Bonusing under Section 37 of the Planning Act Procedure

Purpose statement

The Planning Services department is responsible for the administration of Section 37 of the Planning Act. Section 37 allows municipalities to secure identified public benefits in exchange for permitting additional height and/or density in a development through the rezoning process.

The Bonusing Procedure is designed to complement the bonusing policies in the Livable Oakville Plan and the North Oakville Secondary Plans (“Official Plan” in this procedure).

The purpose of the Bonusing Procedure is to ensure that Council, staff, the development community and the public have a clear and consistent direction on the use of Section 37 of the Planning Act and of the objectives that would be achieved through its utilization.


The Bonusing Procedure may apply to any applicant seeking additional height and/or density for a development beyond the as-of-right provisions of the Official Plan and the Zoning By-law. The Bonusing Procedure also applies to all town staff as participants in this process.

The Director of Planning Services or his or her designate(s) shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with, maintenance of, and interpretation of the Bonusing Procedure.


The Bonusing Procedure consists of a series of steps to be undertaken and managed by staff. Included in this process is a public engagement program that provides for communication with the public and Council. The procedure also recognizes that Council is a decision maker for Section 37 matters. A flowchart of the Bonusing Procedure has been included in the References and Related Documents section.

1. Pre-consultation:

A pre-consultation meeting is held between staff and a potential applicant, during which a bonusing opportunity is discussed. The opportunity to use bonusing may have been identified during the initial review of the development concept leading up to the pre-consultation. The Bonusing Procedure is also reviewed during this meeting.

An application may trigger different planning and technical requirements depending on the existing policy framework for the candidate site. Of particular note during the pre-consultation is the determination of whether or not the lands are eligible for bonusing, or if an Official Plan Amendment (OPA) will be required.

A planning application with bonusing may follow various paths as set out in the Official Plan:

  1. Eligible areas for bonusing with a maximum building height identified are found within Uptown Core, Kerr Village, Bronte Village and the Trafalgar Urban Core.
  2. Midtown Oakville has lands designated eligible for bonusing but with no maximum building height identified.
  3. Downtown Oakville and Palermo Village have a maximum building height identified but do not identify eligible lands for bonusing and would require an OPA as part of a complete planning application.
  4. The rest of Oakville outside the Growth Areas would require an OPA as part of a complete planning application since lands are not designated eligible for bonusing and do not have a maximum building height identified.

Based on this eligibility, the requirements for a complete application are reviewed. The fees for processing a planning application with bonusing will include a development agreement fee and may include a real estate appraisal fee.

A chart with a range of appraised unit values in the eligible areas will be used as a reference and will be updated every six months.

A critical requirement is the enhanced content for the planning justification report making the case for overall policy conformity of the development and potential impacts and remedies of the bonus development being sought.

2. Planning application received:

Once a development application is received, it is assessed for completeness in terms of satisfying all the requirements identified in the pre-consultation.

If all requested components are present, the application will be deemed complete and processing begins.

The file is assigned to a planner and the application is put into circulation.

A notice of complete application is given, which is often combined with the notice for additional public engagement such as a Public Information Meeting, if applicable.

The town’s Executive Management Team (EMT) is advised that a new application has been made with the potential for Section 37 bonusing as well those directors who may have an interest.

2.1 Public and Council Engagement

  1. As per the Planning Act, notice of a complete application is given by mail and published to the town’s website. The applicant also posts a notification sign on the property indicating a development application is in process.
  2. If applicable, a Public Information Meeting (PIM) may also be communicated through this notification. This meeting is held early in the process and may form part of the town’s enhanced public engagement program for development applications.

3. Technical review:

The planner assigned to the file coordinates a complete technical review of the application including an evaluation of policy conformity, context analysis and capacity analysis of the proposed development.

The planner prepares an initial scan of the identified public benefits from the applicable policy framework of the Official Plan.

The technical review of an application is an iterative process that involves communication between the coordinating planner, the reviewing team, town departments, agencies and the applicant. Revisions to the application may take place to address issues identified.

3.1 Public and Council Engagement

  1. Early in the planning process as per the Planning Act, a statutory Public Meeting (PM) is held. This is the meeting where staff introduces the development application to Council and receives public input on the proposal, including the possibility of increased height and or density through bonusing.
  2. An indication that Section 37 bonusing is being considered will be given with an explanation and review of the town’s bonusing procedure.

