As an upper-tier municipality, Middlesex County is responsible for managing growth and providing land use planning guidance and assistance for the County’s eight lower-tier municipalities. While the County's Official Plan is used to broadly outline goals and create a framework for planning across municipal boundaries, each lower-tier municipality has its own local Official Plan and Zoning By-law that provide detailed policies and land use designations. For more information or to access any of these documents, please visit your local municipality's website.
The first step of a development application is to talk to local municipal staff. They can provide information about how to apply, what the process will look like, and help to identify potential issues. The time it takes to process an application varies. Your local municipality can provide you with an estimate of the time it may take for a decision to be made. Many of these processes include fees. More information about land use planning in Ontario is available on the Resources page.
Middlesex County is the Approval Authority for Official Plans, Official Plan Amendments, and Plans of Subdivision / Condominium.
County Official Plan Amendments
Middlesex County's Official Plan is a comprehensive policy document that establishes a long-term vision and sets out broad goals, objectives, and policies for the County. If a proposed land use or development is not in conformity with the County's Official Plan an amendment may be needed, however it is not anticipated that this will occur frequently. Official Plan Amendments are evaluated against principles of good planning, Provincial policy, and County policy. Potential applicants are required to consult the Planning Department before making a formal submission.
Local Municipal Official Plan Amendments
Each municipality within Middlesex County has its own Official Plan that establishes local goals, objectives, and policies. The County is the Approval Authority for local municipal Official Plans and local municipal Official Plan Amendments. If a proposed land use or development is not in conformity with the local municipality's Official Plan, an amendment may be needed. Official Plan Amendments are evaluated against principles of good planning, Provincial policy, as well as County and local policy. Applications for local municipal Offical Plan Amendments are made at the local municipality and, if adopted by local Council, are forwarded to the County for review and consideration. This process includes local municipal and County fees.
Plans of Subdivision / Condominium
A Plan of Subdivision / Plan of Condominium allows a piece of land to be divided into smaller lots or units in a comprehensive manner. In considering a proposed plan, applications are evaluated against criteria such as conformity with the local municipality’s Official Plan, Middlesex County’s Official Plan, the Zoning By-law, Provincial policies, the Planning Act, and engineering standards. Compatibility with adjacent properties and the suitability of the land for the proposed purpose are also taken into account, including the size and shape of the lots being created, adequacy of vehicular access, servicing, and environmental matters.
The Subdivision / Condominium process is typically a fairly technical process and applicants will require professional planning, engineering, legal, and surveying assistance. Plan of Subdivision / Condominium applications are usually processed concurrently with other planning applications (such as Zoning By-law Amendments) so that councils and the public will have a comprehensive understanding of the proposal. If you wish to know more about applying for a Plan for Subdivision or a Plan of Condominium please view our Applicant's Guide and Application Form. The process includes fees.
Development applications may be submitted to the local municipality where they will be reviewed and considered. Middlesex County and other parties (such as Conservation Authorities) work closely with local municipalities in reviewing local applications such as Zoning By-law Amendments, Consents, Minor Variances, and Site Plans.
Zoning By-Law Amendments
Every property within Middlesex County belongs to a zone (such as residential, commercial, or industrial) and is subject to the local Zoning By-law. Zoning By-laws determine what uses and buildings are permitted within each zone, and outline the associated regulations and standards. If a proposed use or structure does not conform to the requirements outlined in the Zoning By-law (for example, a different proposed use), a Zoning By-law Amendment would be necessary.
Applications are reviewed to determine if they are consistent with Provincial policies, if they conform to Middlesex County’s Official Plan and the local municipality's Official Plan, and if the proposal is suitable for the site and compatible with adjacent land uses. The review may also consider other elements including services, access, and environmental matters. The approval of a Zoning By-law Amendment does not exempt an application from securing any other required permits or approvals.
Consents to Sever
Permission or consent is generally required to divide land into smaller parcels. Typical types of consents include the creation of a new lot, adding land to a neighbouring lot, creating a right-of-way, and entering into a lease over a part of a property for more than 21 years. Applications are reviewed to determine if they are consistent with Provincial policy, if they conform to Official Plan policies, if they comply with the requirements within the Zoning By-law, and if the proposed use or development is suitable for the site and compatible with adjacent land uses. Additional considerations include the availability of municipal servicing, availability of adequate vehicular access, grading and drainage, and potential environmental impacts.
Each property within Middlesex County belongs to a zone (such as residential, commercial, or industrial) which are determined by local Municipalities within their Zoning By-laws. Zoning By-laws contain regulations and standards for each zone (for example, the maximum building height) and ultimately establish what uses and buildings are permitted. If a proposed use or structure meets the general intent and purpose of the Zoning By-law but there are some proposed deviations from the regulations and standards (for example, an increased building height), a Minor Variance would be necessary. Applications are reviewed against and must meet all of the following tests: (1) is the variance minor, (2) is it desirable for the appropriate development or use of the land, building or structure, (3) does it meet the general intent and purpose of the Zoning By-law, and (4) does it maintain the general intent and purpose of the Official Plan.
Site Plan Control is a technical development review process to ensure site development matters such as land use compatibility, access, landscaping, parking, barrier-free accessibility, and site servicing are built and maintained. Site Plan Control is also used to ensure safe, appropriate, and functional development that is in line with Municipal standards. Site Plan Control is typically applied to industrial, commercial, and multi-unit residential development but does not address the interior of buildings. Site Plans must be prepared by qualified professionals, and technical studies and reports may be required to support a proposal. The Site Plan Review process takes input from various departments and agencies into account during the preparation of a Site Plan Approval Agreement. A Site Plan Approval Agreement is a binding contract between the Municipality and the Owner, and is required to be registered on title of the property and is a prerequisite to the building permit application process.
For more information about any of these applications, please contact your local Municipality.
The County of Middlesex in partnership with participating local municipalities is implementing a Digital Planning System – a web-based integrated workflow software solution to modernize, streamline and automate the development intake, review and approvals process. This project is supported by the Provincial Municipal Modernization Program and through a Request for Proposal process, the County has engaged Cloud Permit www.cloudpermit.com to implement.
Providing development review and approval is a core municipal service that impacts the economy and protects the public interest. Planning processes support County Council and Local Municipal Councils to make decisions that often have long-term implications for the protection of the environment and the growth and development of the communities within Middlesex County. Developers, consultants, the public, Local Municipalities, and the County all have a significant stake in a high functioning, efficient, transparent development review and approvals system.
This software solution will increase efficiencies and transparency, save time in the development process, increase accountability and have positive outcomes for the development industry and other economic sectors while promoting the development of safe, healthy and complete communities. The solution will modernize a largely manual process and will provide for digital submission and processing of applications. More information will be provided on this in the coming months.