Please review the Planning-related frequently asked questions below.

To learn more about Planning, check out the Planning 101 video series. You can also contact the Planning team with questions or inquiries.


On this page


Official Plan

What is the Official Plan?

An Official Plan is a statutory document that has status in law pursuant to provisions of the Planning Act.

Read more about the Official Plan

It provides for a long-term comprehensive framework for land use decision-making in our community.

The Official Plan is a statement of goals, objectives and policies intended to guide existing and future land use, physical development, and growth within the municipal boundaries of the County.  The policies of the Plan are designed to provide the essential tools to enhance future growth, development and change in the County and to create the community envisioned by Norfolk’s residents. 


Zoning

What is the Zoning By-Law?

A Zoning By-Law is a regulatory document implementing the policy direction provided in the Official Plan.

Read more about the Zoning By-Law
It is a legally enforceable document that regulates land use and property development. Zoning By-Laws control land use by stating exactly how the public can use land, where the public can locate buildings and structures, the types of buildings permitted, lot sizes and dimensions, parking requirements, building heights, and property setbacks.

Official Plan and/or Zoning By-Law amendments

When is an Official Plan and/or Zoning By-Law amendment required?

If you want to use or develop your property in a way that is not permitted or does not conform to the Official Plan and/or Zoning By-Law, you must submit an Official Plan Amendment and/or Zoning By-Law Amendment application.

Read more Official Plan and/or Zoning By-Law amendments.

Minor technical adjustments to By-Law provisions may be accommodated through a Minor Variance. The statutory public meeting is held at the Public Hearings Committee to obtain feedback from the public.

The Planning staff provides a recommendation to Norfolk County Council at a later meeting based on various policies, provisions, studies, reports, circulation comments and professional evaluation. Norfolk County Council considers various factors in making decisions on Official Plan Amendments and Zoning By-Law Amendments, including but not limited to:

  • Consistency with the Provincial Policy Statement
  • Conformity with the Official Plan and Zoning By-Law
  • Compatibility with adjacent land use(s)
  • Suitability of the land for the proposed use(s)
  • Adequacy of vehicular access, water supply, sewage disposal, parking, etc.
  • Various environmental circumstances, such as the propensity to flood

The approval of an Official Plan Amendment and/or Zoning By-Law Amendment is not an exemption from other required approvals or permits. Items such as Site Plan approval, Subdivision approval, Building Permits, and Conservation Authority approvals may also be required.

If you are uncertain whether your development proposal involves a Zoning By-Law Amendment or Minor Variance, please get in touch with Planning staff.

Application requirements:

The County will deem your application complete if it is accompanied by the required information, including:

  • Signed pre-consultation meeting notes check-list
  • Completed and commissioned application form
  • Site plan drawings
  • Application fees
  • Additional information outlined in the pre-consultation checklist
  • Application requirements outlined in the Official Plan
  • Completion of a pre-submission review and confirmation of fee

Application forms are available online or at 185 Robinson St., Suite 200, Simcoe.

Before you make an application, it is required to consult with the Planning Department. Staff will be able to explain the process, outline the submission requirements, and answer any questions you have. To make an appointment, please get in touch with Planning staff.

How do I appeal Council’s decision?

The applicant may appeal Council’s decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) within 20 days after written notice of Norfolk County’s decision is provided by Norfolk County staff.

An appeal is submitted with an OLT appeal form and fee that an appealer may submit to a Norfolk County Clerk. The public can find more information on the appeal process on the OLT website. If an appeal is submitted, Norfolk County staff forward the application to the OLT, which arranges a hearing and passes the final decision.

Before making an application, we recommend you consult the Norfolk County Planning Department. Staff can answer any questions regarding the process and outline submission requirements. A pre-consultation may be required. To make an appointment, please get in touch with Planning staff.


Site Plan Control

What is Site Plan Control?

Site Plan Control refers to the process authorized under Section 41 of the Planning Act, which regulates development, including physical planning, built form, and the natural environment.

