Ontario Heritage Act

The Ontario Heritage Act provides for the scope of study for a heritage conservation district – see Section 40.(2). The act also states what is required for the contents of an HCD plan – see Section 41.1.(5)

Terms of Reference for conducting an HCD study

In order for a municipality to undertake a study to create a Heritage Conservation District, it often provides a Terms of Reference document. This document outlines the scope of the study, relevant research, heritage evaluation, goals and objectives, and specific required tasks. The following examples show a variety of methods and processes involved in preparing HCD studies.

The City of Toronto has prepared the following report on developing a Terms of Reference document for creating a Heritage Conservation District:

The City of Burlington has prepared the following Terms of Reference document for an HCD study:


Municipalities have the authority to provide incentives to assist property owners within an HCD. Some municipalities provide grant programs, often a matching grant whereby the municipality and property owner equally share the cost of repair or restoration of heritage attributes. These types of programs vary from one municipality to another, so it is best to consult with your municipality to see if grant programs are available.

Municipalities may also provide tax rebate programs for properties protected under the Ontario Heritage Act. Again, these programs vary from one municipality to another, so consult with your municipality.


Numerous consulting firms in Ontario have extensive experience dealing with heritage conservation district plans. Visit the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals website to find a consultant and relevant information.

Municipal Official Plans

A municipality must refer to the establishment of heritage conservation districts in its Official Plan. The heritage designation of an individual property under Section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act may also be considered within an HCD.

A city or town’s Official Plan provides guidance and long-term goals for planning and heritage conservation. The Official Plan provides a municipality with the legal authority to plan and protect its resources and may have specific requirements beyond the heritage conservation tools available in the Ontario Heritage Act.

Heritage policies and related planning tools are an important part of the Official Plan as seen in the following communities:

Other local planning tools include Community Improvement Plans, Secondary Plans and comprehensive zoning bylaws. These tools – when combined with heritage legislation – add to the protection and conservation of heritage resources.

Additional Ontario planning information

The Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism also provides general information on tools available for heritage conservation and the relationship to municipal planning and development. Resources include:

HCD studies in Ontario

Academic studies regarding the value of a heritage property and the changes and development of heritage conservation districts over time have been completed by the Heritage Resources Centre at the University of Waterloo. The HCD Study Summary Report is also a good reference for the diverse number of HCDs in Ontario.

HCD websites

Each HCD operates in its own manner; some have specific development review committees and others do not. For instance, within the City of Toronto, the residents of the Cabbagetown HCD District Advisory Committee have created their own website to assist those living in the district and visitors to the area.

International models

Heritage conservation districts are a common heritage planning tool throughout the world. The following examples are models and case studies with regard to heritage conservation districts beyond Ontario:

ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites Charter for the Conservation of Historic Towns and Urban Areas (Washington Charter, 1987):



Conservation area policy in Wales dates back to the Civic Amenities Act of 1967. Largely the outcome of a Civic Trust initiative, this legislation in its early years reflected a growing concern about the effects of insensitive development on the historic built environment. Since that time, the legislative framework has been updated more than once. The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act of 1990 was one such attempt to consolidate the evolving nature of the statutory guidance. See for more information.


There are three types of heritage conservation areas covered by French legislation:

  • One such area includes the Secteur Sauvegardé – a zone designated within a town or city centre. The designation is usually accompanied by a Plan de sauvegarde et de mise en valeur (PSMV).At the discretion of the central government, designation in areas commonly called Malraux – after the minister who introduced the law and associated fiscal incentives – are available to those who invest in these areas. Having being superseded by the ZPPAUP, new designations are now rare (see below).
  • Another type of conservation area, the Zone de Protection du Patrimoine Architectural, Urbain et Paysager (ZPPAUP), post-dates the Secteur Sauvegardé, which it ismeant to replace. Determined by the local council, these heritage conservation areas are often smaller in size, and situated in rural locations around historical monuments or sensitive areas.
  • Lastly, despite being more for ecological interest, the Zone naturelle d’intérêt écologique, faunistique et floristique (ZNIEFF)is another type of heritage conservation area.

In addition, « L’Association Nationale des Villes et Pays d’art et d’histoire et des Villes à secteurs sauvegardés et protégés » unites over 170 cities and villages containing a ZPPAUP with a means to share information about their heritage conservation experiences. (See for more information.)

United States of America

Portland, Oregon

  • Portland has both historic districts and conservation districts. Historic districts have a higher status with considerable regulations and are usually listed as being of national historic importance. Conservation areas are more local and usually based on architectural styles and interest. See

New York City, New York

  • Mandated with deciding which properties are worthy of landmark status, the Landmarks Preservation Commission is responsible for enacting regulations to protect both the esthetic and historic nature of landmark properties. The Commission is not only tasked with the preservation of unique buildings, but also the overall feel of neighbourhoods that have been designated as historic districts. There are 102 heritage districts in New York that are administered by the Historic Districts Council, a separate not-for-profit organization. See

Los Angeles, California

  • In Los Angeles, historic districts are called Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZs). There are currently 24 HPOZs designated by the city, with about a dozen more in the planning process. See