Site Plan Approval is a technical review and approval process used by municipalities to ensure new development is functional, efficient, universally designed, and compatible with adjacent lands.  It also ensures site features such as vehicular and pedestrian access, parking, landscaping and open spaces, servicing, grading, utilities, garbage facilities, utilities, and lighting are located, built and maintained in accordance with current regulations, standards and requirements. Where Site Plan Approval is required, it typically must be obtained prior to the issuance of a Building Permit.

What is the purpose of Site Plan Approval?

Site Plan Approval is a land-use planning tool under Section 41 of the Planning Act used by municipalities to ensure proposed developments meet municipal, regional and provincial standards, regulations and satisfy necessary conditions. Technical Plans are submitted to the City, accurately addressing such matters as:

  • Existing Conditions and Removals,
  • Site and Building Layout,
  • Zoning Compliance & Development Statistics,
  • Vehicular and Pedestrian Access,
  • Fire Routes,
  • Waste Management,
  • Lighting,
  • Vegetation Management,
  • Landscape Design,
  • Grading and Drainage,
  • Servicing & Utilities,
  • Exterior Building Design,
  • Heritage Considerations,
  • Land Dedications,  and
  • Easements. 

The Applicant may also be required to submit supporting studies and documents.  The Site Plan Approval Process concludes with the technical plans being approved by the Chief Planner, and typically involves  registration of an agreement between the City and Applicant. The agreement ensures the development is constructed and maintained in accordance with the approved plans. 

Who reviews and approves a Site Plan Application?
Site Plan Applications, including Preconsultation Applications, are reviewed by the City’s Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC).  This Committee consists of City Staff from different divisions, such as Planning, Transportation Services, Engineering Services, Forestry, Realty and Building Standards, and representatives from other applicable review agencies, including Region of Waterloo, GrandBridge, Grand River Conservation Authority, and Enbridge Gas.  Final Site Plan Approval is granted by the City’s Chief Planner or their designate.

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Before submitting an application, it is important to confirm answers to the questions below: 

1.   Is Site Plan Approval required for my project?

Site Plan Approval is required for most land development, construction, and site alteration activities within the City of Cambridge.  Development is defined in Section 41 of the Planning Act as:

“…the construction, erection or placing of one or more buildings or structures on land or the making of an addition or alteration to a building or structure that has the effect of substantially increasing the size or usability thereof, or the laying out and establishment of a commercial parking lot or of sites for the location of three or more trailers as defined in subsection 164 (4) of the Municipal Act, 2001 or subsection 3 (1) of the City of Toronto Act, 2006, as the case may be, or of sites for the location of three or more mobile homes as defined in subsection 46 (1) of this Act or of sites for the construction, erection or location of three or more land lease community homes as defined in subsection 46 (1) of this Act.”

However, Site Plan Approval is not required for specific forms of development, including:

  1. Development on a parcel of land containing no more than 10 residential units and no other land uses.
  2. Farm-related dwellings or farm buildings or structures proposed in an area designated as Prime Agricultural Area in the City's Official Plan.
  3. Buildings or structures proposed in an area designated as Natural Open Space System in the City's Official Plan.
  4. Portable classrooms on a school site of a district school board, provided the School Site has been in existence since January 1, 2007.
  5. Construction or alteration of a building or structure that does not substantially increase the size or usability of the building or site. This determination should be made through consultation with the City's Development Planning Division.
  6. Site works not requiring a building permit, except for the laying out and establishment of a commercial parking lot or the locating of three or more trailers. Confirmation for this exception should be obtained through consultation with the City's Site Plan Review Committee.

Even when a development falls under one of the exempt categories mentioned above, there may be other specific requirements or permits to be obtained before proceeding with the project. It is advisable to consult with the City's Development Planning staff to confirm whether Site Plan Approval is required for the proposed development, construction, or site alteration, especially if there are previously approved site plans and a site plan agreement registered on title to the property.

If you are not sure whether you require site plan approval, consult with staff by contacting planning@cambridge.ca.   If you have confirmed that Site Plan Approval is required for your project, proceed with the questions below. 

