all sites in every zone are grouped together and contained within the Site Development Standards section. There is also a section that contains regulations that apply to specific uses, areas or sites, and a section that regulates areas with special development constraints.

What’s Changed since the First Draft?:

Numerous changes have been made in response to public and stakeholder feedback, and in response to comments received through a Peer and Legal review of the first draft. See the Summary of Key Changes Made to the First Draft in the Document tab to the right.

What Else is Happening?:

Certain Official Plan policies are being updated to reflect changes to the Provincial Policy Statement 2020 and the Planning Act, and to introduce policies that support the recommendations of the Thunder Bay Employment Land Strategy. These policy changes will support the regulations being proposed in the new Zoning By-law. See the proposed Official Plan Amendment under the Documents tab on the right.


The Zoning By-law is one of the City’s most important development tools. It establishes the rules and regulations that guide how development takes place in our community.

There are numerous changes in the new Zoning By-law, including the addition of backyard homes, reducing the minimum size of residential lots, and giving priority to a building’s form over its use. The new by-law will also allow offices and retail uses in more locations, reduce parking requirements, and give more flexibility for a building’s use.

Thunder Bay’s new Zoning By-law 1/2022 was passed on Monday, April 11, 2022.  Five appeals to the new By-law have been received and forwarded to the Ontario Land Tribunal.  The new By-law will not be effective until the appeals are resolved.  Until then, By-law 100-2010 remains in force and effect.   Development that occurs between April 11, 2022 and the day the appeals are resolved must comply with both By-law 1/2022 and By-law 100-2010.

View By-law 1/2022, the new City of Thunder Bay Zoning By-law and Schedules:

Zoning By-law

Interactive Zoning Map

Development Holding Provisions

Site-Specific Provisions

Who:

Zoning impacts everyone in our community.

What:

The Zoning By-law is the principal regulatory tool used to implement the policies of the Official Plan. It effects development in our residential neighbourhoods, our commercial areas, and the industries and institutions that are important to our economy. It also controls development so that our natural environment, wetlands, and waterways are properly protected. Compliance with the Zoning By-law is required to receive a building permit.

The Zoning By-law controls the use of land in our community by stating exactly:

  • How land may be used
  • Where buildings and other structures can be located
  • The types of buildings permitted and how they may be used
  • The dimension and size of lots, setbacks from the street and other property lines, parking requirements, building heights and densities (the number of homes, businesses and building floor area per hectare)

The updated Zoning By-law conforms to the Official Plan. The new Zoning By-law allows an opportunity to re-think zoning and ensure the regulations will create positive change, facilitate growth and economic development, and improve the quality of the city’s built environment.

Where:

The Zoning By-law is applicable city wide and impacts all land within the municipal boundary.

When:

Thunder Bay’s new Zoning By-law 1/2022 was passed on Monday, April 11, 2022.  Five appeals to the new By-law have been received and forwarded to the Ontario Land Tribunal.  The new By-law will not be effective until the appeals are resolved.  Until then, By-law 100-2010 remains in force and effect.   Development that occurs between April 11, 2022 and the day the appeals are resolved must comply with both By-law 1/2022 and By-law 100-2010.

Why: 
The City is fulfilling its statutory requirement in accordance with Section 26(9) of the Planning Act to ensure the Zoning Bylaw conforms to the Official Plan

The City’s Official Plan came into force and effect on March 11, 2019 following a review and update of the 2002 Official Plan. The Official Plan establishes a vision, policies and land use designations to guide growth and development while protecting the City’s natural resources.

What’s New?

Urban Neighbourhoods 
Urban Neighbourhoods are where the majority of urban scale housing exists. At key locations, a range of small-scale non-residential uses are permitted to support these areas with services and amenities.

There are five Urban Neighbourhood Zones that categorize housing based on building form (size and number of stories) and density (the number of homes permitted on a lot).

  • Urban Low-Rise Zone (UL) - permits a range of two storey housing.
  • Urban Mid-Rise Zone (UM) - permits a range of two to four storey housing.
  • Urban High-rise Zone (UH) - permits apartment and long term care housing with five or more storeys. Non-residential uses are also permitted within the first two storeys to support the higher housing density.
  • Urban Mixed Use Zone (UX) - permits small-scale pedestrian oriented commercial uses where they already exist in residential neighbourhoods.
  • Neighbourhood Commercial Zone (NC) - permits small-scale commercial nodes to support residential neighbourhoods.

Urban Low Rise Zone (UL)
The Urban Low-Rise Zone permits buildings that can contain one to four homes. The size of a property dictates the size of building that can be constructed and how many individual homes can be located within it.

Most buildings will be permitted to have two homes, this means that ‘basement apartments’ or ‘mother-in-law’ suites will be allowed in most existing single detached houses. Each home will be required to have one on-site parking space.

Within this zone, buildings of a similar size can be used differently. One building might have only one home, while the one next door might have two or four homes in it. This flexibility will provide residents with more choice and allow them to use their building with less restriction. This flexibility also creates the opportunity to increase densities within the City’s urban neighbourhoods, which is a goal of the Official Plan.

Backyard homes will also be permitted in buildings accessory to detached houses, semi-detached houses, and townhouses on appropriately sized lots. These new regulations could further increase urban densities and add to the supply of housing that is affordable to a wide range of incomes. Backyard homes will have size (height and area) restrictions that are similar to detached garages. Take the survey below to provide your feedback on the proposed backyard home regulations.

