Development Applications and How We Plan

What is a Development Application?


Development is a broad term referring to any activity that results in a change of land use, construction of a new building(s) or the creation of a parcel(s) of land. Development applications are proposals put forward by a landowner that must be carefully considered and reviewed to ensure they are consistent with the provincial, regional and municipal plans and policies.

There are six types of development applications reviewed by City staff and Vaughan Council, which are governed by the Planning Act:



In some cases, the landowner may submit one or more of these applications at the same time for consideration by the City.

How We Plan


  • Provincial and Regional Plans and policies: The Province of Ontario regulates land use through plans and policies, including the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and Provincial Policy Statement, which establish the vision for communities in Ontario and set targets for the number of new residents and jobs York Region must accommodate by 2051. Based on these targets, the York Region Official Plan sets the vision and plan for where and how this growth and development will be accommodated within each of its nine municipalities, including the city of Vaughan. All Council decisions regarding a planning application must conform to and be consistent with Provincial plans and policy.
  • Vaughan’s Official Plan: Vaughan’s Official Plan serves as Council’s roadmap for growth and land use within the city and must conform with the Province and York Region’s policies and plans. It establishes the City’s long-term vision and values, which is stated through goals and policies that help guide decision-making on land development, economic growth, urban design, the environment and more. Ultimately, the Official Plan guides different land uses and where types of development should be located.
  • Secondary Plans: Secondary Plans build on the City’s Official Plan by providing policy guidance and direction for smaller and focused geographic areas. In some cases, they can also provide more prescriptive policies to reflect the uniqueness of the area they cover. A Secondary Plan defines all the elements needed for successful development, including land uses, new roads and active transportation routes, open spaces and parks, policies to establish land uses and key infrastructure requirements.
  • Zoning By-laws: A Zoning By-law is a more detailed planning tool used to implement the Official Plan policies in order to regulate how land is used. They provide specific standards for how development and construction can occur on a property. A Zoning By-law ensures what is built meets the vision of the Official Plan and any land use plans. If a landowner wishes to alter or develop a site in a way that does not conform with the City’s Zoning By-law, they must apply for a site-specific amendment to the Zoning By-law. A Zoning By-law Amendment may change the use of land (e.g., from commercial to residential), the maximum height of a building, parking requirements or other development standards which regulate what can be built on a specific site. Learn more about Zoning By-laws at