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Do I Need a Development Permit? Niagara Escarpment Commission

The Niagara Escarpment A Special Place For more than 35 years, Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment has been a protected place. A UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, it is an internationallyrecognized landscape of rich biodiversity, including many of Ontario’s Species at Risk and the oldest trees in Eastern North America, the Eastern White Cedar. The Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP), administered by the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC), is Canada’s first large-scale environmental plan.

You may need a Development Permit To ensure that the Escarpment’s natural resources, ecosystem health and scenic landscape beauty are protected, Niagara Escarpment landowners are required to obtain a Development Permit for certain types of development. Some types of development don’t require a Permit.

What is a Niagara Escarpment Development Permit?

The Plan guides development in the Niagara Escarpment Plan, Area, providing policies for protecting the Escarpment and for permitting compatible development. This brochure is for current and prospective landowners on the Niagara Escarpment who are considering building or other development on their property.

A Niagara Escarpment Development Permit is similar to a municipal building permit. The difference is that a Niagara Escarpment Development Permit considers the impact of a development proposal on the Escarpment landscape and environment. The objective is to design and situate development in an environmentally compatible way. (Municipal building approvals and other permits may also be required, but may only be issued after the Development Permit.)

Are you in the Niagara Escarpment Plan Area?

You don’t need a Development Permit for . . .

The Niagara Escarpment Plan sets out the land use policies for the Escarpment. There are Plan Maps online at www. showing the area covered by this Plan and Development Control for your municipality. A planner at the NEC will be able to tell you if your land is covered by this Plan, and/or if it is under Development Control.

Some minor developments (set out by Regulation) don’t need a Development Permit. Some of these are listed below.

For Dufferin County and for Halton, Peel, Niagara Regions and the City of Hamilton call the NEC’s Georgetown office at (905) 877-5191 or fax (905) 873-7452. For Bruce, Grey and Simcoe Counties call the NEC’s Thornbury office at (519) 599-3340 or fax at (519) 599-6326. For more planning information, and to download the Niagara Escarpment Plan, Plan Maps and the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act, 1973, visit www.

• • • • • • • • •

interior decorating, repair or renovation (that does not change the use of structure) exterior decorating, maintenance or repair (that does not change the use of structure) general property maintenance and minor landscaping planting and cultivation of trees or nursery stock a residential well or its replacement maintenance, repair or replacement of an existing septic system maintenance, repair or replacement of an existing underground fuel storage tank barrier free access for disabled people cultivation of soils for farming

You may not need a Development Permit for:

Other minor developments may be exempted from requiring a Development Permit, subject to conditions such as distance setbacks and size. To discuss or confirm permit requirements, please contact the NEC and you will be referred to a planner who can assist.

NEC staff will tell you whether your proposal needs a Permit and can also provide you with more detailed information regarding the “Permit exemptions,” listed below, for future reference. • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

patios, porches, decks and verandahs some residential additions roof alterations certain residential accessory buildings air conditioners, heat pumps, chimneys and flag poles general agriculture buildings, structures and facilities accessory to general agriculture swimming pools and spas or hot tubs satellite dishes tennis courts sustainable forestry signage demolition of structures fencing forest management

You need a Development Permit if . . . Some developments or land uses have a greater potential for affecting the Escarpment environment, and therefore require a Development Permit. Examples of activities requiring a permit are listed below. • •

constructing a house or a cottage constructing an industrial, commercial, recreational or institutional building

• • • • • •

changing the use of a property (e.g., from residential to commercial) changing the grade or topography of a site and importing fill or extracting aggregate constructing a new road creating and/or developing a new lot constructing a pond or altering a watercourse or wetland establishing a home business warehousing and outdoor storage wind turbines and solar panels

These are the most common activities requiring a Development Permit. For other activities, contact a planner at your nearest NEC office.

So I need a Development Permit - what’s next? If you need a Development Permit, the next step is to complete a Development Permit Application. Applications are available online or at the NEC’s offices. There is no charge for applying for a Development Permit. Your approval may be subject to some conditions to ensure that your work is compatible with the Escarpment environment.

What happens with your application? Your application is assigned to an NEC planner. In most cases, the planner and landscape architect will do an onsite inspection and talk with you about your proposal. The planner or landscape architect may also provide professional advice to help ensure that your proposal is compatible with the Escarpment environment. The planner then prepares a staff report. The report describes how your application relates to the policies and Development Criteria of the Niagara Escarpment Plan and to relevant policies set out in local official plans and the Provincial Policy Statement. There may also be comments or requirements from your local municipality or from other

government ministries/agencies and other parties such as the local health unit or conservation authority. Applications that comply with the Niagara Escarpment Plan and are non-complex or routine in nature may be given a Director’s Approval. Applications that do not comply with the Plan, or have been objected to for example by a consulted agency, or deal with developments already commenced without a Development Permit must be dealt with at a Niagara Escarpment Commission meeting.

