Apr 18, 2024
11:36 am

Behind the Bylaws: CTM’s Guide to City Ordinances

City bylaws are the epitome of living documents and are constantly adapting to accommodate a changing world with evolving priorities. Shifting demographics, environmental considerations, transit, education, infrastructure, and buildings are just some of the considerations that modern cities face when creating bylaws.

CTM has the expertise to help you navigate these often complicated and shifting city ordinances and can help ensure your project gets completed on time, on budget, and on spec. What’s more, CTM’s expertise stretches across Canada, making it a one-stop shop for navigating the unique bylaws found in major urban jurisdictions across the country like Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto.

The City of Vancouver: Aspiring to be the world’s greenest

It’s no secret that the City of Vancouver aspires to be a global leader in sustainability, with a laser focus on environmental stewardship and green technologies.

The city is committed to fostering a robust, inclusive economy that supports local businesses and encourages innovation, while also ensuring accessible housing, healthcare, and education for all citizens.

Vancouver also emphasizes heritage preservation and community engagement, and as part of that, both preserves and creates public spaces that support and cultivate a rich arts and cultural landscape. The city also strives to improve urban mobility and make the city more accessible for everyone, while also minimizing urban sprawl and preserving the city’s natural beauty.

Vancouver’s Updated Zoning and Development By-law document aligns these priorities with city bylaws, allowing the vision of the city to be brought into reality.

Key priorities and takeaways from the document include:

Discretionary Building Height Adjustments: The Director of Planning for the City can permit elements like architectural features, mechanical equipment, and rooftop access structures to exceed maximum building heights if they don’t cover more than 10% of the roof area and are considered to have minimal impact on surrounding views and privacy.

Acoustic Requirements in Certain Areas: Developments in specified districts must include an acoustical engineer’s report that shows that noise levels within certain dwellings do not exceed set decibel levels for different room types. This bylaw is designed to ensure residents are comfortable, and not dealing with significant external noise.

Unique Site Coverage Calculations for Buildings: Site coverage is calculated based on the projected area of the outermost walls, including carports but excluding balconies, decks, and certain other features, to manage density and maintain open spaces.

Setback Rules for Corner Site Development: Developments on corner sites must meet specific setback requirements to preserve the streetscape and ensure privacy and access for neighboring properties.

Discretionary Shallow Site Adjustments: Allows for reduced yard depths in shallow sites to accommodate reasonable development while maintaining adequate open space.

Double Fronting Sites: Requires the Director of Planning for the City of Vancouver approval for building placement and design on double fronting sites, emphasizing the importance of thoughtful design in unique site configurations.

Landscape Setbacks in Certain Districts: Mandates landscaping setbacks in certain districts, specifying that these areas must be landscaped and maintained, contributing to the aesthetic and environmental quality of the city.

Projections into Yards: Outlines what building features can be projected into required yards, balancing the need for functional outdoor spaces with building design flexibility.

Floor Area Exclusions: Details conditions under which certain areas are excluded from floor area calculations, aiming to encourage features like insulation, green roofs, and zero emissions mechanical equipment by not penalizing these sustainable practices in floor space ratio calculations.

Fences Regulations: Sets maximum heights for fences and similar structures to ensure they do not obstruct sightlines or detract from the neighborhood character.

Character House Provisions: Offers regulatory flexibility for the retention of character houses, recognizing their cultural and historical value to the city.

Daylight Access and Angle Controls: Excludes certain features from daylight and angle control regulations to protect residents’ access to natural light while allowing for architectural and mechanical necessities.

Development in Yards Restrictions: Clarifies that no development is allowed in required yards except as specifically permitted, preserving open space and ensuring consistent urban form.

Demolition Controls: Establishes strict criteria for the demolition of buildings, particularly those with heritage value or providing rental housing, to encourage preservation and sustainable development practices.

Zero-Emission Buildings Incentives: Offers additional building height and other regulatory relaxations for zero-emission buildings, incentivizing the construction of environmentally sustainable and energy-efficient buildings.


The City of Edmonton has undergone significant changes in its zoning bylaws; these changes are a response to the city’s growth, housing affordability, diversity and sustainability goals.

The Goal of Zoning Bylaw Renewal: To make the Zoning Bylaw more user-friendly, streamline regulations and services, and ensure alignment with city policies.

Diverse and Compact Communities: The bylaw encourages the development of compact, sustainable communities, reducing urban sprawl, and fostering economic vibrancy.

Flexible Housing Options: By rezoning, neighbourhoods previously reserved for detached houses will now accommodate diverse housing styles such as duplexes, small apartments, and townhomes, promoting socio-economic diversity.

Mixed-Use Development: Encouragement of mixed-use zones to create more employment opportunities and facilitate access to daily amenities, thereby enhancing community self-sufficiency.

