Glossary of Terms

As cities evolve and grow, navigating the intricacies of urban development requires familiarity with specialized terminology. This glossary serves as a handy reference, offering explanations of key concepts, from zoning regulations to common jargon aimed at demystifying the complex world of development.

3D Massing & Modeling: a virtual model of what is possible for a site. Including a visual model, even a basic massing of the proposed building, can give municipal staff, Councillors, and the public a better understanding of your vision.

3D renderings: Add that “wow” moment to your application or marketing material. Renderings can help to sell your development to staff, Councillors, and the public by showing a visual representation of your final vision in the community.

As-of-Right: refers to the ability for property owners to develop their property via the standard zoning rules for their area. When a property is developed As-of-Right, as long as proper procedure is followed, it cannot be denied by city council.

Community Presentations: Every discretionary approval must be presented to the community at a public hearing or Regional Council. Sightline will always present the project and field any questions from the Councillors.

Residential Density: The measure of how many people live or can live within a given area. Density is a key consideration in urban planning as it affects various aspects of city life, including transportation, infrastructure, housing affordability, environmental sustainability, and quality of life. High-density areas often feature taller buildings, and bigger developments. Low-density areas tend to have more spread-out development with smaller buildings and larger lots.

Development Agreement: A development agreement is a contract between a property owner and a municipality that allows for a set of variances beyond what is permitted under the property’s regular zoning rules. Development Agreements are typically used for unique projects that have unusual circumstances, where it benefits both the city and the property owner to negotiate.

Development Permits: A development permit is an authorization granted by a municipality for a construction or land development project, outlining regulations and conditions to ensure compliance with zoning laws and planning policies.

Discretionary: a site that is developed via a discretionary process, means that approval is ultimately up to the local government. Even if proper steps are taken, if the local government does not like the project it can still be denied.

Easement: a legal right granted by a property owner to another party, allowing them to use a specific portion of the property for a designated purpose, typically related to access or utilities. Easements can be granted for various reasons, such as allowing utility companies to install and maintain power lines, granting access to a neighboring property, or providing public access to certain areas like pedestrian walkways or recreational trails. City planners consider easements when assessing development proposals and infrastructure projects to ensure that they comply with existing easement agreements and do not interfere with the rights of easement holders. Easements are typically recorded in property deeds and are legally binding, enduring even if the property changes ownership.

Feasibility Studies (SWOTT Analysis): This study will holistically explore your proposed project and identify its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and trends (SWOTT). We will analyze the proposal from a land development, market competition, and business feasibility standpoint.

Floor and Site Concept Plans: Schematic representations of building layouts and site developments, respectively. They provide visualizations of spatial organization, including room arrangements and site features, guiding design and construction processes while ensuring functional and aesthetic objectives are met.

Frontage: The length of a property line that touches a public street.

GIS Analysis: GIS analysis can illustrate the terrain of your property before formal work has begun. Many municipalities and provinces have data that can be used to identify steep slopes, wetlands, or protected areas that could prevent development. GIS mapping can also identify amenities that are close to your property to enhance discretionary applications.

Letters of Planning Opinion (LPO): A detailed look into the development potential of a property. We consult with municipal staff and other professional specialists to determine what the potential is now and what it could be. We will identify and flag any potential hurdles to your development and offer realistic solutions.

Local Council: A governing body at the municipal level responsible for making decisions related to land use, zoning regulations, development permits, and other local planning matters within a specific city or town.

Market Analysis: Evaluates supply and demand dynamics, economic and demographic trends to understand the behavior of a specific real estate market.

Master Planning: A master planned development is a comprehensive project that integrates various land uses, amenities, and infrastructure components to create a cohesive and sustainable community.

Municipal Planning Strategy: The municipal planning strategy is the document Council has approved for how the municipalities land and infrastructure will be managed. It has a series of policies that correlate with the Land-Use By-law to regulate buildings, roads, environmental protections, and safety requirements.

PID: The Nova Scotia Government has converted its land registration records from a paper-based system to an electronic system. To do this, all parcels of land in Nova Scotia have been mapped and provided with a unique eight-digit parcel identification number known as the PID.

