A Closer Look at the Commercial Development Process

The Town of The Blue Mountains would like to provide information to the public about the process of building or renovating commercial properties and buildings, such as retail stores, restaurants and commercial plazas.

Whether the project includes minor renovations to an existing retail store, refurbishment of an existing venue or construction of a new commercial building, the Town is excited to work with property owners and commercial developers, and staff are here to help every step of the way. 

However, it is important to understand that there are rules and processes to follow to ensure that safe building and construction practices are followed in accordance with the Ontario Building Code and other applicable legislative requirements, such as the Planning Act and the Conservation Act. Before starting any work, including demolition, plumbing or minor renovations, it is highly recommended that you contact the Planning Department to have a preliminary discussion and get a general understanding of the process, steps involved, timelines and application requirements.  

Many factors, such as the scale and complexity of the project, will determine the specific process that must be followed, but generally, commercial development applications follow a seven-step process.

Step 1: Pre-Consultation
Before any work starts, the recommended first step for all projects is for the applicant to schedule a Pre-Consultation meeting with Town Staff. There is an application form and fee information on the Town website.

During the meeting, Town staff and external agencies such as the Conservation Authority and others will review the proposed concept and provide information about what steps must be completed to move the project forward. Items such as property zoning and the permitted uses will also be reviewed at this step. At the end of the Pre-Consultation stage, the applicant will understand the minimum requirements that must be met to enable the project to move to the next step. The Town will provide this information to you in writing so that you have a checklist of the entire process. 

It is important to highlight that if no significant items are identified within the Pre-Consultation Process, many smaller and more straightforward projects may be able to proceed directly to Step 6 – Site Plan Approval – or Step 7 – Building Permit Application. The focus of the Town is to work collaboratively with applicants to identify the best path forward.

Step 2: Submission of a Complete Application
If deemed necessary during Pre-Consultation, the applicant will submit a planning application, notifying the Town of their formal intent to proceed. This step is used for projects requiring a more detailed process, such as a Zoning By-law Amendment or Site Plan Approval. The Town will review and approve or deny the application based on requirements outlined during Pre-Consultation.

For additional information, please visit the provincial website, which provides plain-language Citizen Guides on the types of planning applications.

Step 3: Detailed Review Process
After the application is deemed complete, the Town will begin a detailed internal review of the submitted material, which may also include secondary reviews by external expertise. At the same time, all documents and materials related to the project are posted on the Planning Project page on the Town website, where the public can review the materials.

The Town strives to provide Council decisions on all planning applications as efficiently as possible and within prescribed timeframes. Generally, Minor Variance applications will receive a decision within 45 days, Zoning By-law Amendment applications will receive a decision within 90 days and Site Plan applications will receive a decision within 60 days.  

Step 4: Public Consultation
In the case of an Official Plan Amendment or Zoning By-law Amendment, a Public Meeting is held — virtually and in person. Town Staff present a summary of the project submission, while the applicant details the vision and intent of their application. Everyone is welcome to attend the public meeting to receive information, ask questions or provide comments. No decisions or changes are made during this step; this step is critical to understand all comments on the proposal so that Council has all information prior to making a decision. Staff will collect all public comments to ensure submitted feedback is considered, and revisions may be made in response, where appropriate.

Step 5: Formal Decision and Appeal Process
Following the public meeting and after the applicant has considered public comments, Town Staff provides a report to Council with recommendations on how to proceed. This must be informed by the Town’s Official Plan, the results of public consultation, required studies and comments received by other Town departments and external agencies. Council can decide to either approve or refuse the application, or if they wish, Council can defer their decision for any reason, such as the need for additional information and/or modifications.

Once a decision has been made, there is typically a 20-day period following the decision to appeal the decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal or OLT. Appeal rights vary by application.

Step 6: Site Plan Approval
As part of the process, the applicant may also be required to submit a new or revised Site Plan application before proceeding. The Site Plan is a document that provides a visual representation of the site layout, including elements such as the location of buildings, parking, landscaping, waste and recycling containers, traffic and pedestrian access. This control over detailed site-specific matters helps to ensure that each project is well-designed, fits in with the surrounding uses and minimizes any negative impacts on adjacent properties.

A Site Plan Agreement may also be entered into between the Owner and the Town to ensure the Site Plan is built out in accordance with the agreed upon drawings and plans. Securities may also be received to ensure the works are completed promptly. Site Plan approval and if required, the execution of a Site Plan Agreement is not subject to a public meeting process.

Step 7: Building Permit Application
The applicant may apply for a building permit if no appeals are made and once the site plan has been approved. Building permits give legal permission to construct, demolish or renovate a property in accordance with the requirements set by the Ontario Building Code. A building permit will also be required for work related to the septic system, including the addition or removal of washrooms. 

Once a complete application is received, the Building Services Department will review and communicate with the applicant following timelines mandated by the Ontario Building Code. Once a permit is granted, work may begin. Mandatory inspections will occur throughout the process until occupancy is granted. 

The process for commercial development is designed to be thorough for the benefit of the applicant, adjacent property owners, the Town and the public. Local businesses thrive when all parties work together to ensure a smooth transition from pre-consultation to final occupancy. 

For more information, contact:

Adam Smith
Director of Planning and Development Services

519-599-3131 ext. 246

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