2.   What type of Site Plan Application is required for my project?

There are six types of Site Plan Applications in the City of Cambridge. Site Plan Application and Related Fees are available here.  The following is a general guideline for these types of applications: 

  • Type A: Major/Complex Site Plan Application. This application involves new development or changes to an existing development.  It involves one or more of the following major criteria:  Special Technical Study (ie. Traffic Impact Study, Environmental Impact Study), Phased Approval, Easement, Special Agreement, Multiple Buildings, Mixed Use Building, Medium or High Density Development, Industrial Mall or Business Park, and/or Minister’s Zoning Order. A new or amended site plan agreement is required.
  • Type B: Standard Site Plan Application. This application involves new development or changes to an existing development and does not involve any of the major criteria for Major / Complex Site Plan Applications.  For additions, the existing development has no existing site plan approval, and the addition is not considered a “small change”, which generally means development resulting in no more than a 25% increase in dwelling units or new building floor area. A new or amended site plan agreement is required.
  • Type C: Minor Site Plan Application. This application involves changes to an existing development.   The application involves:
    • none of the major criteria for Major / Complex Site Plan Applications;
    • has no pre-existing site plan approval, and
    • is considered a “small change”, which generally means development resulting in no more than a 25% increase in dwelling units or new building floor area.

      A new site plan agreement may be required.

  • Type D: Site Plan Amendment Application. This application involves changes to an existing development.   The application involves:
    • none of the major criteria for Major / Complex Site Plan Applications; and 
    • has a pre-existing site plan approval, and
    • is considered a “small change”, which generally means development resulting in no more than a 25% increase in dwelling units or new building floor area.

      An amendment to the existing site plan agreement may be required.

  • Type E: Redline Site Plan Application. This application involves changes to an existing development, where such changes do not meet the definition of “development” from Section 41 of the Planning Act.  The Site has previously approved plans, and a site plan agreement registered on title, requiring approval from the City prior to making changes.  An amendment to the existing site plan agreement is not required.
  • Type F: Telecommunications Tower Application: This application involves the submission of plans for a new telecommunication tower facility. The plans are circulated and reviewed by the City of Cambridge and External Agencies, however final approval is granted by the Federal Government. A site plan agreement is not required.

If you are unsure which type of site plan application is required for your project, consult with Planning Staff by contacting planning@cambridge.ca.  

3.  Is a Site Plan Preconsultation required for my project?

A Site Plan Preconsultation is a preliminary submission that is required in advance of a formal site plan application. City Staff and Review Agencies provide feedback on the project, including the contents for a formal application, identified zoning deficiencies, special conditions and other important considerations or recommended changes.

A Site Plan Preconsultation:

  • Is Mandatory for Application Types A and B.  Begin with Step 1 of the Approval Process.
  • May be required for Application Types C and D.  Consult with Planning Staff to confirm.
  • Is Not required for Application Types E and F.  Begin with Step 2 or 3 of the Approval Process.

The City’s Site Plan Preconsultation Application Fee is $1,900.

Refer to Step 1 of the Site Plan Approval Process below for detailed instructions. 

Site Plan Approval Process

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Site Plan Approval is a multi-step process outlined in detail below. The process may involve Steps 1 and 2 , and always involves Step 3.   Typically, where site plan approval is required for the construction, modification or expansion of a building or structure, a building permit cannot be issued until final site plan approval has been granted.  There may be limited exceptions subject to further consultation with the City’s Building Department. Follow the steps and resources below to prepare and submit a Site Plan Preconsultation Application or Site Plan Application. 

 For inquiries regarding the site plan approval process, contact planning@cambridge.ca

 STEP 1: Submit a Site Plan Pre-consultation Application

Prior to advancing certain types of formal site plan applications (Step 3 below), a Site Plan Pre-consultation for your project must be submitted and reviewed by the Site Plan Review Committee.