Backyard home – a type of home contained within a building that is accessory to a detached house, semi-detached house, or townhouse on the same lot. Cannot be used as a care home or a shared home.

Several built form regulations have been revised to improve urban design outcomes in urban neighbourhoods. These include reduced front setbacks to a house’s livable building face and increased front setbacks to a garage building face, increased exterior side setbacks, and increased lot coverage requirements.

Liveable building face – the portion of the ground floor building façade which faces the street, and which is occupied by habitable living space area

Pedestrian Commercial Areas

Pedestrian Commercial Areas are made up of traditional shopping streets at a walkable scale. A wide range of uses are permitted including housing, retail, and offices. The built form prioritizes the pedestrian experience.

These areas represent the City’s two traditional downtowns as well as the Westfort business area. There are three zones within the Pedestrian Commercial Areas:

  • Main Street Zone (MS) - the purpose of the Main Street Zone is to create a continuous and vibrant commercial street. Active uses such as shopping and restaurants will be permitted on all storeys, while housing is restricted to upper floors only.
  • Downtown Neighbourhood Zone (DN) - The purpose of the Downtown Neighbourhood Zone is to permit a wide range of uses to support the Main Street Zone.
  • Waterfront Commercial Zone (WC) – permits a range of uses that support waterfront initiatives and community activities, waterfront-related commercial uses, and recreational and entertainment facilities.

Commuter Commercial Areas
Commuter Commercial Areas are shopping and service areas primarily designed for motor vehicle travel. These areas include a wide range of commercial uses such as retail, offices, drive-throughs, and motor vehicle dealerships.

There are three zones within the Commuter Commercial Areas:

  • Service Commercial Zone (SC) - permits appropriately scaled shopping and service areas along major streets.
  • Community Commercial Zone (CC) - permits appropriately scaled shopping and service areas at key locations to serve surrounding neighbourhoods.
  • Regional Centre Zone (RC) - permits large format shopping and services to serve the region.

Office and Retail Uses
Office and retail uses are permitted in all Commercial Areas. This will provide businesses with greater flexibility and the ability to establish in a wide range of locations.

Business Areas
Business Areas include offices and workspaces for various industries. Industrial activities must take place indoors, must not be disruptive, and must screen any outdoor storage from view from streets and adjacent properties. Restaurants and recreation uses also support these areas.

There are two zones within the Business Areas:

  • Light Industrial Zone (LI) - permits a range of commercial and non-disruptive industrial uses. Industrial facilities may have outdoor storage provided it is screened from view from streets and adjacent properties.
  • Business Zone (BU) - the purpose of the Business Zone is to create an ideal location for business offices. Complementary uses such as hotels, recreation uses, and restaurants are also permitted.

Heavy Industrial Areas
Heavy Industrial Areas provide land for land uses that should be separated from sensitive land uses. Major industries and utilities belong in these areas.

There are three zones within the Heavy Industrial Areas:

  • Heavy Industrial Zone (HI) - permits a range of industrial facilities and utilities. Appropriate separation distances from sensitive land uses are also required.
  • Airport Zone (AP) - permits and supports the functioning of the Thunder Bay International Airport.
  • Utilities and Services Zone (US) – provides for facilities related to a range of public uses and services such as electricity, gas, water, television and telecommunication, drainage, sewage, etc.

Institutional and Community Areas
Institutional and Community Areas provide land for major institutions, community centres, and parks. These areas include large open spaces and campuses.

There are two zones within the Institutional and Community Areas

  • Institutional Zone (IN) - permits major institutions. These include hospitals, colleges and universities, secondary schools, and correctional institutions.
  • Community Zone (CM) - permits public or semi-public recreation and cultural facilities.

Natural Heritage Areas

Natural Heritage Areas contain significant natural features and areas, such as wetlands that require protection.

  • The Environmental Protection Zone applies within the Natural Heritage Areas and protects natural features by limiting development. Lands adjacent to the Environmental Protection Zone are subject to a Holding Zone requiring an Environmental Impact Study demonstrating that any impacts will be avoided, minimized, or mitigated prior to development.

Definitions
Generalized and simplified use definitions have been introduced to provide additional flexibility. These definitions focus on the characteristics and qualities of a use in a general way so that it will be easier for businesses to identify the use category that applies to their particular operations. In a commercial or industrial context, this means that buildings can be used for a wide variety of purposes. Uses that have similar needs in terms of building size, parking, outdoor display, etc. will be permitted broadly providing added flexibility for businesses seeking to change and modify the way they operate within a building.

Site Development Standards
Standards for site features such as parking, landscaping and outdoor storage that apply to all sites in every zone are grouped together and contained within the Site Development Standards section. There is also a section that contains regulations that apply to specific uses, areas or sites, and a section that regulates areas with special development constraints.

What’s Changed since the First Draft?:

Numerous changes have been made in response to public and stakeholder feedback, and in response to comments received through a Peer and Legal review of the first draft. See the Summary of Key Changes Made to the First Draft in the Document tab to the right.

What Else is Happening?:

Certain Official Plan policies are being updated to reflect changes to the Provincial Policy Statement 2020 and the Planning Act, and to introduce policies that support the recommendations of the Thunder Bay Employment Land Strategy. These policy changes will support the regulations being proposed in the new Zoning By-law. See the proposed Official Plan Amendment under the Documents tab on the right.