Corporate Services

Frequently Asked Questions
Corporate Services


Q: Open meetings - Have municipal councils and local boards always been required to hold meetings open to the public?
A: No. Prior to enactment of amendments in 1995, access to meetings of councils and local boards was materially influenced by the common law. In Greek mythology, we are told that the God of Love offered a rose to the God of Silence not to disclose the weaknesses of other Gods. With the passage of time, the rose became a symbol of silence and secrecy. In the Middle Ages, a rose was customarily suspended from the ceiling of a council chamber. The council members then pledged not to reveal what they discussed in the room. The meetings were held with the expectation of silence, sub rosa, beneath the rose. English and Canadian common law evolved in accordance with that principle. Prior to the enactment of the new legislation, in addition to general provisions and requirements contained in the Municipal Act, specific statutes contained stipulations for the conduct of certain meetings and hearings required as part of a particular process. The statutory requirements that formerly applied to a meeting of a municipal council, a committee, a public meeting or hearing in general terms, provided that: regular meetings of council were open to the public; special meetings of council were either open or closed as in the opinion of the council, expressed by resolution in writing the public interest required; committee and other meetings were closed unless opened at the discretion of the council; public meetings required by legislation, such as the Planning Act, were subject to the rules specified in the particular circumstances; and hearings of a quasi-judicial nature were required to meet certain of the higher standards established by the Statutory Powers Procedure Act. With the enactment of the 1995 amendments, the former law was substantially revised. The legislation, which is applicable to municipal councils and local boards, with the exception of school boards, library boards, and police services boards, now provides that: all meetings shall be open to the public; subject only to certain discretionary exceptions; subject to a mandatory exception relating to a request made under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act; and subject to the right of the head of council or presiding officer to expel any person for improper conduct at a meeting. In a major departure from past practice, therefore, the open or closed status of the meeting is determined by the subject matter considered and not the type of meeting being held. While the foregoing response is derived primarily from Ontario legislation, practices and procedures, many of the principles will be applicable in other Canadian jurisdictions. In no circumstances should the information and advice given be construed as a legal opinion.

Q: I’d like to open a Bed and Breakfast in Niagara-on-the-Lake. How do I go about this?
A: A “Bed and Breakfast” operation in Niagara-on-the-Lake requires a “Small Scale Tourist Accommodation” license. This license is also required for a “Cottage Rental” in which the entire building is rented to one party only. A Small Scale Tourist Accommodation is a short-term rental unit for periods of less than 28 days. A complete Small Scale Tourist Accommodation application package is available from the Clerk’s department. This package contains the following: · Application form · Licensing By-law No. 3778-03 · Zoning By-law No. 500LJ-97 · Sign By-law No. 2560B-97 · Town By-law Enforcement and Fire Department guidelines · Region of Niagara Public Health guidelines

Q: I live in the USA and would like to get married in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Where can I get further information about getting married in Ontario?
A: The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has application forms only for marriage licenses and does not issue the actual license. The application form must be submitted to a municipality that does issue marriage licenses. Both the City of Niagara Falls and the City of St. Catharines provide this service. For more information: 1) Visit the Life Event Bundle "Getting Married". 2) Contact the Office of the Registrar General: Toll-free: 1-800-461-2156 or 416-325-8305 Business Hours are: Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 3) Contact the Citizens' Inquiry Bureau Toll-free: Within Ontario: 1-800-267-8097 Outside of Ontario: 1-416-326-1234 From 416 area code: 416-326-1234 4) E-mail:

Q: Who do I contact regarding solid waste management services?
A: For information pertaining to leaf and yard waste collection, weekly garbage collections, blue box program, organic recycling, curbside collection of large household items and appliances, call the Niagara Region Waste Management Services information line at 905-356-4141 or 1-800-594-5542. More information is also available on their website at Modern Corporation also picks up large household items and can be reached at 905-262-6000. More information can be found on their website at

Q: Where can I get a business license?
A: The Municipality of the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake does not license commercial and industrial businesses. The only licensing we effect is for a Small Scale Tourist Accommodation (i.e. Bed and Breakfast / Cottage / Country Inn). These applications are made through the Clerk’s Department and packages of information are available. For information on business licensing at a provincial or federal level, please contact the appropriate office as listed in your blue pages of the phone directory or contact the St. Catharines and Area Small Business Enterprise Centre at (905) 688-5601.

Q: How are my property taxes used?
A: The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake collects taxes for its own purposes, as well as for the Regional Municipality of Niagara (“the Region”), and for the School Board. Taxes collected are distributed as follows: - Town 17% - Region 57% - Education 26%. The Town’s portion of taxes collected in 2003 totaled $455 for the average residence. These funds are used to provide the following services: · Fire and Emergency Services · Cemetery Services · Parks and Recreation · Planning, including Official Plan and Zoning By-law preparation and amendments, site plan control, heritage conservation, Committee of Adjustment and plans of subdivision and condominium · Building Code and by-law enforcement · Snow removal, salting and sanding; Road repairs and maintenance; · Drainage and irrigation; GIS and information technology · Library services; · Complaints resolution; · Street and traffic control signage; · Financial services, tax collection; · Administration and management The balance of your property taxes (83%) is forwarded to the Region and the School Board. The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s portion of your residential property tax is the lowest of the 12 area municipalities that comprise our Region. However, the average property tax paid per Niagara-on-the-Lake household to the Region and the School Boards is the highest of the 12 area municipalities. This is attributable to the high average property value assessment in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Town also provides water and sewer services, but this is a completely self-funded utility. Your water and sewer rates pay for the operation, maintenance, repair and replacement of our Town’s water and sewer lines.

Q: Why did my taxes go up?
A: Any increase or decrease in your taxes is attributed to many factors; increase or decrease in your assessment, change in tax rate at the Region, Town or Provincial levels, addition of local improvement. For individual explanation, please call the tax department (905) 468-3266 Ext. 230.

Q: Does the Town offer pre-authorized payment plans?
A: Yes. The Town offers two pre-authorized payment plans for taxes: On the installment due dates (four times a year), or spread out over 12 months. For more information, please contact the Treasury Department at 905-468-3266.

Q: How can I obtain a parking permit for the Old Town?
A: If you are a resident of Niagara-on-the-Lake, you can obtain an annual parking permit, which allows you to park at a metered space for up to one hour. The cost for the permit is just $18, with proof of residence, and are available at the Municipal Offices in Virgil.

Q: Are Resident's Parking Permits valid in the Niagara-on-the-Lake Hospital Parking Lot?
A: No. Resident permits are not valid in the Hospital's parking lot as this parking lot is not owned by the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.