As part of the Report PLN 06-22, City staff developed a plain language document to address any questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the City’s Official Plan?

The Official Plan describes a Council’s policies on how land in the community should be used and it is prepared with community input.

An official plan deals mainly with issues such as:

  • where new housing, industry, offices and shops will be located;
  • what services will be needed, such as roads, watermains, sewers, parks and schools;
  • when, and in what order, parts of your community will grow; and
  • community improvement initiatives.
 Why is an Official Plan important?

 A municipality's official plan is the first step in planning a community. It does the following:

  • identifies the City’s general land use planning policies;
  • ensures growth is coordinated and meets the community’s needs;
  • guides other agencies or levels of government involved in community building (such as the Region of Durham for water, sewers, and roads; school boards; utilities, etc.);
  • helps residents understand how their land may be used now and in the future;
  • guides location of future roads, watermains, sewers, garbage dumps, parks and other services;
  • provides a framework for municipal zoning bylaws that set local standards, like the size of lots and height of buildings;
  • is a tool used to evaluate and settle conflicting land uses while meeting local, regional, and provincial interests; and
  • represents Council's commitment to the future growth of your community.
 What else do I need to know?
The Province of Ontario leads land use planning and has issued a number of documents to guide and direct regional and local land use policy. This includes policies about managing growth. Pickering is part of the Regional Municipality of Durham, which also has an Official Plan.
 Why is this important?

The Province’s Growth Plan requires that the majority of new growth happen in existing urban areas that are well served by transit. This creates “complete communities” that offer a mix of land uses and different housing options.

The City’s Plan must conform to the Region’s Plan. Additionally, both official plans must conform to Provincial policies. It’s the law. For more information about Provincial Policy documents, please visit

The Planning Act requires official plans to be updated regularly in order to conform to the most current planning directions issued by the Province of Ontario. Both the City and the Region update their Official Plans by preparing “amendments” to these documents.

 What is intensification?
Intensification is development that allows for more people to connect, work and play within the existing urban boundary. It happens when we re-develop, expand and/or repurpose existing areas, buildings or vacant lands. Intensification typically includes redevelopment into a more compact built form (such as high-rise apartments).
 What is the purpose of Amendment 38?

Amendment 38 to the Pickering Official Plan is a major update to the Plan that is necessary to fully conform to the intensification policies of the Provincial Growth Plan. It identifies policies to guide redevelopment of the lands generally located along Kingston Road (called the Kingston Road Corridor), and on the east side of Brock Road, between Highway 401 and Kingston Road (called the Brock Mixed Node). See attached map for these locations.

It is the City’s goal to improve the long-term social, environmental, economic and cultural health of the City for future generations. New policies put forward through OPA 38 will promote land uses and building designs that are easily accessed by walking or public transit, are environmentally friendly, and enable a mix of residential and commercial uses within the various Kingston Road Corridor neighbourhoods.

 Why are these areas being intensified?
The Kingston Road Corridor is effectively the backbone of the City and represents an existing urban area that is well served by transit. The Kingston Road corridor has existing high frequency Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and will be reconstructed in the near future with a centre-median light rapid transit system. Similarly, the Brock Mixed Node represents another vital location within the City that resides beside the City Centre and is close to Highway 401. A BRT is also planned along Brock Road in the future. The Region of Durham and the City have identified both of these lands as key locations in the municipality to accommodate growth based on provincial policy criteria.
 How will this intensification affect me?

Intensification and growth are inevitable. However, large scale development of this kind takes many years to realize and requires a number of approvals from stakeholders before it can proceed to construction. Properly managed intensification will ensure that growth happens smoothly. OPA 38 is the next step in a series of steps that will establish more detail that reflects the City vision for intensification. As a resident, you will have an opportunity to provide your input at all stages that require Council approval.

In the short to medium term, daily routines may be disrupted due to construction of essential infrastructure (e.g. BRT, watermains, sewers) and building on private lands. Coordinated construction management plans will be put in place to handle the impacts of construction in our community. There will be frequent communication by government agencies to provide notice of these disruptions so that you may plan for it.

