Both the Committee of Adjustment and the approval process for rezoning applications has become less about what is required by the Ontario Planning Act and more about what will make planners and communities happy. I think we can get a lot closer to the simpler requirements under the Act and still satisfy both planners and communities that are concerned that there will be enough control on the form of a development when it reaches building permit stage. There are four primary issues for both the community and planners; massing, windows, amenity space and privacy. If a project is compatible with its neighbourhood by these 4 measures it will be a comfortable fit into the fabric of its existing urban surroundings. As individuals and planners living and working in our community we should not be concerned about the style, exterior finishes nor for the most part the number of units in a project. (I would qualify this not to include a designated heritage district)
I have developed a hypothetical example of how the massing could be described in a way that creates boundaries. It also would stipulate that the overall volume of the building could only be 70% of the volume contained in the proposed massing. The same can be done for fenestration by describing planes (vertically and horizontally) where the windows can be located, but prescribing an area of windows that say are 50% of the total are prescribed by the extent of the planes. The location of amenity space, both at grade and above grade can be similarly described with, in this case, a minimum overall amenity space at grade and above grade. Privacy can then be protected by the placement of these elements. Here are a few pictures illustrating the massing component.