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.

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