In the long term, properly guided intensification will improve the social, environmental, economic and cultural health of the City for future generations.

 What are the next steps?

Following Pickering Council’s adoption of the Amendment, the City is required to send OPA 38 to the Region of Durham for review and approval. Any further changes or modifications that may be required will be brought back to Pickering Council for approval. Interested Parties will also be notified as required by the Planning Act and associated regulations.

Once this is complete, City Planning staff will prepare a zoning by-law amendment to further implement the Intensification Plan vision and official plan policies at a detailed level. This zoning by-law would identify all of the specific requirements for these lands, such as maximum heights, setbacks from property lines, number of parking spaces and location of parking, etc. This zoning by-law amendment, which will include robust community engagement, is anticipated to be brought to Council for consideration in 2023.

Detailed Questions & Answers

What is the process to further review building heights and massing of site specific properties on the North side of Kingston Road abutting residential, as well as properties on the South side that are not at major intersections or gateways as identified in Amendment 38?

The Official Plan provides policies for development at a broad, neighbourhood scale.

Once the Official Plan policies are in place, the City is required by the Planning Act to update the City’s Zoning By-Law to put in place appropriate regulations at the site-level for buildings such as maximum heights, setbacks from property lines, number of parking spaces and location of parking, etc. The Zoning Bylaw Amendment process sets site specific building heights and massing that are appropriate to the unique conditions and location of that site. This process requires a similar public consultation process as an official plan amendment.

The Official Plan establishes a maximum height for the majority of the area, with a separate (lower) maximum height for the Rougemount Precinct. This does not mean that every site within the larger area, or within the Rougemount Precinct, will be permitted to be constructed to that maximum height. The Zoning By-law put in place will take into consideration the unique characteristics, needs, and functions of each parcel of land along the Kingston Road Corridor and within the Brock Mixed Node. Following consultation with the public, the property owner, and other interested stakeholders, the City may choose to establish lower maximum heights in the Zoning By-law that still fall within the range permitted by the Official Plan.

 What happens when an Official Plan policy differs from a zoning by-law provision?
  • As an example, the Official Plan may indicate that buildings within a particular development area (such as on the north side of Kingston Road) should not be higher than 12 storeys. However, the Zoning By-law, that is reflective of the unique conditions of a site within the development area, may set a maximum height of up to 6 storeys. In this case, the Zoning By-law is in agreement with the Official Plan, as the 6-storey maximum height falls within the 12-storey range permitted by the Official Plan.
  • If a new development site is proposed to have buildings at 8 storeys high, and the Zoning By-law sets the maximum height on that site at 6 storeys, then the proposed buildings still comply with the Official Plan, but not the Zoning By-law. The applicant won’t have to make an application to amend the Official Plan, but would need to submit an application to change the Zoning By-law, to get Council approval for the 2 extra storeys. If they want to build higher than 12 storeys, then both an Official Plan Amendment and a Zoning By-law Amendment application would be required to consider this change.
  • Each of these planning applications requires public consultation before a recommendation to Council is made by staff. Ultimately, it is City Council that makes the final decision to approve or deny the application. Once Council has made their decision, anyone that has participated in the public review of the application can still appeal Council’s decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT). Decisions rendered by the OLT are final and binding for all parties.
  • The approval of OPA 38 will not change the level of participation or legal requirements for public engagement provided to the community. The City will be conducting a further review of building heights and/or massing at the site/property level through the required future Zoning By-law Amendment for these areas. This process will require further consultation with property owners and the public, and will be subject to Council’s approval.
What happens if a developer wants to make changes to their property that don’t comply with the Official Plan?
A developer would be required to submit an Official Plan Amendment (OPA) application to the City. Following the approval of OPA 38, landowners still have the right to submit an OPA application to make a site specific change. It would go through its own approval process, which would include public consultation.
What planning tools and checks and balances are available to secure the future vision of the Kingston Road Corridor?

