Can I Get My Site Plan Approval Please? With a Cherry On Top?

So I hear you’re looking to get your site plan approval process moving… Has it been 9 months since your submission? If not, don’t count on hearing back yet. I’ve compiled some questions you should ask yourself regarding your site plan approval process so you know what to expect.

First, as mentioned, if it hasn’t been 9 months, then it’s not ready. Did you know, over 35% of applications took over 9 months obtain approval?

Have you resubmitted at least 3 times? That’s right, approximately 50% of applications require 3 or more resubmissions. So if you haven’t gone through these iterations, sorry, you’ve probably done it wrong.

Did you have a review committee meeting? If so, sorry, your timing probably just got elongated- 65% of applications that went to a review committee meeting delayed the timing.

You’re right, these are probably questions that you ask yourself when it’s already too late, so what are some that you can ask yourself before the long dreaded wait?

Since the site plan approval process is immensely long- with paper forms, digital forms, file naming conventions, and let’s not forget all the acronyms that everyone seem to throw around and anybody who doesn’t know is too afraid to ask; the SPA, the LAC, the CPM, a OPA, a ZPA, and an SOS (just kidding, this isn’t one. I think? ).

Knowing this, isn’t it better to just avoid any common mistakes beforehand? I took the time to read through some statistics. Not because I didn’t want to look at the process itself.. but who really ever has the time to read why things go wrong?

Statistically, here are the three most common problems from applications:

  1. Grading and Servicing

  2. Landscaping

  3. Off street vehicular loading and parking

It’s called a process for a reason, but did you know that the procedure is not actually consistently applied between municipalities?



What the OAA has done, again, reading statistics so YOU don’t have to, has summarised the best practices so the new guidelines can help facilitate and formalise the process.

  1. Steamlining site plan applications and exempting specific developments
  2. Pre-application consultation meetings
  3. Dedicated site plan team, staff, and project manager
  4. Provision of implementation options
  5. Alternatives to site plan approvals

Finally, you must be wondering, confident that you taken all the premeditated issues, is there a check list I can use to submit my actual application? Let’s be serious, would you follow a check list collated by a student? I try my best to understand what goes into an approval but there’s just so many things, like environmental studies, wind studies, noise impact studies, etc that honestly, I just hope it becomes easier with experience.

Here are, however, two pointers, I’ve learnt at work:

  1. Collect all drawings into a set and they are dimensionally folded in 8.5″ x 14″

  2. MAKE SURE ALL DRAWINGS ARE FOLDED and this is hilariously fundamental but make sure, it’s folded in the ‘architectural way’ with the title block showing. I’ve attached an intense How-To video below.



In most cases in applications to the City of Toronto, you need 5 paper copies and 1 digital of studies done. Depending on what you’re submitting for there are different checklists. Recently working on an urban project, I have needed to compile for a Zoning By-Law Amendment application, so I can only share what was on our team’s checklist:

  • A Draft Zoning By Law amendment
  • Physical, Digital Mass Model
  • Community Services and Facilities study
  • Archaeological assessment
  • Architectural contorl guidelines
  • Planning Rationale
  • Pedestrian Level wind study,
  • Avenue Segment review study
  • Sun/Shadow Study
  • Urban Design Guidelines
  • Vibration study,
  • Noise impact Study,
  • Housing Issues report
  • Natural Heritage Impact Study
  • Noise impact study



This list never seems to end… In addition to this, 20 paper copies and one digital copy of a

  • topographical survey
  • context plan
  • underground plans
  • site and building elevations
  • site plan
  • floor plan
  • tree preservation plan (7 copies!)
  • concept site and landscape plan (7 copies!)
  • site and building sections

Needless to say, it was a pretty awfully stressful week. Not only did we draw like mad, compile like mad, we also had to read a lot. There are plenty of guidelines that Toronto offers… There’s even a ‘Bird Friendly guidelines‘.


I guess what I am trying to say is, even if you ask nicely, “May I get my site plan approval? Pretty please? With A cherry on top?”, there’s no easy painless way to do it.

There’s a lot of paper work, and a lot of co-ordination, but in the end, that’s all part of the job, right? I’m starting to realize, being an architect isn’t always going to be design work as much as I would have liked… You’re doing it because you care and whether or not any else will ever recognise the exuberent amount of check lists you went through, know that you didn’t take any short cuts, that you double, triple checked your information, and that you did it right- the right, tedious, incredibly honest way.