STEP 1A: Submit a Complete Site Plan Preconsultation Application Through the On-Line Application Portal

Submit a Complete Site Plan Preconsultation Application Through the On-Line Application Portal.
As of July 1, 2023, a complete site plan Preconsultation application must include the following plans and documents (click here for an expanded description of each item below):   

  • Cover Letter
  • Owner Authorization Form
  • Permission to Enter Property Form
  • Application Fees 
  • Existing Conditions Survey (if available)
  • Deposited Reference Plan or Survey
  • Preliminary Site Plan
  • Preliminary Building Elevations
  • Preliminary Floor Plans
  • Preliminary Photometric (Lighting) Plan
  • Preliminary Tree Management Plan (where there are trees on the property)
  • Preliminary Landscape Plan
  • Preliminary Grading Plan
  • Preliminary Servicing Plan
  • Preliminary Servicing Report/Brief (may be combined with SWM Report)
  • Preliminary Stormwater Management Report/Brief (may be combined with Servicing Report/Brief)
  • Transportation Impact Study Screening Form 
STEP 1B:  Application Reviewed for Completeness & Circulated                                                        

Applications will be reviewed for completeness by the assigned Development Planner.

  • Complete applications will be circulated for review immediately upon being deemed complete by the assigned Development Planner, with a notification to the applicant. 
  • Incomplete applications will be refused by the assigned Development Planner, with a notification to the applicant as to what is missing and/or insufficient. 
STEP 1C:  Application Comment Record Issued

A Site Plan Preconsultation Comment Record will be issued by the Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC) to the applicant or their agent. The Record will contain comments and feedback, identify zoning deficiencies, advise of the Application Type, and submission requirements for a Complete Site Plan Application. This step typically takes 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the complexity of the project.  Following issuance of the Preconsultation Comment Record, the Applicant may request a meeting with the SPRC or submit follow-up questions via email.  

STEP 2:  Obtain Zoning Compliance (If Required)

To be considered complete, a formal Site Plan Application must be fully compliant with all applicable zoning regulations. These regulations define the allowable land uses, building sizes, setbacks, parking requirements, and other development standards.   In certain exceptional cases, the Director of Planning or their designate may exercise discretion and allow exceptions to the requirement of full zoning compliance before submitting the site plan application.

Some unique circumstances may prevent the site plan from fully complying with the applicable zoning provisions.  If this is the situation, the applicant may need to apply for a minor variance or a zoning by-law amendment to secure relief from specific zoning requirements. 

 Additionally, before submitting the site plan application, the parcel of land intended for development must be legally created. This can be achieved through various methods, including:

  1. Lot Consolidation.  This involves the merging of two or more properties to form one legal parcel of land. 
  2. Consent:  Approval of a consent application to divide parcel of land is required from the Committee of Adjustment. This type of approval typically involves satisfying a number of conditions prior to the final stamping of the Certificate of Consent.
  3. Part Lot Control:  Approval of a part lot control application is required from the City to subdivide a block of land within a registered subdivision.
  4. Subdivision or Condominium Registration:  The parcel of land may be created through the registration of a draft approved subdivision or condominium. 

 STEP 3: Submit a Formal Site Plan Application and Obtain Final Approval 

Follow the steps below to apply for and obtain final site plan approval for your project. 

Approval Timeframe: The statutory timeframe for the City to review a complete formal site plan application and grant final approval is 60 days from the date of a complete submission, with the exception of Application Type E and F which are not subject to a statutory approval timeframe.

 Refunding Fees:  Where the City fails to grant final approval within the 60-day timeframe, the application fees will be incrementally refunded to the applicant, in accordance with Section 41 of the Planning Act, with the exception of Application Type E and F.

STEP 3A: Submit a Complete Site Plan Application Through the On-line Application Portal

Submit a Complete Site Plan Application Through the On-Line Application Portal.
Ensure to apply for the correct type of site plan application and include all materials and the applicable fee listed in the Preconsultation Comment Record.   Note that Site Plan Preconsultation Comment Records are typically valid for up to 2 years, after which they may only be deemed valid by the Chief Planner or their designate. Where a Site Plan Preconsultation was not required, submit a cover letter, the applicable fees and a complete set of drawings which clearly demonstrate zoning compliance and all changes proposed to the site and buildings. 

STEP 3B: Application Reviewed for Completeness & Circulated 

Applications will be reviewed for completeness by the assigned Development Planner.

  • Complete applications will be circulated for review immediately upon being deemed complete by the assigned Development Planner, with a notification to the applicant. 
  • Incomplete applications will be refused by the assigned Development Planner, with a notification to the applicant as to what is missing and/or insufficient. 
STEP 3C:  Application Comment Record Issued

A Site Plan Application Comment Record will be issued by the Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC) to the Applicant or their Agent. The Record will contain detailed comments, conditions of approval, and the formal position of the Committee on the application, with instructions regarding next steps.  SPRC positions include: Resubmission, Conditional Endorsement, or Full Endorsement.     

