How city planning works

What is city planning?

City planning is a process that helps us manage how land and resources are used to make our city a more inviting and liveable place. It helps us decide where homes, businesses, parks and schools should be located and where roads, transit, sewers and other essential services are needed.

City planning helps us shape and develop our communities while keeping economic, social and environmental concerns in mind. It is both a technical and political process:

  • The Government of Ontario sets the ground rules and directions for land use planning through the Planning Act and the Provincial Policy Statement.
  • The City is responsible for implementing the provincial policy direction while balancing the interests of individual property owners with those of the whole community.

City planning is about managing change. As the city grows, and new developments come forward, planners must use their technical skills, logic and creativity to envision different ways that make our city a great place for both residents and businesses.

Who does what

In general, there are two types of city planning projects: city-led policies and studies or development applications. The roles and responsibilities vary based on the type of project.

City-led policies and studies

The City’s policy planners help set the vision for how land will be used in our city and neighbourhoods. The studies and policies they work on guide how and where future building and development should happen. Roles typically include:

  • Lead: policy planners on the City’s Planning Strategies team leads this work
  • Participants: community members and those in the development industry provide insight
  • Decision authority: Mississauga City Council
  • Appeals: the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) hears appeals if required

Development applications

The City’s development planners are responsible for reviewing all applications for changes to the use of land, the design of new buildings, changes to existing buildings and all other forms of new development. They make sure that new developments meet the City’s vision for how land should be used.

Development applications like official plan amendments, rezonings and site plans are initiated by developers, business owners or landowners. Roles typically include:

  • Lead: the applicant is the outreach lead for their development proposal and application
  • Review: development planners on the City’s Development and Design team review applications, work with the applicants and make recommendations to Council
  • Participants: community members and those in the development industry provide comments
  • Decision authority: Mississauga City Council
  • Appeals: the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) hears appeals if required

Here is more detail about the role of each key stakeholder involved in city planning:


Land or property owners have the right to decide if and when to build something new on their land. They can also choose to sell their property which can trigger a change in how the land is used.


Builders and developers are typically private companies that specialize in different types of developments such as:

  • condominiums
  • commercial
  • subdivisions and/or mixed use master planned communities

Community members

Community members contribute local knowledge and insights connected to specific areas of our city. Community members include:

  • residents
  • renters
  • local business owners
  • community association members and ratepayer groups
  • community groups
  • other local groups and organizations

The City of Mississauga

  • The City’s Planning and Building team works with developers, landowners, business owners and community members to create plans that provide direction on how and where future building and development should happen.
  • Mississauga City Council reviews and ultimately approves or refuses proposals to rezone or develop land.

Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT)

Independent adjudicative tribunal responsible for resolving appeals on a variety of contentious municipal and land use planning matters.

Region of Peel

The Region of Peel is an upper-tier regional government which plans for and provides services to the three lower-tier municipalities within its borders: City of Mississauga, City of Brampton, and the Town of Caledon. Services include:

  • Public Health
  • Water and Wastewater
  • Waste Management
  • Social housing
  • Long-Term Care and Paramedics

What city planners do

City planners assess many issues and perspectives to determine if the threshold of good planning has been met.

It’s common for residents to feel that an application will be refused if there’s opposition to it. However, a variety of studies and policies, including direction from the Province of Ontario and the City’s entire Official Plan, must also be considered.

Planners manage growth in a smart and sustainable way. They plan for growth and intensification while demonstrating supporting analysis and good planning. They also specialize in policy and development planning:

  • Policy planners analyze demographic information for population, employment and health trends. They involve a wide range of people in the decision-making process and carefully consider the legal, social, cultural, economic and environmental impact of all planning policies on the city.
  • Development planners understand provincial and federal policies, knowledge of urban structure or physical design and the way cities work. They often function as a mediator or facilitator when community interests conflict.

All city planners have a commitment to the Professional Code of Conduct and have to practice ethically and responsibly. The concept of democracy is an important part of public decision-making and planners apply this lens when planning for Mississauga’s future.

Policies that shape our community

These are the policies that planners need to follow and that shape our community:

  • Provincial legislation that defines the policy framework for land use planning in Ontario
  • Planning Act enables and directs municipalities to prepare Official Plans in order to establish planning goals and policies that will coordinate growth, guide future land use, and manage and direct physical change

The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) promotes Ontario’s long term prosperity and social well-being by:

  • Wisely managing change and promoting efficient land use and development patterns
  • Protecting natural heritage, water, agriculture, mineral and cultural heritage and archaeological resources for their economic, environmental and social benefits
  • Reducing the potential for public cost or risk to Ontario residents from natural or human hazards

The Provincial Growth Plan is grounded in the following principles:

  • Build compact, vibrant and complete communities and manage growth to support a strong and competitive economy
  • Protect, conserve, enhance and wisely use the valuable natural resources of land, air and water for current and future generations
  • Optimize the use of existing and new infrastructure to support growth in a compact, efficient form
  • Provide for different approaches to manage growth that recognizes the diversity of communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe
  • The Region of Peel Official Plan is a long-term plan to manage growth and development.
  • The Planning Act requires that the Official Plans of lower-tier municipalities (like Mississauga) conform to the Official Plans of their upper-tier municipalities.
  • The province has delegated approval authority of Mississauga’s Official Plan and official plan amendments to the Region of Peel.
  • The Mississauga Official Plan implements the Planning Act at the local level.
  • It describes policies on how land in Mississauga should be used.
  • It’s prepared with input from the community and helps to ensure that future planning and development will meet the specific needs of the community.

A zoning by-law implements the objectives and policies of the Official Plan and provides a legal and precise way of managing land use and future development. Zoning protects you from conflicting and possibly dangerous land uses in your community.

  • Landowners may apply for an amendment to the Zoning By-law.
  • These applications must go through an approvals process with the City guided by the policies outlined above.

Weighing all of these inputs guides us in making responsible recommendations in city planning.