FAQs – Planning and Permits

What is a TRCA regulated area and how is it determined?

The regulated area represents the greatest physical extent of the combined hazards, plus a prescribed allowance, as set out in the Conservation Authorities Act. To find out if you may be in a regulated area, please use our online screening tool. Full information on determining the regulation limit can be found in TRCA’s Living City Policies, Appendix C.

How do I find out if the property I’m interested in is affected by TRCA’s regulations?

OPTION 1: Take advantage of TRCA’s Property Inquiry Service (Solicitor/Realtor/Compliance Search).

To assist potential buyers/sellers TRCA will provide an official letter that includes:

  • Whether a property is likely to be affected by Authority policies and regulations
  • What general restrictions/policies would apply
  • If there are any previous or outstanding violations on the property
  • A copy of a map of our regulated area (if available) if it intersects with the property.

This letter provides a formal record of the inquiry and provides valuable information to the client when making decisions to purchase, build on, re-grade or alter natural features on the site. In other cases, the letter serves as official confirmation that the property is not affected by Authority policies and regulations, and provides the client with added peace of mind.

TRCA staff cannot advise you on whether or not to purchase a property; we provide the facts to help you make an educated decision.

The fee for this service is $325. For more information on how to apply for this letter, please consult our Property Inquiry Submission Checklist. Due to the high volume of inquiries and the information required to conduct a review, TRCA focuses its inquiry service on written requests. Staff require at least two weeks to reply.

OPTION 2: Check Our Regulated Area Search Tool and Consult with TRCA Staff.

Use TRCA’s Regulated Area Search Tool HERE.

Note that the information in this tool is not intended to constitute advice nor is it to be used as a substitute for specific advice from a qualified professional. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based upon information shown in the viewer without verifying the information with TRCA staff and, as necessary, obtaining professional advice regarding your particular facts and circumstances.

OPTION 3: Speak with a Walk-in Planner at the TRCA Office.

For immediate planning assistance of a general nature, a walk-in planner is available between the hours of 8:30 am and 4:30 pm. However, this service cannot provide detailed advice. Detailed information about specific properties and proposals should be obtained by booking consultations with our planning staff in advance either via the phone or in person.

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If the property is regulated, how do I find out what I can build there if I were to purchase it?

Submit a Concept Development Application.

If you’re a potential buyer or seller seeking TRCA’s preliminary review of a specific development proposal for a specific property, your best course of action is to submit a Concept Development Application. The fee for this service is outlined in our Planning Fee Schedule. Payment can be provided via personal cheque addressed to Toronto and Region Conservation or by providing credit card information on the application form.

The Concept Development Application Service allows TRCA staff to:

  • Conduct a site visit on your property.
  • Review preliminary proposals.
  • Provide a comment letter on a preliminary proposal outlining TRCA’s preliminary position on what could be supported on a property, based on TRCA policies.

TRCA is under no obligation to meet real estate deadlines, in the instance of an offer to purchase. Providing adequate timing is the responsibility of the agent/owner/purchaser to resolve file review, potential meetings, and discussion on complex issues.

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Why are so many copies of documents, drawings and reports needed?

Depending on the scope and complexity of your project, TRCA Planning staff may need to circulate your proposal which includes relevant technical reports and drawings to our technical staff members for review. Each staff member in turn provides comments to your TRCA Planner.

In addition to the technical review that may be done, multiple copies are required as they will form part of your approval for a permit. These drawings, reports etc., will be stamped and approved. One copy is kept at the TRCA for our record, while additional copies will be provided to you and the respective municipality you live in.

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How long will it take for my permit to be issued?

Timelines may vary depending on the location of your property, the extent of the proposed works and the scope and complexity of technical studies required to effectively evaluate your proposal. For example, an in-ground pool that meets TRCA requirements and does not require any technical review may be processed in a few weeks depending on planner workload and commitments, while large scale projects which require a site walk and further technical study and review can take a number of months.

Can you e-mail/fax my permit to me?

As our permits are considered legal documents, e-mailing and/or faxing of these documents is not permitted. However, your TRCA Planner will mail your permit to the address you provide on your permit application. Additionally, if requested and/or indicated on your permit application, you may pick up your permit from our Head Office, located at 101 Exchange Avenue, Vaughan, ON during our business hours (Monday-Friday 8:30 am-4:30 pm).

Can my permit be refused or cancelled?

Permit applications made under Ontario Regulation 166/06 are assessed to determine if the proposed works will affect the control of flooding, erosion, dynamic beaches, pollution or the conservation of land in accordance with TRCA’s programs and policies. Recommendations are forwarded to TRCA’s Executive Committee, which decides whether to approve or refuse each application.

