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Q. When do I need a building permit for a fence?

A. Only fences around swimming pools require a building permit. Swimming pool fences must be a minimum of 1.2 m high and any gate must have a self-closing mechanism with lock. Generally, fences should be built on your own lot unless the neighbour agrees to have it located on the lot line.

Q. When is a sign permit required?

A. A permit is needed for all new commercial advertising signs.  There are two different application forms: one for temporary/portable signs, and one for permanent fixed signs.

Q. I would like to put up a sign for my business. Do I need a permit?

A. Yes. The City of Orillia requires that any business displaying an advertising sign needs to obtain a sign permit.  A building permit is required for any sign other than portable signs or a change of message on an existing sign. For additional information, please review the City's Sign By-law and/or contact the Building Division at 705-329-7258.

Q. I would like to build a secondary structure (such as a deck, shed, garage or gazebo) on my property. What are the zoning requirements I should be aware of?

A. The City of Orillia's Zoning By-law provides specifics on the maximum size, height, lot coverage, and setbacks from property lines for secondary structures. All new construction projects must conform to the provisions of the By-law. To determine the zone you reside in, and the corresponding By-law provisions, please see the Zoning By-law or contact the Planning Division at 705-325-2622.

Q. Can I construct an apartment above my detached garage or boathouse?

A. Garages and boathouses are considered accessory structures. The City's Zoning By-law prohibits use of an accessory structure for human habitation.

Q. I would like to build an apartment in my single family house. What planning considerations should I be aware of?

A. The addition of a second dwelling unit is permitted provided the following conditions are satisfied:

  • The two units will be divided horizontally.
  • Each unit will have its own independent entrance.
  • The property is located in one of the following zone categories: R1, R2, or R3 Zone.

Consult with a Planner to identify the zoning requirements (minimum lot area, lot frontage, property line setbacks, parking requirements). Contact the Planning Division at 705-325-2622 for more information.

Consult with a Building Inspector to ensure the proposed apartment will meet the Building Code requirements. Contact the Building Division at 705-325-2630.

Consult with a Fire Prevention Officer to ensure the proposed apartment will meet the Fire Code requirements. Contact the Fire Department at 705-325-5201.

Q. I purchased a dwelling with an accessory apartment inside. Is this a legal duplex?

A. Submit a written request and payment of applicable planning fees for a building and zoning compliance review fee to determine whether or not the City recognizes the second dwelling unit as legal. If the City has no evidence of a legal second dwelling unit, then it is the responsibility of the property owner to have the second unit legalized. Consult with a Planner to discuss options for legalizing the second unit. Contact the Planning Division at 705-325-2622.

Q. My new project doesn't seem to fit within the zoning requirements. What can I do?

A. If you feel you cannot modify your project to fully comply with the relevant Zoning By-law provisions, and you feel the contravention is minor thus causing you "undue hardship", an application can be made to the Committee of Adjustment. The Committee of Adjustment has the power to grant a Minor Variance (or permission) for your project.  For additional information on the Committee of Adjustment and applicable planning fees, contact the Planning Division at 705-325-2622.

Q. What are the cost, timing and process for a Minor Variance, Rezoning or Official Plan Amendment?

A. The application form lists the fees for various applications. The timing of the process is directly related to the complexity of the application. Minor variances can be dealt with the most quickly, usually two months. Severances have a similar timeframe. A Rezoning or Official Plan Amendment application can usually be completed within a four- to six-month period. Once a decision is final, the timing for completing any agreements or satisfying any conditions of approval is in the hands of the applicant.

Q. Can I operate a business from my home?

A. Home Occupations are permitted in residential zones. Home Industries are only permitted in the Rural (RU) Zone. A Home Occupation or Industry is an accessory use of part of a dwelling for gainful employment which is secondary to and compatible with the surrounding residential uses and is carried out by members of the household residing in the dwelling unit. Additional requirements for Home Occupations and Home Industries are outlined in the Zoning By-law.

Q. What is lot coverage?

A. Lot coverage is the combined area covered by all buildings and structures on the lot and calculated as a percentage of the lot area. Decks are included within lot coverage. Each zone has its own maximum allowable percentage.

Q. Does Orillia have a tree cutting by-law?

A. Orillia has a Tree Conservation By-law as part of its Municipal Code. It was passed in September 2006 and provides that no person shall cut any tree on lands greater than ½ hectare without first receiving the approval of the Director of Planning and Development. Such approval may be granted upon the preparation of a tree cutting proposal by a certified arborist or forester.  This proposal must include a complete inventory of all trees on site, the proposed trees to be removed, and justification for the removal.  A proposal is not needed if the land is the subject of a signed Development Agreement.

Q. What is the BIA? What is its purpose?

A. A Business Improvement Area is a designated area, usually a downtown, where, through a special tax levy, Downtown Boards market, improve and revitalize the BIA area. Orillia's BIA is looked after by the Downtown Orillia Management Board (DOMB), which comprises owners, shopkeepers, and appointed members of City Council. The DOMB can be reached at 705-325-3261.

For more information contact the Economic Development Division at 705-325-4900 or by emailing

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