Can You Hardscape Your Front Garden?

Local Interest

Can You Hardscape Your Front Garden?

Posted on April 21, 2021

In short, the answer is ‘not very likely’.

We received this update from the Cabbagetown Heritage Conservation District Committee, in response to a question from a local resident, which asked:

“Do residents need a permit or other permission to pave over their front lawn/garden area (even if it is not to create a parking space, for which my understating is a permit would definitely be required)?”

Their response was:

It’s not just an issue in heritage districts. Paving over front yards is something that is being strongly discouraged for a number of reasons:

Zoning requires a percentage of the front yard to be soft landscaping.    Any alterations to the existing front yard landscaping would need to be submitted to the city for a zoning review, and if variances are identified ( they would be in that case)  then the project would have to go to Committee of Adjustment (CofA).

Paving the entire yard would likely be denied at CofA. It is also environmentally harmful increasing runoff and potentially choking off tree roots.

  1. Part of the front yard probably belongs to the City, since the front property line is not typically at the sidewalk.  The home owner should check their property survey for the location of the front property line.  The section of the front that belongs to the City falls under the jurisdiction of Transportation Services, Right of Way Management.  To do any work on City property – i.e. new fence, new walkway, paving, retaining walls, etc. – let alone parking – you need an encroachment agreement from Transportation;
  2. The part of the front yard between the front wall of the house and the front property line belongs to the home owner BUT it falls under the jurisdiction of the Zoning Bylaw and the Building Department.  Under the Zoning Bylaw you have to maintain a certain % of the front yard for “soft” landscaping – so you cannot pave it over.  The intent of the soft landscaping is to allow storm water runoff to percolate into the ground on your own property, and not on the neighboring property or onto the sidewalk, etc. ;
  3. If there are trees on either the private or city-owned portions of the front yard (or in adjacent yards), then Urban Forestry has jurisdiction of what happens to the ground / landscaping around the tree – the bigger the tree, the more area is involved; and
  4. Since the property is in an HCD, Heritage also has a say in what happens in both the private and City-owned portions of the front yard, re. landscaping, fencing, etc.

In addition: new front yard parking pads are no longer being allowed by the city– if you have a driveway that goes through your front yard to a legal parking space behind the front wall of your house (could be in a side or rear garage or carport), you can park in the driveway in front of the house.  Otherwise, you are not allowed to park in the front yard – either on your own property, or on the City’s right of way.

It is extremely unlikely paving would be permitted.

If it is private property Bylaw 569-2012, Landscaping would apply.  

If it is the City ROW, a walkway that is no more than 1.5m is permitted. Bylaw 743-31 explains this. (Select section 31 in the contents). 



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