Why do I need an Environmental Impact Study?

When is an Environmental Impact Study required?

Aster Environmental Services

1/3/20242 min read

So, you’ve been planning your country dream home for several years now. Or maybe you and your family want to move from the ‘big city’, buy a home in the country, and build a big shop next to the house within your woodlot. Perhaps you’re seeking to have an old family property severed to create building lots for each of your children.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone! Rural living is exciting, rewarding, and provides countless physical and emotional benefits. However, you may be surprised to find out that accomplishing any of the above plans will require more than a simple building permit. In fact, to build your dream home, the local municipality may insist that you hire an environmental consultant to undertake an environmental impact study (EIS) and/or natural heritage evaluation (NHE). Many people are surprised to be faced with this request, assuming that such a study is reserved for construction of subdivisions or other large-scale projects.

A request for an EIS or NHE is very common, even for small-scale projects. There are many potential triggers for this requirement, including the following scenarios:

  • The local zoning bylaw requires minimum development setbacks to natural features. The municipality requires an assessment to confirm the extent of such features.

  • Your proposed project does not comply with the local zoning bylaw. The municipality requires that you submit a zoning bylaw amendment or minor variance, and this has triggered a review of conformity with applicable local and provincial planning policies.

  • You wish to create a new building lot, which also triggers a requirement for planning approvals.

  • Your property is located in an area of development control under either the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan or Niagara Escarpment Plan.

  • Your property is located in an area regulated by one of many conservation authorities, per regulations under the Conservation Authorities Act.

  • The municipality has identified records for Species at Risk and requires that an assessment be undertaken to evaluate compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

There are any number of reasons that a planning authority (e.g., municipality) or regulatory agency (e.g., Conservation Authority) may request an EIS or NHE. While this can be frustrating, you can find some comfort in knowing that this is a standard request. The requesting authority typically has no choice but to require the study, as their internal policies, bylaws, regulations legally require that an EIS or NHE be submitted to support your specific application.

The outcome of the study will also benefit you in several ways, including ensuring that your project is undertaken in an environmentally responsible manner. The study should also guide you in ensuring compliance with various proponent-driven environmental regulations, such as those under the Endangered Species Act or Migratory Birds Convention Act.

If you’ve been asked to complete an EIS or NHE and you’re not clear on why, staff at Aster Environment Services can walk you through the process. We can even contact the requesting authority and request clarification on your behalf. Having a reliable and knowledgeable environmental consultant will make this process simpler and less stressful.