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Land Use Planning Frequently Asked Questions

Land use planning is the process to decide how land is used in cities and rural areas. It helps communities grow in a way that is safe and sustainable. Planning involves listening to the community and considering how development will impact people, nature, transportation needs, and existing or planned infrastructure.

In Ontario, planning priorities are set by the province through the Planning Act, Provincial Policy Statement, and by municipalities through Official Plans.  

Find answers to frequently asked questions about County land use planning below:

Frequently Asked Questions

An Official Plan is a policy document that contains goals, objectives, and policies to manage and land use and monitor its effects on the community. Grey County’s Official Plan works with the Growth Management Strategy. Together they act as a guide for infrastructure planning to support population and economic growth.

The current County Official Plan was approved in June 2019 and will guide the next 25 years of development. Changes to the Plan can be suggested by residents, developers, local municipalities, or by the County itself. Any proposed changes are considered through an official plan amendment and involve a public input process.  

Any official plans adopted by lower-tier municipalities must follow the policies set in the County’s official plan. Municipal public works and by-laws must also conform with any official plans in effect. Georgian Bluffs, Meaford, Grey Highlands, West Grey, Hanover, Owen Sound, Southgate and the Town of The Blue Mountains all have municipal official plans in effect.

Grey County has two tiers of municipal government. The County of Grey is the upper tier and the local municipalities are the lower tier. Grey County consists of nine lower-tier municipalities including Georgian Bluffs, Chatsworth, Meaford, Grey Highlands, West Grey, Hanover, Owen Sound, Southgate and the Town of The Blue Mountains.

In Grey County, most lower-tier municipalities decide on the following applications under the Planning Act:

  • consents
  • minor variances
  • zoning by-law amendments
  • site plan applications.

The County decides on subdivision applications, condominiums, and official plan amendments.

The City of Owen Sound is the exception to the above. The City decides on almost all their own planning applications, with the exception of five-year reviews and boundary expansions.  

There is no County zoning by-law. Zoning by-laws are the responsibility of the local municipality.

You can find out about a property's zoning on the County's GIS Map.

Like official plans, zoning by-laws can be changed (this is also referred to as an amendment). A zoning by-law amendment can be requested by a private resident or developer, or a local municipality wishing to update its own zoning by-law. Another way of changing the zoning by-law is through a minor variance. A minor variance is considered a small change.

There are four questions used to determine whether an amendment is small enough to qualify as a minor variance:

  1. Is the application minor?
  2. Is the application fitting for the appropriate development or use of the land, building or structure?
  3. Does the application align with the general intent and purpose of the Zoning By-law?
  4. Does the application align with the general intent and purpose of the Official Plan?

For information on how to submit an application for a zoning by-law amendment or minor variance, please contact your local municipality here.

Severing property depends on the specific policies in place for your property. Decisions about creating new lots are made by local municipalities. The first step is to speak directly to planning staff at the municipality where your property is located. Contact information for local municipalities is available here.

Contact information for the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) is available here. The NEC website and staff can help you figure out if you need a permit for any development.

A pre-submission consultation refers to speaking with municipal or County staff before applying for any permits. Most of the time, you need to submit a pre-submission application, along with a fee. Staff will circulate the initial pre-submission internally within departments (i.e., emergency services, building officials, transportation) and externally (i.e., the conservation authorities, Ministry of Transportation, the Niagara Escarpment Commission, or local First Nations, Indigenous or Metis peoples) for input and feedback, which will then be shared back. This process helps clarify the needs of the project and determines next steps for development.  

Public meetings are required for:

  • new or updated official plans
  • new or updated zoning by-laws
  • zoning by-law amendment
  • official plan amendment

Public meetings can either be part of a council meeting, or a specially organized meeting hosted by council or a committee (e.g., planning committee). Minor variance and consent applications do not require public meetings, but members of the public can still attend any relevant meetings (such as the Committee of the Whole or Committee of Adjustment meeting).

Currently, the Planning Act states that subdivision and condominium plans are not required to have public meetings. County staff still recommend municipalities offer these meetings to provide community members with a way to share feedback.

Many public meetings are offered as hybrid meetings where individuals can attend in person or connect virtually. During public meetings, people can make comments, ask questions, or simply learn more about the proposal.

In addition, anyone can offer written comments throughout the review process. These are considered by municipal staff and the applicants prior to proceeding with a planning recommendation.

It’s always best to check with municipal or county staff to get details on how to get involved or provide feedback on specific projects.

Still have questions?

Contact planning [at] (planning[at]grey[dot]ca)

Grey County

Situated two hours north of Toronto, Grey County offers beauty you can’t get in the city.

  • 595 9th Ave East Owen Sound, Ontario N4K 3E3
  • (519) 376-2205 | 1-800-567-4739