How Planning & Zoning Work

Image shows zoning in the hamlet of Bloomfield, Prince Edward County

If you’re like most people, land use planning is somewhat of a mystery, so the purpose of this article is to explain how planning and zoning work.

Provincial Policy Statement

Planning in Ontario is based on a hierarchy of policy levels, starting with the Provincial Policy Statement (often referred to as the PPS).

The PPS sets out broad policies (“settlement areas shall be the focus of growth and development”) which the plans and policies of lower levels of government must be consistent with.

Official Plan

Ontario municipalities must have an Official Plan which translates the high-level policies of the PPS to the local level.

For example, the PPS says that development should be focused in settlement areas, while the County’s Official Plan specifies that “three settlement area designations are established by the Plan, Urban Centre, Village and Hamlet, reflecting a hierarchy of sizes, functions, mix of uses, servicing infrastructure and prospects for growth.”

Taking the example of the Hamlet designation, the OP says there “will be a mix of low density residential uses, community facilities such as parks, schools and community centres, dry commercial uses that service the needs of surrounding residents and tourists as well as home businesses.”


Even the policies in the Official Plan are still quite general, so municipalities have zoning by-laws which comply with their OP and provide enough detail to guide day-to-day land use.

Zoning by-laws generally include things like permitted uses (residential and non-residential), minimum lot size, the minimum setbacks between buildings and lot boundaries, etc.

In the example given, the Hamlet Residential (HR) zone includes things like 1.0-acre minimum lot size, 148 feet minimum frontage on the road, 20 feet minimum front yard, etc.

One Designation, Multiple Zones

Within any land use designation such as Hamlet, multiple zones can apply, reflecting the different intended uses within the zone.

The zoning map which accompanies this article shows the Hamlet of Bloomfield with zones including HR (Hamlet Residential), CL (Local Commercial), I (Institutional) and EP (Environmentally Protected). \

For More Information

Contact for more information on how planning and zoning work in Prince Edward County.

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