Land Use Planning

Plan Amendments, By-Law Amendments, Development Agreements and Site Plans

Within the Town of Port Hawkesbury and planned areas of Antigonish, Inverness, Richmond, and Victoria Counties, development must be in conformance with the Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use By-law. The Municipal Planning Strategy is a legal document prepared by Council in consultation with the community stating policy on a broad range of planning issues. Designations and other policies are established to direct residential, commercial, industrial and recreational uses to the most appropriate areas. The Land Use By-law implements the policies established in the Municipal Planning Strategy. Within each designation, there may be several zones, addressing the diverse types of residential, commercial, industrial or recreational uses. As such, specific locations in the area have different permitted uses and development requirements.

In planned areas, it is necessary to obtain a development permit. This permit is required for all new construction and any change in use of an existing structure. It is confirmation the project is in compliance with the regulations of the Land Use By-law. Should your proposal not conform to the existing Strategy and By-law, it is sometimes possible to amend the documents.

This brochure outlines the types of amendments which may be made to the planning documents and explains the use of Development Agreements. It also summarizes the amendment process as established in Nova Scotia’s, Municipal Government Act.


Application Requirements

An application for an amendment, rezoning, Development Agreement or site plan must be in writing from the property owner and should describe the location of the property, the current use and the proposed use. If applicable, a preliminary site plan may also be requested. The application must be accompanied by a deposit for advertising. Should the cost exceed the deposit, an invoice will be forwarded for the remainder. If there is a surplus, the excess will be refunded.

Amendments, Rezonings, or Development Agreement applications require a Planning Application Form
Site Plan applications require an explanatory letter and a site plan


Amendment Process

The Municipal Government Act establishes the process which must be followed when an application is received. This is summarized as follows:

  1. Staff Report prepared and distributed to applicant, Community’s Area Advisory and Municipality’s Planning Advisory Committees and Council.
  2. Meetings of the Area Advisory and Planning Advisory Committees.
  3. Council sets date and time for public hearing (1streading).
  4. Applicant notified of public hearing.
  5. Public hearing advertisements in local papers at least once a week for two successive weeks; the first advertisement at least 14 days before the date of the Public Hearing.
  6. Abutting Municipalities and Villages notified of public hearing.
  7. Public hearing held, Council convenes to approve or deny the amendment or Development Agreement (2nd reading).

Rezonings, By-law amendments and Development Agreement decision are published in the local newspapers. Appeals may be made by aggrieved persons to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board within 14 days of publication of Council’s decision. The rezoning, amendment or agreement is in force after the 14 day appeal period has expired or any appeal has been disposed of.


Public Hearings

The public hearing is an opportunity for affected individuals to speak for or against a proposed amendment or Development Agreement. Comments may be made either orally or in writing. Copies of the staff report are available prior to the Hearing and our staff are able to address any questions about the development and staff’s recommendation.


Plan Amendments

The Municipal Planning Strategy provides the framework for encouraging, controlling and coordinating growth and development. Policies on a wide range of issues may be added to the strategy as well as amended to reflect the changing community. Sometimes requests for Plan amendments are deferred to the five year review of the Planning Strategy so that it may be considered in the context of other changes which reflect the development of the community.


Rezonings and By-law Amendments

A rezoning is a change in the zoning map in which the property’s zoning is changed in order to accommodate a proposal which is not permitted in the current zone but was anticipated in the Strategy. A By-law amendment is a text amendment to the Land Use By-law in which another use may be added to a zone or regulations for development may be added, altered or deleted. All amendments must be in conformity with the Strategy.


Development Agreements

A Development Agreement is a legal agreement between a landowner and the Municipality, outlining the terms of the development. The Municipal Planning Strategy states which developments are subject to a Development Agreement and the criteria which may be considered. The Development Agreement may run with the land or be discharged when the development is completed.

In Development Agreements, the following may be considered:

  • The hours of operation;
  • maintenance of the development;
  • easements for the construction, maintenance or improvement of watercourses, ditches, land drainage works;
  • stormwater systems, wastewater facilities, water systems and other utilities;
  • grading or alteration in elevation or contour of the land and provision for the disposal of storm and surface water;
  • the construction, in whole or in part, of a stormwater system, wastewater facilities and water system;
  • the subdivision of land; and
  • security or performance bonding.


Site Plans

Site plan development is a new planning tool in Nova Scotia. The Land Use By-law sets out guidelines under which a development may be permitted through the use of site plans such as: location of structures, screening from adjacent uses and landscaping. The approval process for site plan developments does not include a Public Hearing as is required for other applications.


Assessment Process

After an application is received for an amendment, there is a standard method of assessment. For amendments to the Strategy, a study is conducted to show whether the amendment is desirable. By-law amendments and Development Agreements are subject to the criteria set out in the Strategy. Generally, this criteria directs Council to consider certain matters including:

  • whether the proposal is in conformance with the intents of the Strategy;
  • the Municipality’s or Town’s capability of absorbing any costs related to the development;
  • the adequacy of the municipal sewer services and utilities, or if services are not
  • provided, the adequacy of the physical conditions for private on-site sewer and water systems;
  • the adequacy and proximity of community facilities;
  • the adequacy of road networks in, adjacent to, and leading to the development; and
  • the potential for adverse environmental impacts.

For a rezoning and Development Agreement, Council also considers whether the proposal conforms to the requirements contained in the Land Use By-law pertaining to:

  • the type of use;
  • the height, setback and yard requirements of the proposed use;
  • access and egress from the site and parking;
  • open storage;
  • signs; and
  • any other matters of planning concern.

Should Council approve a plan amendment, the amendment is forwarded to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The amendment is in effect after ministerial approval. The decision of Council is not appealable.

The process may take an average of 8 to 10 months, but in cases where outside advice must be sought, for transportation, environmental or financial implications of the proposal, the process may be longer.



Rezonings, By-Law Amendments, Plan Amendments and Development Agreements $400
Site Plans $50