Building, Planning & Development Guide

A guide to understanding growth in Oakville.

There are provincial policies that mandate each Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTAH) municipality must take its fair share of growth. This is referred to as the Growth Plan. Stemming from that are regional and local planning policies that establish parameters for accommodating new population and employment.

For Oakville, this means growing from the current 231,000 population to approximately 375,000 people and 180,000 jobs by 2051 within the town’s existing boundaries.

We have a legislated responsibility to plan to accommodate this growth, facilitate housing, employment and social opportunities while efficiently managing our environmental resources, limited land area and financial resources. The overarching Livable Oakville Official Plan guides land use planning and applications and reflects the long-term vision of the town to enhance livability.

The door to development is never closed. Landowners and developers have a legal right to submit development applications. Neither Council nor town staff can refuse to accept any development application legally submitted in accordance with the provincial Planning Act.

Approaching intensification

The province requires that at least 50 per cent of all residential developments each year must be within existing built-up areas. To achieve this target, the town focuses on directing housing and commercial intensification to strategic growth areas such as along core transit corridors. This is more cost effective to utilize existing infrastructure, help reduce the travel time for work or leisure, reduce traffic and gridlock, and efficiently provide critical services like fire response, by-law enforcement and snow clearing.

By “growing up and not out” there will be a variety of housing solutions (including mid-rise and tall buildings) in existing areas within public transit corridors, helping create a resilient, low-carbon future in a financially sustainable way. Intensification guidelines are outlined in the Official Plan

The role of town staff

Planning professionals work on various aspects of town planning including: land use, policy, environment, transportation, heritage, recreation, urban design and more.

Our planners have created the Council-approved Official Plan (Livable Oakville) to set out the policies necessary to achieve the town’s long-term vision for growth. 

Planners are also required to implement policy direction from the province and region for how growth is directed in Oakville. They also review development applications to ensure the vision and policies in the town’s official plan are upheld and ensure any changes are appropriate.

Planners work with other experts in transportation, engineering, and landscape architecture, and more. They coordinate and collaborate with various municipal departments and organizations outside of the municipality to provide recommendations on potential changes in land use, to ensure plans are implementable, meet the needs of the community and are sustainable.

The town works with developers to make sure that the development application meets the town’s standards and requirements and aligns with all relevant policies. This process is extensive, involves multiple discussions, public engagement, updates and reviews to ensure that the development application meets the interest of all stakeholders.

The town takes every effort to ensure that all applications are reviewed within the legislated timeframes. However, staff is required to wait for revised plans and studies from the applicant and review them to determine whether they address issues raised earlier. This often has an impact on legislated timelines. This is not singular to Oakville, but common among all municipalities. 

Visit our Active Development Applications or Planning and Development Applications and Forms page for more information.

A zoning by-law is the technical process to implement the policies of an official plan. It is a “rule book” for building and development. Zoning by-laws regulate how land and buildings are used, the location of buildings, minimum lot sizes and dimensions, building heights, and other provisions necessary to ensure proper development.  

Developers, businesses or residents can request a zoning by-law amendment from the town because they are seeking changes to existing regulations within reasonable grounds. These applications are evaluated to ensure they create a good living environment for current and future residents. 

For example, an amendment request to add more floors to a building is examined against all guidelines – the location, existing policies, maximum height inclusive of rooftop amenities and or mechanical penthouses etc.  

Visit the Zoning By-laws page for more information.

The Ontario Land Tribunal is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal that adjudicates or mediates matters related to land use planning, environmental and natural features and heritage protection, land valuation, land compensation, municipal finance and related matters. The Tribunal is established by section 2 of the Ontario Land Tribunal Act, 2021, and replaces the Ontario Municipal Board.

Appeals process

Technically, appeals to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) are triggered or can be initiated when:

  • If a municipality has not issued a decision on a development application within the legislated timeframe (i.e. 90 or 120 days),
  • If the municipality’s decision on an official plan amendment or zoning by-law amendment is not satisfactory to a developer, or the public,
  • When a municipality receives objections to a notice of zoning or development within a 20-day period.

If the parties decide to settle or negotiate, those discussions may not always be shared publicly because:

  • They are about the sale, purchase, or use of land or resources. The Municipal Act allows such discussions to take place in a closed session meeting so that Council can access advice from town and/or external legal counsel. 
  • They help protect the ability of each party to devise their legal strategy without divulging details and compromising their case. It also allows them to plan next steps and prepare if the matter goes to a hearing.

Land valuation can be done in different ways. The town generally uses land appraisers to assist and there is no one ‘value’ that can be used in the town. There are different values depending on the area of the town, and takes into account a variety of factors surrounding the characteristics of the property including but not limited to land use planning restrictions and market factors.

Public consultation and notification are foundational in the planning and development process. 

The public is invited to provide comment on official plan amendments and zoning bylaw amendment through public information meetings, statutory meetings in front of Town Council or other methods depending on the nature of the project.

The Planning Act lays out requirements and best practices for developers/town, including consultation with residents and key agencies, and notification to property owners within 120 metres of the subject property, notices in the local newspaper, and signage posting. The town takes an additional step and often notifies landowners within 240 metres of a subject property.

Public input, combined with town staff’s technical review and evaluation of a proposal, provides Town Council with the necessary tools to consider the appropriateness of new developments.

Government of Canada

The Government of Canada researches social and economic data from various sources, and makes evidence-based decisions about immigration, population growth and jobs to create economic opportunities. This forms the basis for provinces to plan their future growth. The town also relies on information collected through the Census and research undertaken by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

Province of Ontario

The Province of Ontario develops Provincial Plans (i.e. Greenbelt Plan) and policies such as the Provincial Policy Statement. The Growth Plan is another such plan and its objective is to accommodate population and employment growth over a 30-year period, and directs this growth to regional and municipal governments by way of legislation.

Halton Region

Halton Region is required to follow provincial policy and the provincial Growth Plan, to house up to 1.1 million people and half a million jobs by 2051 across its four area municipalities through the Regional Official Plan. 

Town of Oakville

Town of Oakville localizes and implements the growth plan mandated by the region and the province, and informs the town’s “Livable Oakville” Official Plan. The town identifies the most appropriate areas for new development based on such matters as infrastructure requirements. 

Property developers

Property developers submit development applications to the town to build residential, commercial and employment properties in the areas that the town has identified for future development. 

Ontario Land Tribunal

Ontario Land Tribunal provides a mechanism for appeals and dispute resolution related to land development, environmental and natural features and heritage protection, land valuation, land compensation, municipal finance, and related matters.


Residents are an important stakeholder throughout the development process, and have many opportunities to shape the development in their neighbourhoods/town within the legislative framework

Other stakeholders

Other stakeholders such as Conservation Halton, BILD, and utility companies provide their expertise when the region and town plan new development or enhancements to existing areas. 

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