There are many mechanisms to secure the future vision of the Kingston Road Corridor, including the following:

Multiple Stages of Planning Processes

Zoning By-law Amendments

In order for any re-development to occur within the Intensification Areas, and take advantage of the new official plan provisions, a zoning by-law amendment application will still be required, at a minimum. This could be initiated by a developer, or by the City. In either case, this provides an additional level of protection of the public interest, as the Planning Act requires the community be consulted for their input, as part of the Zoning By-law Amendment process.

Zoning By-law ‘Holding’ Provisions’

OPA 38 includes policies that allow the City to include ‘Holding Provisions’, where appropriate, in the Zoning By-law. This effective planning tool is used to ensure:

  • the development work progresses in a legal and orderly manner;
  • that a plan for site conditions on a property are approved and can support the development; and
  • that potentially adverse impacts on adjacent properties are addressed prior to a development proposal being approved by Council.

The terms of a Holding Provisions contained in the Zoning By-law must be satisfied before Council can approve the lifting of the Holding Provisions and before Council can give final zoning approval to the proposed development and allow development to take place.

Examples of Holding Provisions may include the following:

  • The requirement to submit a traffic study detailing how existing traffic patterns might be affected, what the development design proposes to ensure the least amount of impact to local traffic, and/or what the proposed development will put in place to accommodate for an inevitable increase in traffic. Examples of these measures might include on-site vehicle queuing; new traffic lights or stop signs; road/intersection widenings or extra turning lanes; new cycling and pedestrian routes; and transit service improvements.
  • For development proposed on vacant land, the applicant can be required to provide an approved servicing plan for the installation of utilities (hydro, water, sanitary sewers, telecommunications, etc.) before full approvals are given for the development proposal.
  • The requirement for preparation of site master plans (block plans) for larger development proposals that illustrate how an individual development will properly integrate with adjacent sites. Depending on the scale or complexity of the development, sometimes these block plans are endorsed by Council.
  • The requirement for cost-sharing and project coordination among property owners, within the vicinity of a new development that is part of a larger development area. Cost sharing agreements ensure that all developers pay their fair share of servicing costs within that larger development area and that all development parties work from the same master plan.

Site Plan Control and Site Plan Advisory Committee

Site Plan Applications are often the final planning applications required before a Building Permit application may be submitted. In the City of Pickering, Council has designated the authority to review and approve Site Plan Applications to the Director, City Development & CBO.

Unlike many other municipalities, Pickering has also established a Site Plan Advisory Committee made up of staff from the City Development Department, and three members of Council who can represent the interests of their constituents in the site design phase of development. Initial review of a Site Plan application by staff first includes a review of the terms of the Council approved Urban Design Guidelines for that neighbourhood (where applicable) in order to determine that the application meets the design standards that were established for the area through a public process. Staff then convenes a meeting of the Site Plan Advisory Committee where they receive comments for changes and/or and general endorsement before staff gives final approval for the development to proceed.

Public Engagement Strategies

In addition to the required public engagement under the Planning Act, staff are recommending the development of a community engagement strategy for the future City-Initiated Zoning By-law Amendment for these Intensification Areas. The communication strategy would provide opportunities for residents, businesses, and property owners to be meaningfully engaged in this next important step toward implementing the Provincial Growth Plan’s policy direction for Strategic Growth Areas in the City, such as the Kingston Road Corridor. The strategy would be developed and delivered by City Development staff, working closely with staff in the City’s Corporate Communications Division, the Economic Development & Strategic Projects Department, and members of Council. Our goal is to ensure information is readily available using a wide variety of communication tools and platforms, so our community can know where we are in the process and how they can get involved in ongoing decisions.

On-going Monitoring and Updating of Policies and Regulations

As detailed in Section 11A.14.5 of OPA 38, staff will carry out a monitoring program to identify proposed changes within the Intensification Area and, in particular, track the number and type of development applications and data such as the proposed number of additional residential units, as well as the loss or gain of commercial/office floor space and jobs.