The Commission The 17-member Commission is made up of nine members who represent the public-at-large and eight municipal members who are elected officials appointed to the Commission from the Escarpment’s eight counties and municipalities.

The report goes to the Commission If required, the planner’s report is presented to the Commission at one of its monthly public meetings. The planner will talk with you about attending the meeting if there are unresolved issues. If you wish to speak at the meeting, you must advise the Commission in advance. You may also assign an agent to speak on your behalf at the Commission meeting.

Conditions of approval Either the Director or the Commission may approve your application subject to conditions tailored to protect the Escarpment environment.

Why a proposal may be refused Proposals may be turned down if they don’t meet the environmental objectives of the Niagara Escarpment Plan, or if the proposed development is not a permitted use under the Plan’s policies and/or Development Criteria. Examples where a permit may be denied include a lot on a steep, hazardous slope, an under-sized lot, a lot located

on a flood plain or other hazard land, or a lot that doesn’t front on a public road. Proposals must also meet municipal planning requirements and local conservation authority regulations.

Getting the Commission decision Whether you receive a Director’s Approval or attend the Commission meeting, a notice of the Commission’s decision is sent to you. It is also mailed to all assessed property owners within 120 metres of your property, and the municipalities, agencies and stakeholders that the NEC consulted regarding your proposal.

Appealing a decision Anyone receiving a copy of the decision may appeal to the Minister of Natural Resources in writing within 14 days. The notice provides direction on how and where to send an appeal.

If there’s an appeal If there’s an appeal, a hearing officer from the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), appointed by the Minister of Natural Resources, conducts a hearing. Notice from the ERT is provided and those contacted may attend the hearing and make a presentation. Most applicants represent themselves at hearings. Some use a lawyer or other agent if the issues are complex. Following the hearing, the hearing officer prepares a report. The report summarizes the presentations made at the hearing. It concludes with a recommendation from the hearing officer. If the hearing officer’s recommendation is identical to the NEC’s decision, or there is a mediated solution, the matter is concluded. If the hearing officer’s recommendation is different from the NEC’s decision, or a municipality has appealed, the Minister of Natural Resources makes the final decision.

About the Niagara Escarpment

Contacting the NEC:

The Niagara Escarpment rises wild and beautiful above the farmlands and communities of south central Ontario. It stretches 725 km from Queenston, near Niagara Falls, to Tobermory, at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula.

For County of Dufferin, City of Hamilton and Regional Municipalities of Halton, Peel and Niagara: Georgetown (Halton Hills)

The Escarpment is a vast mosaic of forests, farmlands, parks, industries, wetlands, natural areas, villages, towns and cities. These resources and activities contribute millions of dollars to the province’s economy, while they benefit our health and quality of life. Within the Escarpment Plan there are 140 Parks and open space areas offering varying levels of recreation and conservation activities. The Bruce Trail is Canada’s oldest and longest walking trail. It runs the length of the Escarpment, connecting the 140 Escarpment parks and open spaces. Much of the trail runs across private property, thanks to the generous consent of landowners. In 1990, UNESCO designated Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment a World Biosphere Reserve. Biosphere Reserves demonstrate a balance between conservation and human activity. The Biosphere Reserve designation endorses the Niagara Escarpment Plan as a working example of sustainable development.

232 Guelph Street Georgetown, ON L7G 4B1 Telephone: (905) 877-5191 Fax: (905) 873-7452 E-mail:

For Bruce, Grey and Simcoe Counties: Thornbury 99 King Street East Thornbury, ON N0H 2P0 Telephone: (519) 599-3340 Fax: (519) 599-6326 E-mail: This brochure is for general informational purposes only. For more detailed information please contact the Niagara Escarpment Commission offices.

Sources: The Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act (Chapter N.2, RSO 1990) The Niagara Escarpment Plan (2005) Ontario Regulation 828/90 (as amended)

In 2005 the Niagara Escarpment Plan was included in the Provincial Greenbelt. The Niagara Escarpment Plan Area comprises approximately twenty-three percent of the Greenbelt Area.

Do I Need a Development Permit?  

Niagara Escarpment Commission informational brochure

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