Read more about Site Plan Control
Site Plan Control refers to the process authorized under Section 41 of the Planning Act, which regulates development, including physical planning, built form, and the natural environment. Norfolk County uses Site Plan Control to implement measures for new developments and the expansion or redevelopment of existing sites.

The aim of Site Plan Control is to ensure that development will meet the Official Plan and Zoning By-law objectives.

When does Site Plan Contol apply?

All lands and uses within Norfolk County may be subject to Site Plan Control except those with specific cases where required by the Norfolk County Official Plan.

Read more about when Site Plan Control
Lands with specific cases are:

  1. Certain farm buildings and farm operator residences
  2. Single-detached duplexes or semi-detached dwellings

Applicants must contact Planning staff for a pre-consultation meeting before submitting their application. The objective of a pre-consultation meeting is to identify issues, determine the supporting documents and studies required to evaluate a proposal, verify proposal information, and clarify necessary procedures.

Please get in touch with the Planning staff to schedule a pre-consultation meeting. A fee applies for these meetings and is credited against the future planning application.

Site Plan application requirements:

  • Signed pre-consultation meeting notes check-list
  • Completed and commissioned application form
  • Site plan drawings
  • Application fees
  • Additional information outlined in the pre-consultation checklist
  • Application requirements outlined in the Official Plan
  • Completion of a pre-submission review and confirmation of fee

Application forms are available on our website or at 185 Robinson St., Suite 200, Simcoe. Norfolk County will deem your application complete once the compulsory information accompanies it. If your application is deemed incomplete, Norfolk County staff will advise, return your application, and identify missing components. After the plan is stamped and the agreement is registered, the applicant can begin the building permit process.

How do I appeal a Site Plan Control decision?

The applicant may appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) if a decision is not made within 60 days, the owner may appeal for failure to approve, or if the owner is not satisfied with the requirements.

Read more about appealing a Site Plan Control decision

An appeal is submitted with an OLT appeal form and fee that an appealer may submit to a Norfolk County Clerk. The public can find more information on the appeal process on the OLT website. If an appeal is submitted, Norfolk County staff forward the application to the OLT, which arranges a hearing and passes the final decision.

Before filing an application, it is suggested to contact the Norfolk County Planning Department. Staff can answer any questions regarding the process and outline submission requirements. A pre-consultation meeting may be required. To make an appointment, please get in touch with Planning staff.


Subdivision

What is a Draft Plan of Subdivision?

A Draft Plan of Subdivision is a method of dividing land into parcels or lots that may have separate ownership.

Read more about Draft Plan of Subdivision
Norfolk County governs the approval process through Section 51 of the Planning Act and includes consideration of streets, schools, parks, homes, and business locations.

Subdivision Plans must also address service issues related to roads, storm and sanitary sewers, lighting, emergency access parking, and protection of natural features such as woodlots or watercourses.

Application requirements:

  • Signed pre-consultation meeting notes check-list
  • Completed and commissioned application form
  • Site plan drawings
  • Application fees
  • Additional information outlined in the pre-consultation checklist
  • Application requirements outlined in the Official Plan
  • Completion of a pre-submission review and confirmation of fee

Application forms are available online or at 185 Robinson St., Suite 200, Simcoe. Before you make an application, we recommend consulting with the Planning staff. Staff will be able to explain the process, outline the submission requirements, and answer any questions you have. To make an appointment, please get in touch with Planning staff.

Norfolk County staff will deem your application complete if the required information accompanies it. If your application is deemed incomplete, staff will return your application and identify outstanding requirements.

The Norfolk County Council decides to approve or refuse the Draft Plan of Subdivision and Condominium Applications. Norfolk County may withdraw draft approval or change the conditions of draft approval before the final plan approval. The changes may come at the applicant’s request, subject to the submission of a letter and any applicable fees.

How do I appeal Council’s decision?

The applicant may appeal Norfolk County Council’s decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) within 20 days after receiving written notice of Norfolk County’s decision.