STEP 3D: Resubmission (if required) & Conditional Endorsement

Where the Site Plan Application Comments Record indicates a Resubmission is required, there are outstanding matters to be addressed by the Applicant.   These matters must be resolved and/or responded to in a Resubmission, otherwise Site Plan Approval cannot be granted. 

Resubmissions must contain all material listed in the last issued Comment Record and be submitted through an FTP / Drop Box Link emailed to planning@cambridge.ca.    

Where the technical plans require no further changes, but other conditions remain outstanding, a Conditional Site Plan Endorsement will be provided.  Other conditions may include:

  1. Signing of the Site Plan Agreement 
  2. Payment of Fees
  3. Posting of Securities (Cost Estimate Template, Letter of Credit Template)
  4. Signing and Registration of other Special Agreements
  5. Registration of Easements
  6. Conveyance of Lands 
STEP 3E: Final Approval of Plans & Signing of Agreement

Where there are no modifications required by the Chief Planner, the Chief Planner signs the plans and the site plan agreement, which completes the site plan approval process.  The assigned Development Planner then notifies the Applicant that Final Site Plan Approval has been granted, with the final stamped plans and registered site plan agreement to follow shortly.   Once this step is complete, a building permit may be issued. 

STEP 3F:  Agreement Registration

Once the site plan agreement is registered on title, the assigned Development Planner sends a digital copy of the registered site plan agreement and approved plans to the Applicant. 

After Final Site Plan Approval 

After Site Plan Approval has been granted, you may have the following commonly asked questions:

1. What approvals do I require next?

Once Final Site Plan Approval has been granted, the Applicant must obtain all other necessary approvals and permits (such as a demolition permit and/or building permit, highway occupancy permit), before commencing construction or site works. 

2. How and when do I request a site inspection?

The City must receive a Certificate of Completion from a qualified professional for all landscape, engineering and lighting works, prior to City Staff undertaking site inspections. The City's templates for various types of certifications are listed below:

Site inspections will be scheduled with the appropriate City Staff at their earliest availability, and subject to weather and seasonal considerations.   

3. When will my securities be released?

Where it is determined by City Staff after conducting a site inspection that the conditions of the site are not consistent with the approved plans, the City will advise that further site works or remediation measures may be required, along with additional Certificates of Completion.  Where City Staff deem the conditions of the site to be consistent with the approved plans, the City may release securities in whole or in part, in accordance with the terms of the registered site plan agreement.  

Site Plan Application Fees:

City Fees:

Preconsultation Fee

$1,900

Complete/Major Site Plan Application (Type A)

$23,000

Standard Site Plan Application (Type B)

$11,100

Minor Site Plan Application (Type C)

$6,900

Site Plan Amendment (Type D)

$6,000

Redline Site Plan Application (Type E)

$1,900

Telecommunication Tower Application (Type F)

$2,500

Site Plan Resubmission (Applied to 3rd and Subsequent Resubmission for Major Changes)


$1,700

New Site Plan Agreement Legal Fee

$1,000

Amended Site Plan Agreement Legal Fee

$500

Review Fee for Supporting Technical Studies

Varies

Regional Fees: 

Preconsultation Fee

$300

Site Plan Application (Applies to applications, which require a Regional response (i.e. where an application is located on a Regional Road or near Regional Infrastructure/Facilities)

 


$805

Review Fee for Supporting Technical Studies

Varies

 Fee Payment Options: 

  1. Online payments should be made for fees under $10,000. Please visit the Online Application Portal and select Make a Payment to pay with your invoice number using VISA or MASTERCARD. Please note there is a 1.75% service fee.
  2. Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) are available for payment of fees over $10,000.  Contact staff for more information and instructions.
  3. In Person payments can be made in the form of a cheque, cash or debit at the Service Cambridge Desk located on the ground floor of City Hall at 50 Dickson Street.  If you are paying an invoice, please bring a copy of your invoice.
  4. Mail or courier payments in the form of a cheque or cash to:

Cambridge City Hall
50 Dickson Street
P.O. Box 669
Cambridge, ON N1R 5W8