In addition, if TRCA staff are of the opinion that the conditions of a granted permission have not been met, then staff may also recommend that a previously approved permission be cancelled. Before cancelling, TRCA would give a notice of intent to cancel to the property owner.

If staff recommend refusal of a permit application or cancellation of an existing permit, then the owner may appeal to the TRCA’s Hearing Board. The owner will be notified of a hearing date which they or their agent may attend. Upon hearing presentations from TRCA staff and the owner or their agent, the Hearing Board will make a decision.

If the application is refused by the Hearing Board, then the applicant will be notified of the reasons in writing. Within 30 days of the notification, the applicant may appeal that decision to the Mining and Lands Tribunal. The Mining and Lands Tribunal has been assigned the authority, duties and powers of the Minister of Natural Resources & Forestry (MNRF) under the Ministry of Natural Resources Act to hear appeals from the decisions of conservation authorities regarding a refusal to grant permission for a permit.

The Mining and Lands Tribunal may dismiss the appeal or grant permission after a hearing. Please refer to Ontario Regulation 166/06 and the Hearing Guidelines prepared by Conservation Ontario and MNRF for the details of these procedures.

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How do I know if I can sever a property?

Severing within the natural system is generally prohibited under provincial policies. Lands containing the natural system (including natural features, natural hazards, buffers and any potential natural cover) should not be zoned for development, and not form part of the lots to be created or developed. Additional information on severances can be found in TRCA’s Living City Policies and Planning and Development Procedural Manual.

Does TRCA enforce the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, or Niagara Escarpment plans?

The Niagara Escarpment Commission interprets the NEP and assesses development proposals on lands within the NEP Area to ensure that it is in accordance with NEP policies. The Niagara Escarpment Commission and TRCA have an established partnership whereby TRCA staff provides technical review for Escarpment Development Permits.

The Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, Green Belt Plan and Growth Plan are implemented through Planning Act applications and municipalities are the final approval authorities. TRCA plays an ongoing key role in the implementation of the various Plans.

TRCA is a public commenting body under the Planning Act. We also have delegated authority to represent the provincial interest in natural hazards during the review of planning applications, and we act as a resource management agency operating on a local watershed basis. In this role, TRCA provides municipalities with technical advice in the interpretation of the Plans and their technical guides. TRCA’s review is separate from the municipal review.

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I am submitting an application for a minor variance, severance, plan of subdivision or other Planning Act Application to my municipality. How do I know if my development application will be circulated to the TRCA, and what do I do if it is?

First, find out if your property is located within a TRCA Area of Interest

Municipalities have access to TRCA screening maps which identify areas where there is a flood risk and/or specific natural feature of interest to the TRCA. In general, development applications wholly or partially within or adjacent to these areas will be circulated by the municipality to TRCA’s Planning and Development department for comment.

If your development proposal falls within or is adjacent to the screening area and/or is greater than five hectares, then your application will likely be forwarded to the TRCA by your municipality.

Next, if your project is in a TRCA Area of Interest, submit the appropriate Conservation Authority planning fee with your planning application

TRCA’s review is separate from the municipal review. Conservation Authorities within the Greater Toronto Area have set up a fee schedule to help cover the costs of administering plan review and technical clearance services. To ensure a streamlined review process please ensure that the appropriate Conservation Authority planning fee is attached to your application when you submit your documents to your local municipal planning department and that any additional supporting documents that TRCA staff have requested are included.

For a complete listing of fees please refer to the planning fee schedule. For information and advice please contact a TRCA planner for your area and/or review TRCA guidelines.

What Happens Next?

TRCA staff will determine how your proposal will affect or be affected by adjacent natural features. Authority staff will then forward comments to your municipality, recommending ways of protecting natural features and protecting your development from the threat of flooding and erosion.

If necessary, you will be advised to apply for a Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alterations to Shorelines and Watercourses permit under Ontario Regulation 166/06 or other Acts and regulations.

To support your proposal, you may be required to submit additional information (i.e. environmental inventory/assessment, sediment control plan, restoration/rehabilitation/landscape plans or engineering reports if applicable). Other requirements may include surveys/studies of natural features and/or hazard lands such as floodplain mapping and geotechnical reports.

If TRCA staff have comments, the applicant should address any conditions/comments (TRCA permit requirements, engineering studies, site meetings, etc.) before TRCA can provide clearance to the local municipality. Once TRCA conditions/comments have been addressed, TRCA clearance for the planning application is provided to the local municipality.

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Why do I pay so many different fees?

TRCA charges fees for the delivery of its services, which includes acting as both a commenting body for our municipal and Regional partners, and as a regulatory approval body which issues associated permits for development. As such, we require fees to cover the true cost of the services we provide. It is also why we have two fee schedules, one for planning services which provides comments to our municipal/Regional partners under the Planning Act, and one for permitting services, providing approvals under the Conservation Authorities Act.