The Official Plan is a comprehensive land use planning document designed to guide and direct future growth of the City in a logical and orderly manner to the benefit of all residents. It is, in effect, a blueprint of how a municipality wants to guide and direct future land use development and growth.
The Official Plan sets out areas of the City intended for residential, industrial, commercial, institutional and agricultural use and development, as well as identifying major open space and environmental protection areas and parkland. The plan identifies permissible land uses and contains general policies to guide development within the various land use designations. Permissable uses and policies contained within the Official Plan are then implemented through the more detailed land use regulations contained within the City's Comprehensive Zoning By-law.
If a property owner wishes to develop land differently than what the Official Plan prescribes, they may make an application for an Official Plan Amendment (OPA).
Official Plan Amendments can be City-wide, area wide or site-specific. Given the importance of an OPA and the impact a change in the Official Plan may have on a community or neighbourhood, there is a public consultation process designed to provide information to the public and to allow opportunity for concerns to be raised prior to decisions being made by staff or Council.
If a property owner is considering an Official Plan Amendment in order to carry out a proposed development, they should first meet with City planners to determine if an amendment is, in fact, needed, if the proposed development is appropriate for the site, or if there is another way in which the development could be accomplished. This would also be a good opportunity to discuss with staff the policy direction within the plan for the particular type of development contemplated.