Read more about appeals

One must submit an OLT appeal form and fee to the Norfolk County Clerk. If an appeal is submitted, Norfolk County staff forward the appeal to the OLT, which arranges a hearing and passes the final decision. The public can find more information on the appeal process on the OLT website.

Before making an application, we recommend that you consult the Norfolk County Planning Department. Staff can answer any questions regarding the process and outline submission requirements. A pre-consultation meeting may be required. To make an appointment, please get in touch with Planning staff.


Consent

What is a Consent?

The process required to divide a property is known as a Consent for land severance.

Read more about Consent

Unlike other Planning Applications, approval of Consent is considered by the County’s Committee of Adjustment. The Committee has the same powers as Council in considering and approving consents.

What is the Consent process?

The applicant first meets with the Planning Department to review the proposal and confirm all required documents are identified.

Read all steps in the Consent process
  1. Applicant first meets with the Planning Department to review the proposal and confirm all required documents are identified.
  2. Application is submitted and commissioned,
  3. The fee is submitted.
  4. The application is reviewed and circulated to Agencies for comment
  5. A public meeting is held
  6. Application approved or refused
  7. The notice of decision is sent to the applicant and those requesting notice
  8. Any person or public body who has made formal comments about the application in writing or at the Committee of Adjustment  may appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal
  9. If appealed, the Ontario Land Tribunal holds a hearing and makes a final decision

Minor Variance

What is a Minor Variance?

A Minor Variance is a small, technical adjustment to the Zoning By-law. In order to qualify as a Minor Variance, the Planning Act identifies four “tests” as part of the evaluation.

Read more about Minor Variance

These include Section 45(1) of the Planning Act:

Does the proposal maintain the general intent and purpose of the Official Plan?

For example, is the use allowed in the applicable designation?

Does the proposal maintain the general intent and purpose of the Zoning By-law?

For example, is the use allowed in the zoning, and does it maintain all but some minor provisions?

Is the proposal desirable for the appropriate development or use of the land?

For example, does it fit in well with the character of the neighbourhood and surrounding uses? This is evaluated from the perspective of the public interest test and not necessarily from not what is desirable from the perspective of the individual applicant or property owner.

Is the proposal minor?

For example, is there an unacceptable adverse impact? Examples of such adjustments include regulations in setbacks for buildings, decks, lot dimensions, and other similar By-law regulations. Significant adjustments that do not meet the four “tests” may require a Zoning By-law amendment.

What is the Minor Variance process?

The applicant first meets with the Planning Department to review the proposal and confirm all required documents are identified.

Read more about the Minor Variance process
  1. The applicant first meets with the Planning Department to review the proposal and confirm all required documents are identified.
  2. Application is submitted and commissioned,
  3. The fee is submitted.
  4. The application is reviewed and circulated to Agencies for comment
  5. A public meeting is held
  6. Application approved or refused
  7. The notice of decision is sent to the applicant and those requesting notice
  8. The applicant, the Minister or a specified person or public body that has an interest in the matter may, within 20 days of the making of the decision, appeal to the Tribunal against the decision of the committee by filing with the secretary-treasurer of the committee a notice of appeal setting out the objection to the decision and the reasons in support of the objection accompanied by payment to the secretary-treasurer of the fee charged by the Tribunal as payable on an appeal from a committee of adjustment to the Tribunal.

Development applications

How long does it take to process a development application?

The Planning Act sets out statutory timeframes for each type of development application.

Read more about development applications
Complete applications are processed in accordance with the statutory timeframes. Requirements such as public notification, public meetings, and the submission and approval of required studies supporting the proposal all play a role in determining the processing time.

What is Parkland Dedication? What is Cash-in-Lieu of Parkland?

The Planning Act allows Norfolk County to improve its parks and open space system by requiring all new development to contribute lands to be used for parks.

Read more about Parkland dedication and cash-in-lieu-of Parkland

Residential, institutional, and mixed-use developments are required to dedicate 5% of the lands being developed to the County,  and commercial and industrial developments contribute 2%.