The review will include consultation with the appropriate departments and EMT as required, with respect to identification, location and suitability of public benefits in conformance with the policies of the Official Plan.

Through this process a determination emerges as to whether or not the development could be justified as good planning. Potential community impacts from proposed bonus development are also evaluated through the review.

Part of the discussion includes situating the identified public benefits within Council’s Strategic Plan, the Budget Process and the Capital Forecast.

Candidate developments for bonusing must first conform to all the other policies and criteria of the Official Plan before any increases in height or density may be considered.

If the review determines that the application could be justified as good planning, discussions would proceed with the applicant on the nature of any impacts and possible remedies or compensation that could be achieved through the provision of identified public benefits.

The planner also prepares the draft Section 34 Zoning By-law, which includes units/area of bonus development, identified public benefits, timing and the pertinent tools to secure bonusing.

The application proceeds to a real estate review to examine the valuation of the bonus, the value of the public benefits exchanged. A real estate appraisal may be required to finalize the valuation. The amount received by the town will be derived as a percentage of the increased net value assigned to the bonused development.

The Director of Planning Services will provide a recommended list of projects from the capital forecast that could be eligible for funding from bonusing. Other eligible areas for contribution such as facilities would be noted through the asset management reports. Planning Services shall ensure that funds are properly used in accordance with the Planning Act.

4. Planning consolidation, recommendation report and final negotiations:

The technical and corporate reviews are consolidated into a recommendation report to be presented at a decision meeting before Planning and Development Council. That report presents the opportunities for public benefits for approval.

Negotiations with the applicant continue at the corporate level and involving the Planning Services, Legal and Finance departments.

In the case where certain bonusing details have yet to be finalized in order to complete a Section 37 agreement, a holding by-law may be placed on the property as an interim measure. Removal of the holding provision would be conditional on execution of the Section 37 agreement.

4.1 Public and Council engagement

  1. Council considers a staff report and recommendation on the development proposal, the bonus development and the public benefits to be exchanged. The report presents opportunities for public benefits for approval by Council. Additional public input may also be received at this meeting.

5. Execution of bonusing agreements:

With the authority delegated to staff for executing Section 37 agreements, final discussions take place with the applicant to conclude the terms and conditions.

Section 37 agreements will follow a standard legal template.

Agreements will also contain provisions for flexibility to accommodate changes to the timing of a particular development or the coordination of public benefits within the town’s capital forecast and budget process.

6. Implementation of Bonusing Agreements

The timing of the payment of community benefits secured as cash will be required, as a condition of the Section 37 agreement, prior to the issuing of a building permit.

Bonusing funds are deposited and reconciled with the Finance department. The Finance department can confirm the amount with the Legal department.

The Section 37 agreement will be in place and registered on title. Amanda is used to track the process.

Identified benefits shall be reviewed having regard to the impact on the town’s operating budget and capital forecast, in particular for any associated operating costs arising from the identified capital facility provided through bonusing.

Where cash contributions are secured in Section 37 agreements, the amount of such funds, where appropriate, should be indexed to the Statistics Canada Construction Price Index for Toronto that would pertain to the type of community benefit secured.

The contribution of capital facilities through Section 37 benefits must follow the town’s processes and procedures and shall be included as conditions of the Section 37 agreement.

Cash contributions received through Section 37 agreements shall be deposited to an interest bearing reserve and secured credit held. Receipts to this reserve shall be segregated by area and tracked by Financial Planning.

Transfers to the appropriate capital project upon approval of said project will be through the approved capital budget/forecast process.


Applicant: means a company, organization or person submitting a planning application under the Planning Act, to the town.

Town: means the Corporation of the Town of Oakville


The Director of Planning Services or his or her designate (s) shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with, maintenance of, and interpretation of the Bonusing Protocol.

Procedure details

Procedure Number: MS-CDV-001-001
Parent Policy: MS-CDV-001
Section: Municipal Services
Sub-Section: Community Development
Author: Planning Services Department
Authority: CAO
Effective Date: 2013 Dec 16
Review by Date: 2018


Appendix A - Bonusing Procedure Flowchart
The Planning Act, RSO 1990, c.P. 13

Livable Oakville Plan and applicable bonusing policies
North Oakville Secondary Plans