Streamlined Permit Process: New bylaws simplify the regulatory approval process for builders, making it easier to obtain building permits.

Encouragement of Affordable Housing: Introducing diverse housing types, the bylaw aims to make housing more affordable and accessible to a broader population segment.

Reduction in Standard Zones: Reducing standard zones from 46 to 24 simplifies land use planning and permits a broader range of building types within each zone.

Sustainable Urban Design: Promoting urban sustainability through efficient land use, creating walkable neighborhoods, and reducing car dependency.

Height and Density Flexibility: Amendments may include adjustments like limiting possible height next to certain types of existing homes to maintain neighborhood character while allowing for increased density in other areas.

Protection of Heritage Structures: Future amendments may include measures for the protection of heritage structures, emphasizing the importance of preserving Edmonton’s historical fabric.

Urban Sprawl Limitation: The city aims to limit expansion into new territories, focusing instead on densification within existing boundaries to make better use of infrastructure and reduce the costs associated with urban sprawl.

Encouragement of Public Transit Use: By increasing density in existing neighborhoods, the bylaw aims to enhance the utilization of public transit and active transportation modes.

Inclusive Design: The bylaw includes provisions for inclusive design, ensuring that urban development accommodates the needs of a diverse population.

Technology and Online Tools: As part of the bylaw renewal, Edmonton plans to introduce new online tools to assist with the transition and help Edmontonians understand the changes.

Community Engagement: The bylaw renewal process involved extensive community engagement, seeking feedback from residents, businesses, and organizations to ensure the new regulations reflect collective community values and needs.


Toronto’s city bylaws address various aspects of construction, maintenance, and urban planning. These bylaws illustrate Toronto’s commitment to innovative urban planning, sustainability, and cultural preservation, aiming to balance growth and development with environmental stewardship and quality of life for its residents.

Cool Roofs Bylaw: Requires certain new and existing buildings to have a roof surface that reflects more sunlight and absorbs less heat, reducing cooling costs and mitigating the urban heat island effect.

Bird-Friendly Design Guidelines: To mitigate bird collisions with buildings, these guidelines require the use of bird-friendly building materials and design practices, especially for structures with extensive glass facades.

Public Art Contribution: Developments in certain areas may be required to allocate a percentage of their project costs to public art, enhancing cultural and aesthetic aspects of the urban environment.

Mandatory Green Parking Standards: New developments must incorporate sustainable parking lot designs, including permeable surfaces, green spaces, and electric vehicle charging stations, to improve stormwater management and reduce environmental impact.

Second Unit Provisions: Facilitates the creation of secondary suites within residential homes, subject to specific standards, promoting affordable housing and efficient use of existing housing stock.

Laneway and Garden Suites: Encourages the development of laneway and garden suites as a form of gentle densification, providing clear guidelines for their development to add to the city’s rental housing stock without significantly altering neighborhood character.

Private Tree Bylaw: Requires a permit to injure or remove any tree with a diameter of 30 cm or more on private property, emphasizing the value of mature trees to the urban ecosystem.

Congestion Management: During construction, developers must submit a construction management plan that addresses traffic, pedestrian flow, and parking to minimize disruption to the surrounding area.

Bicycle Parking Standards: New developments are required to provide a minimum number of bicycle parking spaces, encouraging cycling as a sustainable mode of transportation.

Low Impact Development (LID) Standards: New projects must incorporate LID practices for managing stormwater on-site, using naturalized landscaping features to mimic pre-development hydrology.

Building Retrofit Incentives: Offers incentives for retrofitting existing buildings to improve energy efficiency, water conservation, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Development Charge Bylaw: Imposes charges on new developments to help fund the cost of increased municipal services and infrastructure necessitated by growth.

Community Benefits Charge: For certain types of development, a charge may be levied to fund community benefits such as parks, libraries, and community centers, contributing to the overall well-being of residents.

Short-Term Rental Regulations: Includes licensing requirements and operating standards for short-term rentals, ensuring they are safe and do not negatively impact residential neighborhoods.

Heritage Tax Rebate Program: Provides a tax rebate for properties designated as heritage sites, encouraging the preservation and maintenance of historically significant buildings.

Navigating city bylaws with CTM

Navigating city bylaws is a crucial aspect of any construction project in modern urban environments. These bylaws are dynamic documents that respond to various factors such as demographics, environmental concerns, and infrastructure needs. CTM stands out as a valuable partner in this process, offering expertise that spans across major Canadian cities.

With CTM’s assistance, projects can be guided through the complexities of city ordinances, ensuring they are completed efficiently, within budget, and in compliance with the pertinent regulations. By leveraging CTM’s knowledge and experience, developers and builders can confidently navigate the regulatory landscape, ultimately contributing to the sustainable and harmonious development of urban areas across the country.

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