In situations where it is determined that parkland is not required (for example, the area is adequately serviced by parks, or there is no suitable location within the development for a park), cash-in-lieu of parkland is paid instead. The applicant provides an appraisal report of the land at that time to the County, and 5% of the appraised value for residential, institutional, and mixed-use developments is paid, or 2% of the value for commercial and industrial developments.

The lands are appraised prior to being developed. By-Law 2016-126 provides further information about this process and can be found at  Parkland Dedication By-Law 2016-126.


Severance

Can I sever a lot off my farm or rural property?

The severance of a vacant lot off designated and zoned agricultural lands is not permitted.

Read more about severing a farm

The Provincial Policy Statement 2020 outlines the policies for land use throughout the province, and Norfolk County is required to reflect the policies of the Province in its local Official Plan. Both documents only allow severances in the agricultural area for a dwelling made surplus through farm amalgamation and boundary adjustments which do not create a separate lot and have a technical reason for the boundary adjustment.

Severances for any other reason are not permitted.

I own more than one farm and would like to sever a house on one of the properties.

For any severance in the Agricultural designation, please see section 7.2.3 of the Official Plan, which outlines Agricultural lot creation and lot adjustment provisions. All severances in Norfolk County are also subject to section 9.6.3.2. of the Official Plan.

Read more about a surplus dwelling severance

If the intent is to sever a dwelling made surplus through farm amalgamation, it is a requirement to meet the provisions of 7.2.3 (c).

Key items to confirm are:

  1. Is the proposed severance a part of a farm operation?
  2. Do you own more than one farm?
  3. Do you meet all the requirements listed below to qualify for a surplus dwelling unit severance?
  • a currently habitable farm dwelling surplus to a farming operation as a result of the consolidation of farm properties located within Norfolk County and adjacent municipalities, subject to the policies of Sections 7.2.3(b) and (c);
  • the habitable dwelling shall be at least 10 years old at the date of application for a severance;
  • the severed lot shall be of an appropriate size for the intended residential use, which shall be determined in the Zoning By-law, and shall minimize the amount of agricultural land removed from active production;
  • the severed lot shall be serviced by approved water supply and wastewater treatment facilities to be situated on the lot to be created;
  • subject to the appropriate policies of this Plan, the severed lot shall be an appropriate distance from existing pits and quarries, waste disposal sites, and other potential land use conflicts;
  • both the severed and retained lots shall be situated with frontage and safe and direct separate access onto a permanently maintained public road. Preference shall be given to locations on roads other than Provincial Highways or arterial roads;
  • potential impacts of the consent on cultural heritage resources shall be assessed and mitigated where necessary;
  • the severed lot shall comply with the minimum distance separation formulae; and
  • the severed lot shall not be permitted within Provincially Significant Features. Consents adjacent to Provincially Significant Features or within or adjacent to Natural Heritage Features shall be supported by an EIS prepared in accordance with the policies of Section 9.7.1 (Environmental Impact Study).

If the severance meets these tests, then as a condition of the approval of consent granted under Section 7.2.3 a) v), the County shall ensure that the land is zoned in the Zoning By-law such that no new residential dwelling shall be permitted on the retained agricultural lot. No consent shall be granted unless it is demonstrated that the severed lot will not adversely affect the operation or viability of the farm operation on the retained lot or any adjacent land.

The Zoning Bylaw 3.36 outlines what happens to the lot as created if a severance is permissible per the policies outlined above.


Additional Residential Dwelling Unit (ARDU)

How do I build an Additional Residential Dwelling Unit?

Review the Zoning By-Law (section 3.2 specifically), By-Law 25-Z-2022, and the zoning of the particular property in order to determine the permitted uses.

To review the zoning of a specific property, access the County GIS map. Make sure that you have the Zoning layer checked on the top right of the page.

