Planning & Development >> Minor Variance FAQs

MINOR VARIANCE FAQ'S

 

1. WHEN IS A MINOR VARIANCE REQUIRED?

A minor variance or permission to construct is necessary if you wish to obtain a building permit to construct, renovate, or alter a building in a way that does not meet the requirements of the Town's Zoning By-laws. For example, if you wish to build an addition to the rear of your house that comes as close as 20 feet to your rear lot line, and the Zoning By-law requires that you have a rear yard of 25 feet, then you would have to apply for a "minor variance" from the By-law. A minor variance is also necessary if you wish to expand or change a use that is considered "legal non-conforming".

 

2. HOW DO I APPLY FOR A MINOR VARIANCE?

Application forms are available in the Planning Department at the Town Hall or a fillable PDF version is also available. Before making your application, we recommend that you speak to a staff member in the Planning Department for their comments on your proposal. Since the Planning Department provides the Committee of Adjustment with comments on applications, it is best to work with them to alleviate any potential problems that may arise.

 

3. WHAT IS A COMMITTEE OF ADJUSTMENT?

The Town of Fort Erie has established a Committee of Adjustment to deal with such applications as the example previously outlined in this brochure, as well as other requests for permission to construct buildings, or permit uses, which do not meet certain By-law requirements. All requirement and fees are listed in the application.

The Committee is made up of seven (7) members, appointed by Town Council. They are empowered to grant relief from the provisions of the By-law under certain conditions. The Committee of Adjustment is able to review the application, staff and agency comments on applicable planning policies and regulations, information provided by the applicant, as well as the input of any neighbours. As part of their review of this information, the Committee must satisfy themselces that the minor variance will not have a negative impact on the surrounding area, and is truly a MINOR request for change.

Minor variances or permission to change or expand legal non-conforming uses can be granted when the Committee feels that the general intent of the Zoning regulations is being maintained. Anything not considered "minor" must proceed through the Zoning Bylaw Amendment process, which is directly handled by Town Council.

 

4. HOW IS THE VARIANCE APPLICATION EVALUATED?

When the Committee is considering a variance appliation, the four tests as prescribed by Sec. 45(1) of the Planning Act are applied to determine if the variance should be approved. The four tests are:

  • Is the application minor in nature?
  • Is it appropriate and desirable development for the area?
  • Is it in keeping with the purpose and intent of the Zoning By-law?
  • Is it in keepping with the purpose and intent of the Official Plan?

 

5. HOW LONG WILL I HAVE TO WAIT?

A verbal decision is given to you the night of the hearing, unless the Committee feels it needs to further information before making a proper decision. A written decision will be sent to you within 10 days from the hearing date. The Committee of Adjustment hearing will take place approximately within a MAXIMUM OF 45 DAYS from the day your application is submitted to the Town staff. The Committee's decision is subject to a 20 DAY APPEAL PERIOD, during which time anyone, including yourself, who is not satisfied with th edecision may lodge an appea with THE ONTARIO MUNICIPAL BOARD. If no appeals are recieved within the 20 day period, the Committee's decision is then considered final.

 

6. WHAT COULD AFFECT THE OUTCOME OF MY APPLICATION?

(a) Valid objections based on the four tests of a minor variance from neighbours.

(b) Negative comments from one or more departments or agencies such as:

  • Planning
  • Building
  • Fire
  • Engineering
  • Niagara Parks Commission
  • Region of Niagara
  • Niagara Penninsula Conservation Authority
  • Other outside agencies

 

7. WHAT ABOUT THE CONDITIONS OF A VARIANCE APPROVAL?

A variance approval may contain various conditions including approvals from outside agencies, sediment control, or any other condition that the Committee feels is appropriate. Every variance approval will contain the condition that there is a 20 day appeal period before a building permit can be issued.

 

8. WHEN ARE MEETINGS HELD?

Committee of Adjustment meetings are generally held on the 2nd and the 4th Thursday of each month. Any application must be submitted a minimum of four (4) weeks prior to the hearing date. Please see the attached Hearing Schedule.

 

9. DOES SOMEONE HAVE TO ATTEND THE COMMITTEE OF ADJUSTMENT HEARING?

Yes, either you, as a registered property owner, or someone authorized in writing by you.

 

10. WHAT CAN I DO IF MY APPLICATION IS TURNED DOWN?

You can file an appeal to a higher authority - the Ontario Municipal Board. You have twenty (20) days following the date the Committee of Adjustment decision is made to file an appeal with the Secratary-Treasurer. An appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board must be accompanied by a fee of $300.00 payable to the Minister of Finance. If an appeal is received, the entire matter is taken out of the Committee;s jurisdiction, and the Ontario Municipal Board then arranges for a new hearing, which may take up to six (6) months to schedule. The desiction of the Ontario Municipal Board is considered final.

 

11. WHAT IF MY APPLICATION IS APPROVED AND MY NEIGHBOUR STRONGLY OBJECTS?

The neighbour has the same appeal rights as you do.

 

12. IF SOMEONE OBJECTS, IS MY APPLICATION AUTOMATICALLY REFUSED?

No, the Committee of Adjustment must weigh all the evidence presented at the public hearing a make a determination on that basis. The Committee must also find you request meets the four (4) tests of the Planning Act under Sec. 45(1) as follows:

  • Is the application minor in nature?
  • Is it appropriate and desirable development for the area?
  • Is it in keeping with the purpose and intent of the Zoning By-law?
  • Is it in keepping with the purpose and intent of the Official Plan?

 

13. DO I GET MY MONEY BACK IF MY APPLICATION IS REFUSED?

No, staff time and costs are incurred regardless of the outcome.