Do your cottage redevelopment plans for improvement align with current acts and regulations?
Your cottage is often seen as a place to unwind and centre yourself; a haven among the trees and cool waters that allows you to step back from the business of life and reconnect with nature. It’s where you laugh, play, and spend endless hours of quality time with family and friends. The design of an environment can have a powerful effect on your life and as such cottage owners will attest to the continual desire for improvements at the cottage to further enhance their connection and experience with the outdoors.
Cottage improvements could involve anything from removing trees to improving the view to replacing the old, rickety dock with something better. On a larger scale, it may be installing a new septic system or expanding the cottage footprint to accommodate your growing family.
As our understanding of the natural environment grows and our approaches to protecting it changes, so do the government policies that regulate development. Improvements or redevelopments to your cottage that were allowed 20 years ago may face a very different set of policies and regulations today. With their close connections to nature and water, there is a myriad of policies that may have implications for cottage redevelopment.
Every municipality has their own set of policies for protecting features of the natural environment. Water bodies such as lakes, rivers, and wetlands are also administered by local conservation authorities. The provincial and federal governments have established a number of acts to protect our natural biodiversity, such as the Endangered Species Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, and the Fisheries Act. Likewise, provincial policies such as the Provincial Policy Statement and the new Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2017) are also in place to guide development in cottage country.
A first step in redevelopment is to check with your Municipal Development Department.
With so many guidelines, policies and governing bodies, how can you be sure your cottage redevelopment plans won’t land you in hot water? Which improvements can you implement without the need for an approval or permit? How do you know where to turn if you have to deal with the municipality, Conservation Authority, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO)?
Cottagers can be left swimming in circles without knowing how to proceed. But don’t give up on your cottage dreams yet. Often the best place to look for answers is the development department of your local municipality. A competent development planner can help guide you through the various policy requirements for cottage improvements, as well as provide details on other regulatory agencies that need to be involved.
An Environmental impact Study is a tool that guides how redevelopment can fit with the natural environment.
Municipalities and Conservation Authorities often require you to complete an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) or a Natural Heritage Evaluation (NHE) to provide details on any implications your development plans may have on the natural environment. An EIS or NHE is completed by an ecologist, often employed at a science and engineering company, and aims to provide plans and recommendations for how a proposed redevelopment can fit with the surrounding natural environment. It demonstrates to the regulatory authorities the way in which your proposed redevelopment will respond to the policies and regulations mentioned above and helps to streamline the approval and permitting process. It is important to choose an ecologist who will collaborate with you, providing advice and input into your redevelopment plans. They offer an objective assessment of potential impacts development can have on the environment and will recommend ways to avoid or minimize potential adverse effects. Consulting ecologists are your advocates through the EIA/NHE process and strive to deliver mutually beneficial solutions that ensure your project meets the obligations of the related acts and policies.
With the right connection to people who can answer your questions and a consulting ecologist to provide solutions and alternatives, an EIA/NHE assessment is a key tool that will help make your redevelopments fit within the natural environment.
Give us a call and one of Cambium’s ecologists would be happy to provide further information and advice on Environmental Impact Studies or Natural Heritage Evaluations.