Staff further recommends preparation of an annual report to Council, detailing any changes within Strategic Growth Areas in the City, including the Kingston Road Corridor. The City’s upcoming review of the Pickering Official Plan is expected to commence in 2023 and will provide another opportunity for the City to refine policies for these growth areas as necessary and based on community input.

 How are cumulative impacts to existing infrastructure, including roads, and green space addressed?

In addition to monitoring initiatives, there are a number of ways in which the cumulative impacts of growth are evaluated and addressed, including the following:

Transportation Studies

The City of Pickering and the Region of Durham have both undertaken transportation studies that looked at the potential impacts to traffic and transportation systems based on the projected growth of our community. For example, these studies revealed the need for a dedicated transit corridor along Kingston Road and enhancement of the cycling network in response to growth.

Most recently, the City completed an Integrated Transportation Master Plan (ITMP) that identified the development of a road and active transportation network to address the existing and future needs of the City of Pickering to 2031 and beyond. Also factored into this report are population and job growth projections.

The Region’s Transportation Master Plan provided recommendations for the Regional roads, such as Kingston and Brock Roads. Both of the City and Regional plans are subject to periodic updates, as needed, or as prompted by shifts in development trends.

There are many factors affecting the potential transportation plans for the Kingston Road Corridor, including:

  • the magnitude of the area in question – it’s a very large, irregular area;
  • diversity of interests from multiple land owners – retail, employment, residential, cultural, etc. – not all land owners are interested in redeveloping;
  • intensification and redevelopment is planned to occur over a period that could exceed 25 to 30 years, and will therefore be subject to the timing of new development, and changing market trends; and
  • the phased construction of the centre median Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along Kingston Road will impact future traffic flow and patterns that will shift and adjust as the BRT is constructed. Based on input from the City’s Engineering Staff, the most effective approach to determine and address traffic impacts is to require traffic studies when a development proposal is considered, and not before.

Based on input from the City’s Engineering Staff, the most effective approach to determine and address traffic impacts is to require traffic studies when a development proposal is considered, and not before.

Traffic/Transportation Impact Studies (TIS)

Preparation and submission of traffic impact studies are required for any substantial development in the City. They must be completed in accordance with the Region’s and the City’s TIS Guidelines, and are reviewed by Regional and City transportation engineers. The scope of the TIS should be determined in consultation with the Region of Durham, to ensure that any other traffic studies on adjacent lands or the immediate area are taken into consideration in the review of a site-specific traffic study. The City may also request a peer review by a third party transportation expert, of any study submitted (paid for by the applicant).

Parkland and Greenspace

The City requires all new development to provide areas of public parkland. This is a requirement under the Planning Act. Parkland contributions can occur through park land being included in the site development, or the dedication of parkland elsewhere in the City. If parkland is not desired or even possible on a particular development site, the City accepts cash-in-lieu of parkland which can be used by the City to acquire other land to be designated as parkland. A number of locations for public parks, as well as privately-owned, publically accessible spaces have been identified on the land use schedule for OPA 38 (Schedule XIV), based on the projected growth for the areas.

The City’s Engineering Services and Operations Departments are circulated for comment on new development applications, and provided input on OPA 38. The next update of the City’s Recreation and Parks Master Plan (2017) will provide another opportunity to ensure that adequate park space and access to parks for the City’s growing population and intensification areas is provided.

Review of Development Charges

Development Charges (DCs) are fees collected from developers by a municipality under the Development Charges Act. The fees collected help pay for a share of growth-related capital infrastructure needs, such as transportation services, other services related to a highway including facilities, vehicles and equipment, protection services, parks and recreation, library services, growth-related studies, and stormwater management. The City collects development charges on behalf of the City, the Region of Durham and Durham area school boards. Through required periodic review of Development Charges, the City, Region and School Boards evaluate development activity and projections, and make adjustments to DCs to ensure they properly cover the true cost of additional infrastructure to support new development.

More information on the City’s Development Charges By-law and ongoing studies and updates can be found here: