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Nicole Dwyer

613-283-4124 x1116 / email


P.O. BOX 695, 77 Beckwith St. N.,
Smiths Falls ON K7A 4T6


This content was last updated on
Monday, April 13, 2015

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Minor Variance Applications

What is a Minor Variance?

A minor variance is a minor deviation (or variance) from the provisions of the zoning by-law. These deviations may relate to the land, building, structure or in some cases use of the property.

Under Section 45(3) of the Planning Act, the Committee of Adjustment is permitted to grant minor variances to properties provided they meet the following for tests:

  1. The variance is minor in nature;
  2. The variance will allow for the appropriate development or use of the property;
  3. The variance meets the general intent of the zoning by-law;
  4. The variance meets the general intent of the official plan;

Examples of such applications include but are not limited to:

  • Building setbacks and heights
  • Fence heights
  • Parking and landscape requirements
  • Deck locations and sizes
  • Pool and shed requirements

Additionally, under Section 45(2) of the Planning Act the Committee may also permit the enlargement or extension of a legal non-conforming building or use through the minor variance process.

Frequently Asked Questions:


How do I apply for a minor variance?

  • An application for minor variance requires the completion of the Application for Minor Variance Form which is available on the Planning Departments website or at Town Hall.
  • The application will be reviewed for completeness by the Planning Department and a Notice of Hearing will be issued no less than 20 days prior to the Committee of Adjustment hearing date.
  • The Planning Department will advise the applicant as to whether additional information is required prior to the issuance of a Notice of Hearing, and if additional approvals may be required (ie. building permit).

The Planning Department recommends pre-consultation prior to the filing of an application in order to facilitate the efficient and thorough processing of the application.

Is there an application fee?

  • Yes, there is a non-refundable fee of $500 to be paid at the time the application is filed.


 How long will the application process take?

  • From the date of submission of a complete application form, the process will take approximately 60-90 days to the date a provisional decision is made by the Committee of Adjustment.

 Why do I need approval for a minor variance?

  • The zoning applicable to each piece of land was identified in a community consulation process and supports the long term vision for the committee for growth in Town.  However, as the zoning by-law cannot forsee all circumstances, the minor variance process was established to ensure such variations are considered in an open and public process.  The application may have long-term impacts on your neighbourhood and therefore needs to be carefully reviewed.
  • Official approval of the Committee of Adjustment ensures that applications meet the four fundamental tests of a minor variance.
  • Once approval has been granted by the Committee of Adjustment and conditions of approval have been satisfied, the applicant can proceed with applying for a building permit if necessary.

 What are Conditions of Approval?

  • The Committee of Adjustment may require conditions of approval for the application.

Example: a property owner may be required to provide vegetative buffering around a deck that is too close to the property line to ensure that visibility by neighbouring properties is shielded.

  • The conditions of approval must be met within one year of the decision being issue or a new application may be required.

 How is it evaluated?

  • The Committee of Adjustment will consider the application by evaluating the proposal again four tests:
  1. The variance required is minor in nature;
  2. The variance would allow for the appropriate use of the property;
  3. The variance meets the general intent of the zoning by-law;
  4. The variance meets the general intent of the official plan;

 Is there an opportunity to appeal the decision?

  • The applicant, Minister (of Municipal Affairs and Housing) or any other person who has an interest in the matter may appeal the decision or conditions imposed by the Committee of Adjustment to the Ontario Municipal Board within 20 days of the issuance of the Notice of Decision.
  • The applicant may appeal to the OMB if no decision has been made by the Committee of Adjustment within 60 days from the date of receipt of the application by the Committe
The OMB is an independent tribunal responsible for investigating appeals to municipal planning decisions based on evidence presented at the hearing. A fee applies to all appeals. For additional information regarding the OMB please go to http://www.omb.gov.on.ca/english/home.html.  

NOTE: This guide has been produced by the Town of Smiths Falls Planning Department and is intended to provide general information to the public. It should not be construed as technical or legal advice for minor variance applications or a right for approval if the steps indicated are followed.