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Minor Variances

Sarnia's Zoning By-law regulates the way in which land can be used in the City by designating different areas with land use zones. The By-law also contains rules that apply to each zone for things such as permitted uses, building setbacks and lot coverage. Because it is difficult for the Zoning By-law to address every circumstance that may affect the development or use of a particular property, the Planning Act allows City Council to establish a Committee of Adjustment to which property owners can apply when they require a "minor variance" to the regulations.  City Council has also given the Committee of Adjustment authority to grant minor variances to the City's Sign By-law.

Minor variances are small changes or exceptions to existing land use or development restrictions contained in the zoning, sign and fence by-laws are called minor variances. Public hearings of the Committee

The Committee meets on Tuesdays at 5:00 p.m. on average every three (3) weeks. Please contact the Planning and Building Department for the full public hearing schedule.

1. Consult with the Secretary-Treasurer/Planner:

Before you submit an application, discuss your plans with the Secretary-Treasurer (Planning and Building Department, 519 332 0330 extension 3344).

2. Complete the Application, including the following:

One copy of a dimensioned and scaled drawing of the proposal depicting the lot and showing the location and size of the buildings and of the parking and access on the lot; A cheque made payable to the City of Sarnia for the application fee (variable fee structure); If you are using an agent or solicitor, your written authorization identifying by name the individual who will be your agent or solicitor; and In some cases, additional information could be helpful in assessing an application; you are encouraged to submit photographs or other relevant documentation.

3. Notice of Public Hearing and Circulation of Application:

After your application has been received, a notice of Public Hearing will be placed in the Civic Corner section of the Sarnia Observer (Saturday edition) and sent to all assessed property owners within 60 metres (200 feet) of the property, at least 10 days before the date of the Hearing. At the same time, copies of your application will be circulated to other City departments, and, in some cases, to external agencies. The purpose of this circulation is to obtain advice from and/or the requirements of these interested groups in the form of reports for the Committee of Adjustment that are considered at the Public Hearing.

4. Public Hearing and Decision Making Process:

The Public Hearing will normally be held within 25 days of receiving your application. It is very important that you and/or your agent or solicitor attend the Hearing to explain the reasons for your application; if you do not attend, the Committee may proceed in your absence. Other interested persons are also entitled to attend and to express their views about the application. The Committee will also consider verbal advice and written reports from staff. Besides considering the site-specific aspects of the application, the Committee will also use the following criteria to evaluate the application and reach its decision: Is the variance minor? Is it desirable for the appropriate development or use of the land, building or structure? Is the general intent and purpose of the Official Plan and the Zoning By-law being maintained? If your application is approved, the Committee may impose conditions as part of its decision

5. Notice of Decision:

Within 10 days of the Committee making its decision, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Committee will mail one copy of the decision to you and to anyone else who filed a written request for Notice of the Decision. Information is included in the Notice of Decision outlining appeal procedures and identifying the last day for appealing the Committee's decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.

6. When the Decision is Final and Binding:

If no appeal is made by the end of the 20 day appeal period, the decision is final and binding. You will be notified by mail and, if the application has been approved, you should, subject to the fulfillment of any conditions set out in the final decision, be in a position to apply for a building permit or be in compliance with the Zoning By-law.


Section 45(2) of the Planning Act provides that a Committee of Adjustment upon application may permit: •the enlargement or extension of a building or structure occupied by a use prohibited by the Zoning By-law if the use that was made of the building or structure on the day the Zoning By-law was passed continued until the date of the application to the Committee. No permission may be granted to enlarge the building or structure beyond the limits of land owned and used in connection with the use on the day the Zoning By-law was passed; and •a use of the property, building or structure for a purpose that is in the opinion of the Committee, similar to the purpose for which the property, building or structure was previously used or is more compatible with the uses permitted by the Zoning By-law than the previous use.

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This page was reviewed or revised on Wednesday, February 8, 2017 10:38 AM

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255 North Christina Street,
Sarnia, ON N7T 7N2
PH#: 519-332-0330
TTY# : 519-332-2664