What is Zoning?

    Zoning is the process of designing and changing cities by regulating how land can be used. Zoning usually contains rules about use, form, and intensity.

    Use looks at what kinds of activities or businesses can operate at a site or building. A use could be something like residential, office, or commercial. Uses could also be more specific and include things like convenience stores or animals.

    Form looks at the physical design of a site or building. Form could include rules on things like parking, setbacks, or landscaping for site layout, or massing and materials for buildings. .

    Intensity looks at the level of activity of density for a building or site. This could be measured in a variety of ways, such as floor plate area, building height, dwelling units per hectare, parking spaces, or number of bedrooms.  

    What does Zoning By-law do?

    Municipalities in Ontario have official plans, which set out the long range vision for the city. The zoning by-law is a tool to implement the official plan by regulating the development of land. It divides the city into ‘zones’ and includes regulations for what can be built in each zone. If a proposed development does not conform to the zoning by-law, the City can refuse to issue a building permit. You can learn more here.

    ReThink Zoning implements The London Plan. Where can I learn more about The London Plan?


    The London Plan is the city’s new Official Plan, which outlines a vision for what London will look like in the future. The new zoning by-law is will help us achieve that vision. The London Plan was approved by Council and the Ministry in 2016 following engagement with thousands of Londoners. 

    Why is the City writing a new Zoning By-law?

    The Planning Act requires that a municipality’s zoning by-law complies with its official plan. London’s current zoning by-law, Z.-1, was approved in 1993 to implement the policies of the City’s 1989 Official Plan. Since then the city’s context has changed considerably. The London Plan is meant to be a more accessible, plain language document and has replaced the traditional concept of land use designations with Place Types, which consider the use, intensity, and form of development equally to achieve great places throughout the city. As such, it is necessary to create an entirely new by-law that accounts for these changes and that can better implement The London Plan.

    What are the two ReThink Zoning phases & timelines?

    ReThink Zoning is being conducted in two phases. The first, which is meant to take place throughout 2020, is looking at a general zoning approach. The second phase, which will take place over 2021 and 2022, will involve actually creating the new zoning by-law. You can learn more about the specific timing in the Project Timelines tab.

    How does ReThink Zoning affect me?

    ReThink Zoning will affect all Londoners. If you’re a landowner or tenant, ReThink Zoning could result in changes to the way the property you live in or own can be developed in the future, through changes to permitted uses and regulations. On a broader level, ReThink Zoning could change how our communities look and feel. If you’d like to learn about the zoning of a specific property, you can do so here.

    What is a "use"?

    In a zoning by-law, each parcel of land has a specific ‘zone’ associated with it. Each zone allows for specific land uses. Uses could be things like art galleries, animal clinics, or schools. If you own a parcel of land and want to develop it into a use that’s not listed in your zone, you will have to apply for a rezoning, or zoning by-law amendment.  

     In one alternative to a zoning by-law being considered through this project, discretionary uses can be defined that would only permit certain uses if conditions are met.

    Each zoning by-law also has regulations, which provide rules for things like building setbacks or parking. With the current by-law, relaxations can sometimes be given if your proposed development does not meet every regulation through a minor variance.

    Will I be able to change the zoning of my property through this process?

    Through Phase Two of the project, we will be looking at changing the zoning of properties citywide. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the development opportunities for your property will change. If you’re looking to develop your property in a specific way that isn’t allowed by your current zoning, you can apply for a zoning by-law amendment. You can learn more here.