Issues with Environmentally Protected areas

“Are you looking for waterfront? Are you looking for a place to build your dream house? Then look no further than this nature lover’s paradise.” This could be the listing description for any number of vacant lots in the County – just like the aerial photo of the hypothetical listing shown above.

Property aerial view

However, to avoid a nasty surprise later, you or your buyer agent should do a thorough review of the Official Plan and zoning before making an offer.

Waterfront, wetlands and creeks (watercourses) present some special issues.

To illustrate: the aerial photo shows a lot with 150 feet of frontage on the road and plenty of depth. It looks like there should be a lot of flexibility in terms of where to build on the property.

Vacant land zoning

A review of zoning for the property (above) on the Municipality’s Geographic Information System shows that much of the lot is zoned RU2, Rural 2, which allows a home to be built, as long as it’s setback 50 feet from the road and 15 feet from the side of the lot.

However, the part zoned EP-W is the fly in the ointment. Conservation authority rules prohibit development within 30 meters (98 feet) of the edge of an area zoned Environmentally Protected – Wetland.

Vacant land building site

When the setbacks from the EP-W zone and RU2 zoning are considered, the only place to build is in the area outlined in red.

Now comes the truly nasty surprise: a house with well and septic system cannot be built in the white area because it is too small, about one-third the size of a typical bungalow (even without considering the septic field.)

This has been a hypothetical situation, but if you think I’m being alarmist, you should know that twice in the last month I have reviewed similar lots for buyers, only to find that they were “un-buildable”.

The moral: before you make an offer on vacant land, much sure you know the zoning, the allowable uses, and the setbacks required from lot lines and environmentally protected areas.


  1. Very informative and interesting. I am considering a purchase of EP – W land.
    Now I need to figure out if and where I can build a home?

    • Thank you for your comment. Care should be exercised if you are purchasing property which contains an area designated EP-W. No development is permitted on the portion designated EP-W nor within 30 meter of the border. The borders of wetlands shown on the County’s Geographic Information System are approximate. In order to avoid a bad surprise -buying a property and then discovering you can’t build where intended- Quinte Conservation, Planning & Regulations Department should be contacted to survey and mark the boundaries of the EP zone and identify where you can build (for a fee, of course). It would also be wise to have a look at the treatment of EP zones included in the new draft of the Official Plan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.