Sarnia’s Zoning By-law regulates the way in which land can be used in the City by designating different areas with land use zones. The By-law also contains rules that apply to each zone for things such as permitted uses, building setbacks and lot coverage. Because it is difficult for the Zoning By-law to address every circumstance that may affect the development or use of a particular property, the Planning Act allows City Council to establish a Committee of Adjustment to which property owners can apply when they require a “minor variance” to the regulations. City Council has also given the Committee of Adjustment authority to grant minor variances to the City’s Sign By-law.

Minor variances are small changes or exceptions to existing land use or development restrictions contained in the zoning, sign and fence by-laws.

The Committee meets on Tuesdays at 5:00 p.m. on average every three (3) weeks. Please contact the Community Development Services and Standards Department for the full public hearing schedule.

1. Consult with the Secretary-Treasurer/Planner:

Before you submit an application, discuss your plans with the Secretary-Treasurer (Community Development Services and Standards Department , 519 332 0330 extension 3289).

2. Complete the Application, including the following:

One copy of a scaled drawing with dimensions of the proposal depicting the lot and showing the location and size of the buildings and of the parking and access on the lot; A cheque made payable to the City of Sarnia for the application fee (variable fee structure); If you are using an agent or solicitor, your written authorization identifying by name the individual who will be your agent or solicitor; and in some cases, additional information could be helpful in assessing an application; you are encouraged to submit photographs or other relevant documentation.

3. Notice of Public Hearing:

After your application has been received, a notice of Public Hearing will be placed in the Civic Corner section of the Sarnia Observer (Saturday edition) and sent to all assessed property owners within 60 metres (200 feet) of the property, at least 10 days before the date of the Hearing. At the same time, copies of your application will be circulated to other City departments, and, in some cases, to external agencies. The purpose of this circulation is to obtain advice from and/or the requirements of these interested groups in the form of reports for the Committee of Adjustment that are considered at the Public Hearing.

In advance of the meeting the City will prepare signage for the Applicant to post onsite, the applicant must submit a photo to the City a minimum of 10 days in advance of the meeting showing the sign in place.

4. Public Hearing and Decision Making Process:

The Public Hearing will normally be held within 25 days of receiving your application. It is very important that you and/or your agent or solicitor attend the Hearing to explain the reasons for your application; if you do not attend, the Committee may proceed in your absence. Other interested persons are also entitled to attend and to express their views about the application. The Committee will also consider verbal advice and written reports from staff. Besides considering the site-specific aspects of the application, the Committee will also use the following criteria to evaluate the application and reach its decision: Is the variance minor? Is it desirable for the appropriate development or use of the land, building or structure? Is the general intent and purpose of the Official Plan and the Zoning By-law being maintained? If your application is approved, the Committee may impose conditions as part of its decision.

5. Notice of Decision:

Within 10 days of the Committee making its decision, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Committee will mail one copy of the decision to you and to anyone else who filed a written request for Notice of the Decision. Information is included in the Notice of Decision outlining appeal procedures and identifying the last day for appealing the Committee’s decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.

6. When the Decision is Final and Binding:

If no appeal is made by the end of the 20 day appeal period, the decision is final and binding. You will be notified by mail and, if the application has been approved, you should, subject to the fulfillment of any conditions set out in the final decision, be in a position to apply for a building permit or be in compliance with the Zoning By-law.

Property Notification Signage

In advance of the meeting the City will prepare signage for the Applicant to post onsite. The City will advise the applicant when the Sign is available for pickup from Customer Service (1st Floor, City Hall).

Installation & Location

  • The applicant is responsible for the installation and maintenance of all signs (including snow clearance), which shall be located away from any obstructions such that the signs are visible from the street and installed in a safe and secure manner. (Note: the sign must remain visible from the street/sidewalk at all times, even during periods of snow accumulation).
  • The sign shall be posted a minimum of ten (10) days prior to the public meeting.
  • The sign shall be placed on the subject property, and not within public rights-of-way.
  • The sign shall be located approximately midway between the side lot lines at a maximum setback of 1.2 m (4 ft.) from the street line.
  • A sign is to be posted for each frontage, or as directed by staff (corner lots, through lots, etc.)
  • No sign shall be located within any sight triangle, as specified by the appropriate Zoning Bylaw.
  • The sign may be placed on the exterior of a building, if it can not be accommodated in the front yard of the subject property.
  • The sign shall not be placed in a window of a building located on the subject property.
  • Failure to post the sign as required will result in a deferral of the application at costs to the applicant.

Removal of Signage

The applicant is responsible to ensure that the sign remains posted and visible during the 10 days prior to the hearing. If the sign becomes lost or damaged, the applicant is required to notify staff who will work with the applicant to replace the sign. In the event that an application is deferred, a new sign will be prepared and the applicant will be responsible for posting.

The sign shall not be removed until the Committee has made a decision.

Permission (Section 45(2) of the Planning Act)

Section 45(2) of the Planning Act provides that a Committee of Adjustment upon application may permit:

  • the enlargement or extension of a building or structure occupied by a use prohibited by the Zoning By-law if the use that was made of the building or structure on the day the Zoning By-law was passed continued until the date of the application to the Committee. No permission may be granted to enlarge the building or structure beyond the limits of land owned and used in connection with the use on the day the Zoning By-law was passed; and
  • a use of the property, building or structure for a purpose that is in the opinion of the Committee, similar to the purpose for which the property, building or structure was previously used or is more compatible with the uses permitted by the Zoning By-law than the previous use.