Minor variances

What is a minor variance?

In compliance with the Planning and Development Act, City Council has the power to grant variances in accordance with decisions of the Committee. This exceptional procedure is regulated under a by-law, under which the council may allow the execution of planned construction, or the regularization of construction in progress or complete, particularly affecting the setbacks of already existing buildings, that do not meet certain criteria related to zoning or subdivision.

Defining what constitutes a minor variance is key to being able to grant such decisions. A single definition cannot be prescribed by by-law or directive; each case must be evaluated on an individual basis. Thus, we cannot fix in advance the acceptable margin of derogation. Indeed, what is minor in one situation can be major in another. Providing norms in advance would require that the municipality grant the variance, and would amount to an amendment to the zoning or subdivision. This would completely defeat the purpose of such authority.

Therefore, the advantage of minor variances is that they are a way of providing solutions to practical problems that cannot be detected in advance in urban planning by-laws. By adopting a minor variances by-law, the Council ensures flexibility in the application of its laws.

Provisions and eligible zones

All provisions of zoning by-law 512 and subdivision by-law 514 on are potentially admissible for a minor variance, with the exception of the provisions relating to:

  • Land use;
  • Floor height;
  • Gross density, net density, the buildable area;
  • The protection of the natural environment (shore lines and river banks, floodplains, wetlands, streams, marshes);
  • The cutting and protection of trees;
  • Management of odors;
  • The number of parking spaces;
  • Derogatory constructions protected by acquired rights;

A minor variance may be granted in all zones identified in the zoning plan that are part of the zoning by-law 512, with the exception of areas where land is subject to special restrictions for public safety reasons.

Criteria for analysis of an application for minor variance

To be granted, minor exemptions must respond to the following conditions:

  • The exemption does not apply to the use or density of land use (number of dwellings in a given area);
  • The application aims at introducing a provision that could be a minor exemption;
  • The provisions covered by the exemption request has the effect of causing serious harm to the applicant;
  • The applicant is unable, or has particular difficulty to comply with the regulations covered by the exemption request;
  • The minor exemption does not affect the neighbouring property owners, or their property rights;
  • In the case in which the construction or the cadastral operation is underway or already completed, the applicant has obtained a building permit, certificate of authorization or a subdivision permit for this work, all in good faith;
  • The application meets the objectives of the planning programme;
  • The application complies with all provisions of zoning by-law 512 and subdivision by-law 514, other than those specified by the minor variance;
  • The minor exemption does not apply to contravene the safety of property or persons;

Analytical procedure of request for minor exemption

The applicant shall submit the exemption request on the form provided for this purpose, along with all the documents they consider relevant, including the payment of fees amounting to $ 400 ($ 200 for the consideration of the application and $ 200 for the publication of the notice), which is non-refundable.

The request is forwarded to the Planning Advisory Committee (PAC), who analyze the application in light of the accompanying information and that provided by the head of the planning department. The PAC then forwards its recommendation to City Council.

The registrar of the municipality shall give public notice, which must be published at least 15 days prior to the meeting at which the board comes to a decision on the request.

The council makes its decision after hearing those concerned and having received the opinion of the PAC. This opinion does not bind the council, who remain entirely free to take a contrary decision.

A copy of the resolution by which the council renders its decision is sent to the person who requested the minor variance:

  • If the minor variance is not granted, the applicant will be notified in writing of the reasons for this decision.
  • If the minor variance is granted, the permit can be issued if all the requirements for the issuance of the permit are met.

Please note the following before submitting your application:

  • There is no guarantee that City Council will grant a minor variance;
  • The minor variance procedure can be spread over two to three months to be completed.

Exemption request form