View the Zoning layer in the County GIS map

Make sure that you have the Zoning layer checked on the top right of the page:

GIS mapping with zoning layer turned on

What is the difference between a Garden Suites and an Additional Residential Dwelling Unit (ARDU)?

Norfolk County’s Official Plan and Zoning By-law outlines permissions for additional residential units within either the primary dwelling or within an additional building (such as a detached garage). The other option is to apply for a temporary use zoning by-law to establish a Garden Suite on your property located in one of the County’s designated hamlet areas or in the agricultural designation.

Read more about Garden Suites

The Garden suite can be a fully detached unit and exist as its own additional structure. The limitation of the garden suite is that the intent is for it to be temporary, having the ability to exist for 11 years with permissions to have extensions to a maximum of 20 years. This would include trailers or modular homes which are certified CSA A277 (Building Code) or a pre-fab unit (all subject to the building code). As a result, you must get approvals through a temporary use by-law to permit the building. A temporary use by-law is obtained through the same process as a Zoning Amendment. I have provided the policies below.

Please review Section 5.3.3.2 of Norfolk County’s Official Plan for information on Garden Suites. Garden Suites Garden suites, which are also commonly referred to as “granny flats,” are one-unit additional residential dwellings that take the form of a small building, physically separate from the principal dwelling unit with which it is associated, contain bathroom and kitchen facilities, and are designed to be portable.


Other popular questions

How do I confirm the lot lines of my property?

This is not a service provided by Norfolk County. For legal lot lines and lot widths, please get in touch with the Ontario Land Registry office. You can also access land property records online. Please note that fees apply to get land property records.

How can I review a property?

Norfolk County has mapping available online to complete a review of a property in the County. The Zoning By-law is also available online for review.

Read more

If you are seeking more specific details, please complete the Zoning Verification and Property Information Request and send it to the Norfolk County Building Department.

If you have general questions regarding the development potential for a site or seeking feedback on a possible development application, please email [email protected] and a Planner will review and respond accordingly

Some requests may be too complex for a general planning email response and may require a pre-consultation meeting in order to receive detailed responses.

What is Hazard Land?

In a Hazard land zone, no buildings or structures are permitted.

Read more about hazard land

A development application will be necessary to allow construction in a hazard land zone. This may require an Official Plan Amendment and a Zoning By-Law amendment supported by technical studies identified through a pre-consultation meeting. It is important to note that an application does not mean a proposal will be supported or approved. Each application is evaluated on its own merit and any required technical supportive documentation.

Alternately, in some instances, a request may be made to a planner to have the Hazard Line reviewed by the conversation authority to determine if it can be modified. Please get in touch with a Planner with the subject address and a sketch of the lands with the requested HL modification area. A Planner can provide a screen capture of the mapping of the lands.

Can I grow cannabis on my farm?

All cannabis production and processing facilities must be located in zones that permit the use and are all subject to site plan control.

Read more about cannabis
Regarding the use, cannabis production and processing is a permitted use in our Agricultural Zone and most of our Industrial Zones. That said, the County has provisions which regulate the use. The main regulations are found under section By-law 3.21 of the Zoning By-law. Cannabis production and processing is viewed differently from other normal farm practices in the County and is regulated more similarly to an industrial/commercial build, not an AG build. As a result, there are requirements which are not typically needed for your average agricultural build but are required for the proposed use. At the moment, Cannabis Production and Processing is regulated as such, and if you were to proceed with a development, you would need to comply with our design and development standards.

Site plan approval is required prior to receiving any building permit. Further, prior to a formal site plan application, a pre-consultation meeting is required. The purpose of this meeting is for relevant agencies to comment on the proposal so the applicant has a clear picture of what will be required for the formal application.

Please review Zoning Bylaw provision 3.21 to see if the property and proposed location of the operation comply with County policy. If the proposed development does not comply with any requirement, including separation distance, you may have to apply for a Zoning By-Law amendment with additional supporting documents, and the approval is dependent on technical review.

The first step would be reviewing the pre-consultation application requirements and let us know if you would like to proceed with a pre-consultation meeting.