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Seeking unified look: Markham begins zoning by-law review

March 18, 2015
By Edward LaRusic

The Town of Markham is starting a major effort to update its planning rules, with a goal of creating a unified zoning bylaw.

A 2015 briefing note from city staff spells out the scope of the challenge: there are approximately 50 active parent zoning by-laws, five infill zoning by-laws for various parts of the city and approximately 1100 site specific amendments approved over the last sixty years.

“Markham does have a large number of parent of zoning by-laws that are badly in need of updating and consolidation,” said Development Services commissioner Jim Baird.

Zoning and special projects manager Tom Villella said that one goal of the review is to create a unified zoning by-law, possibly by 2017.

“Because of the age of some of the by-laws, there are some that are out-of-date in terms of definitions and nomenclature and the types of zones that are included in the by-law. The intent of this exercise is to have one set of definitions and one set of standards for each type of zone.”

There is also a legislative imperative for Markham to review its zoning by-law. Like all municipalities in Ontario, Markham is required to review and update its zoning by-law no later than three years after an official plan comes into effect. In Markham’s case, the town adopted a new official plan in 2014, which is currently under appeal at the Ontario Municipal Board.

Many GTA municipalities are either in the process, or soon will be, of updating their own zoning by-laws to ensure compatibility with the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (see sidebar).

Baird said that staff will seek strategic direction from council on some issues, including housing. For example, at present only a few places in the city have infill housing regulations, with secondary suites only allowed in Cornell and Markham Centre. In future, he said there could be added pressure to accommodate post-secondary students given the city’s campaign to serve as a satellite campus for York University.

“We have Seneca College in the City of Markham, and there’s a proposal for York University to come to Markham Centre. Student housing is of great interest,” he said.

As well, noted Villella, staff will want council direction on the type of zoning by-law best suited for the city.
“It could be form based, it could be traditional Euclidian zoning, it could be a combination of both. We’ll also take a look at the development permit system as a possibility,” he said.

Villella said the first public open house on the zoning by-law will be held either in late May or June, with further open houses in September and October. A strategic direction report will be presented for council approval before the end of this year. Baird said the city hopes to start drafting the new by-law in 2016, with a goal of completing it before the end 2017.

“We won’t push [completing our new zoning by-law]. We’d rather have a good product than making sure it’s done by a particular date.”

The town has retained Gladki Planning Associates to prepare a zoning issues analysis and strategic direction report. R.E. Millward and Associates and Clarion Associates have also been retained as sub-consultants on the zoning project.