On April 11, 2022, the Côte Saint-Luc City Council adopted draft of By-law 2596 concerning specific construction, alteration, or occupancy proposal for an immovable (SCAOPI).
The by-law enables the City Council to authorize a project that is at variance with the City’s urban planning by-laws, without it being necessary to modify applicable standards for the particular zone that the draft by-law applies to.
Over the years, religious institutions were founded in private homes to serve the needs of members of our community. Although these private homes were not zoned for use as a religious institution, the City of Côte Saint-Luc tolerated these congregations and found practical solutions to issues arising with neighbours, such as parking or noise. In recent years, more congregations have been founded, which has prompted the City to resolve the issue of non-conforming zoning.
What this means in practical terms is that if a house is zoned for residential use but is currently being used as a place of worship, the City can authorize that use without changing the zoning of the property. The property remains residential. If the congregation one day moves to a different location, the City can withdraw that use authorization.
The process to approve an application for a new use is very similar to the rezoning process. In short, through a series of steps involving official petitions, signing of a register, and a referendum, residents living in the affected zone or contiguous zone can prevent a residential property from changing its use.
The City Council tabled a draft SCAOPI by-law on April 11, 2022, that lists the zones where the City will allow an application for a new use of a residential property. The by-law does not automatically allow for the new use. It merely creates the mechanism for applicants to apply.
By creating this mechanism, the City is allowing religious institutions currently operating in private homes to begin the process that could lead to their officially operating within the City zoning rules. In the event that the religious institutions do not wish to apply for the new use or aren’t able to achieve the needed support among people in the zone, the City is concurrently beginning the process to rezone certain commercial locations in the City to allow for religious use.
Note: the process to adopt the bylaw is not open to referendum. Only the specific instance of applications for spot zoning following the new bylaw are open to the opposition steps listed above.
What is a SCAOPI?
A SCAOPI (PPCMOI in French) is a “by-law concerning specific construction, alteration or occupancy proposal for an immovable”. It is an urban planning tool that allows a specific project to be authorised on a piece of land or in a building, for example, for a new construction, a building extension project, or for the authorisation of a certain use or occupancy.
A SCAOPI allows for :
- Establishment of the framework for projects that present particular complexities;
- Evaluation of projects based on specific criteria (while the zoning allows for projects to be evaluated only on the basis of the established norms and standards);
- Imposition of conditions for carrying out the project, for example, to ensure its compatibility with the surrounding environment (which is not possible through zoning);
- Authorizing a project on a particular a piece of land or for a specific building (while the zoning regulations apply to the full established zones);
- Presenting the project to citizens for their consultation, comments, and approval.
The SCAOPI applies to projects which are not authorized by zoning or that deviate from certain norms and regulations. It allows citizens and the municipal council to assess each of these projects on a case-by-case basis depending on the integration into the surrounding context and the particular related issues. For more information, we invite you to visit the website of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MAMH).
What is the goal of the SCAOPI for Côte Saint-Luc?
Considering the concerns of integration and social acceptability in residential settings, places of worship (with or without gathering space) and places of education linked to worship and religion (with or without student accommodation) will be subject to the SCAOPI procedure. More precisely, if someone wishes to establish one of these uses in the residential zones RU-1, RU-21, RU-32, RU-42, RB-6, RB-7 or RB-16, they will have to file a request for SCAOPI and follow the applicable procedure.
The most important component of this procedure is for the applicant to demonstrate that the building complies with all construction and safety standards and that it can safely and securely accommodate occupants for the prescribed use.
The projects will be evaluated on the basis of the criteria set out in the regulation, in particular (see the regulation for all applicable criteria):
- The project respects the objectives of the City’s urban plan;
- The compatibility of the occupations with the surrounding residential environment, for example: the activities that take place inside the building, an evaluation of the intensity of the activities and the compatibility of the hours of operation with the standard hours associated with residential life, the capacity of the building, access to the building, mitigation measures to preserve the privacy of neighboring buildings;
- The impact of the project on automobile traffic and circulation in the residential sector and measures to promote the use of active or public transport;
- The impact of the project on the residential vocation of the building, for example: maintaining the residential architectural character, integrating parking spaces, landscaping, signage, lighting, etc.
The municipal council, after receiving the recommendations from the Planning Advisory Committee (PAC), may impose additional necessary and suitable conditions in order for the project to proceed. For example, a condition could be related to a minimum or maximum number of parking spaces, landscape architecture requirements to ensure for privacy with the neighboring properties, limiting the sound level outside the building, etc.
Will citizens be consulted?
Yes, citizens will be consulted and will be able to voice their concerns and recommendations. In addition, citizens will be able to vote through a referendum approval process, if necessary. In other words, if the project is not approved by the concerned citizens as per the law (located within the targeted and contiguous areas/zones), the project cannot be executed, and no authorization will be issued by the City.