Phil Pothen

Phil Pothen

Toronto, ON, CA



Phil Pothen - Environmental Defence Ontario Environment Program

Phil Pothen, J.D., M.L.A., leads policy research and advocacy regarding land-use planning, natural heritage, habitat protection, and transportation, as head of the Ontario Environment Program at Environmental Defence. natural heritage protection.  He's behind Environmental Defence's high profile campaigns against The Big Sprawl, and Sprawl MZOs, among others.

Phil is a land use planning and environmental lawyer (J.D., Osgoode) with a background in landscape ecology (B.A. Bio., Carleton) and landscape architecture (M.L.A., Toronto) and 10 years experience advising and representing provincial policy-makers, select small builders, and concerned residents. He joined EDC to advance “big-picture” approaches to problems he has dealt with case-by-case - a comprehensive alternative vision for development and industry that meets people's needs while preserving Ontario's natural spaces, farmland and other “green fields” in perpetuity.

 A car-free father of three living in Toronto’s dense, diverse Danforth Village neighborhood (Danforth and Dawes), Phil was born and raised in outport Newfoundland, within walking distance of an asbestos mine and the headquarters of the Canadian Sealers’ Association.  Having spent his early summers searching out berries, moose tracks and rabbit burrows in the woods and barrens near his house, he has been pleased to introduce his children to the many similar pleasures available, within a few minutes’ bike ride, in Toronto’s own urban ravines.


Phil Pothen, J.D., M.L.A., is a land use planning, environmental and administrative lawyer offering advice and representation to socially and environmentally-responsible architects, builders and developers in Toronto, Ontario.

If you or your client are planning a new residential project in Toronto, you should start by consulting a planning lawyer.  Phil Pothen offers an Initial Zoning Opinion that reveals the constraints and opportunities presented by the zoning and other regulations that govern your site.  He'll identify the planning permissions you are likely to need, and help you develop a design that reconciles your objectives with the applicable law and the character of your new Toronto neighborhood.

Once you have a preliminary design, Pothen will guide you through the Building Permit Application process.  He'll work with you to prepare a draft application, consult with city planners, and identify any Minor Variances required to achieve your objectives.

If you require a Minor Variance Phil Pothen can manage the process.  He'll work with you and your client to ensure the variances you request are appropriate to your neighborhood and conform with the general intent of the applicable zoning and Official Plan provisions.  Phil Pothen will organize your consultations, negotiate consent where possible, and appear on your behalf before the Toronto Committee of Adjustment.  As an experienced advocate and negotiator, his first goal will be to bring your neighbors onside by helping you identify and genuinely address their concerns.

In the event your objectives cannot be accomplished through a minor variance to the existing zoning, Phil Pothen will help walk you through the Rezoning Application process, from right from pre-consultation, thru submission of an application, community council, and Toronto City Council.

If your application for rezoning or for a minor variance is refused, Phil Pothen can act for you an appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal or the Toronto Local Appeal Body.  Phil is a skilled planning and environmental litigator, with extensive experience introducing and challenging evidence from expert witnesses, including architects, landscape architects, engineers, biologists, environmental scientists, and law enforcement personnel.

Phil Pothen is also available as an advocate on environmental, human rights, and property law matters matters before the Environmental Review Tribunal, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the Niagara Escarpment Hearing Office, the Ontario Energy Board, the Superior Court and other Ontario courts and tribunals.



Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto, ON, CA, Juris Doctor

Sep 2006 - Jun 2009

University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, CA, Masters, Landscape Architecture

Sep 2003 - Jun 2006

Areas of Specialization