Plan Area: refers to a specific geographic region targeted by the municipality for a specific development planning. It serves as the focus of strategic efforts to guide land use, infrastructure, transportation, and community development within defined boundaries. Plan areas vary in scale, from regional plans covering multiple municipalities to neighborhood plans within a city. They involve extensive analysis, stakeholder engagement, and policy formulation to ensure coordinated and sustainable growth, aligning development with community values and long-term objectives.

Planning Briefs: These documents provide a brief overview of the property with informed knowledge of the planning & development potential. We will research the zone, area, lot frontage, and any applicable planning policies based on development goals.

Public information meetings (PIM): An engagement session that HRM staff undertake to gather feedback from the public before the project is brought forth to Council.

Regional Council: The governing body responsible for overseeing planning and development activities within a specific region or metropolitan area.

Regional Plan: The Regional Plan establishes long-range, region-wide planning policies outlining where, when, and how future growth and development should take place between now and the future.

Rezoning: All property within a municipality is zoned through municipal land use by-laws. These zones align with a set of policies and restrictions on what can be built on a site. A rezoning is a formal request to a municipality to change the current zone of a property to a different zone.

Serviced vs. Unserviced: these terms refer to the availability of essential infrastructure and utilities for a particular parcel of land or development project. A serviced area or parcel of land is one that has access to basic infrastructure and utilities necessary for development, such as water supply, sewerage, electricity, gas, telecommunications, road access and maintenance. An unserviced area usually refers to the current unavailability of infrastructure and/or utilities. The level of service will impact the type and density of proposed developments allowed. These services are typically provided by public or private utilities and are essential for supporting residential, commercial, or industrial development. Serviced areas are often designated for urban or suburban growth and are suitable for construction or redevelopment projects.

Set-backs vs. Step-backs: they are both regulatory mechanisms that dictate the placement and form of buildings in relation to property lines and adjacent structures. However, they serve slightly different purposes:

Setbacks: Setbacks refer to the minimum required distance between a building and the property line or street right-of-way. Setbacks are intended to provide space for various purposes such as pedestrian walkways, landscaping, utilities, and to mitigate impacts such as shadowing and privacy concerns. Setbacks can be measured from different points on a building, such as the front, sides, and rear, and they vary depending on zoning regulations and specific site conditions.

Step-backs: Step-backs refer to a design technique where upper floors of a building are set back or recessed from the lower floors. This creates terraces or setbacks in the building’s massing, reducing the apparent bulk and scale of the structure as it rises. Step-backs are commonly used in urban areas to mitigate the visual impact of tall buildings, enhance natural light and ventilation, and create opportunities for outdoor spaces or green roofs. They are often required by zoning regulations or design guidelines for buildings above a certain height to minimize their adverse effects on the surrounding urban environment.

Site Specific Plan Amendment: A site-specific plan amendment is a formal request to a municipality to change policies within the Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use By-Law for a specific a property to enabling a particular development. This path can be explored when a rezoning or development agreement will not result in the desired development opportunities.

Stakeholder Engagement: In addition to the mandatory community engagement required by the local municipality, Sightline will connect with key members of the community and community groups to gather input and ultimately support, for the project.

Subdivision Development: Subdivision development involves the division of a parcel of land into two or more lots for the purpose of creating new properties for development. Subdivision development typically requires new municipal infrastructure such as streets, sidewalks, utilities, and other infrastructure. This process is governed by the municipal Subdivision By-Law and requires municipal approval.

Variance Applications: A variance application is a formal request made to a municipality for permission to deviate from the regulations outlined in the Land Use By-Law for a particular property or development project. Variances could relate to lot coverage, yard size, setbacks and more. If compliance with a specific Land Use By-law requirement is unattainable, applying for a variance is an option.

Visual & Aerial Photography: A great value-add to any project as it gives municipal staff, Council, and the public contextual information about the site.

Zone: a specific area of land that is subject to a set of regulations, policies, and restrictions governing its use and development. Zoning is a fundamental tool used by city planners and local governments to manage land use, promote orderly development, and protect the health, safety, and welfare of communities. Each zone is designated for a particular type of land use, such as residential, commercial, industrial, rural, agricultural, or mixed-use. Within each zone, there are typically regulations specifying allowable land uses, building heights, setbacks, lot sizes, parking requirements, and other development standards. Zoning ordinances or bylaws establish the framework for zoning regulations, outlining the purposes and objectives of each zone and the procedures for obtaining permits or variances.

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