Why is the RNHS important?

The RNHS was developed to protect important environmental features within Halton Hills and throughout the Region of Halton.

What is the Regional Natural Heritage System (RNHS)?

The RNHS are areas that have environmental features such as wetlands, flooded areas, watercourses, and 30 metre buffers around these features. Additional lands are also included in the RNHS that link natural features together and enhance the system.  For this reason, some lands without any environmental features (such as some currently cultivated fields) may be included in the RNHS. 

How do I know if the RNHS mapping affects my property?

Mapping is available on the project webpage. Enter your civic address (rural emergency address) to identify if any part of your property is within the area that may be affected. If you need assistance, please call a staff member at 905-873-2601 ext. 3605.

What are the implications of being within the RNHS?

The policies of the Regional Official Plan restrict certain types of development within the RNHS and in some cases, within a certain distance of the RNHS.  The distance from the RNHS varies depending on the type of development. For some types of developments, the new policies require that a property owner prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to demonstrate that the development will not negatively impact the RNHS. 

Can the Town modify the RNHS mapping prepared by the Region?

The Regional Official Plan requires the Town to implement the RNHS mapping as presented. However, the Regional Official Plan does permit refinements to the mapping if an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is completed and/or the Region is provided with evidence that the RNHS mapping is inaccurate.  Assessment (EIA) is completed and/or the Region is provided with evidence that the RNHS mapping is inaccurate. 

Can the Town exempt certain types of development from requiring an EIA?

It may be possible for the Town to exempt certain types of development from requiring an EIA, such as the construction of accessory buildings, decks, swimming pools and building additions, however this topic requires more discussion with the Region of Halton. 

What is an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)?

An EIA is a study completed by a qualified professional that identifies the environmental features that may be affected by proposed development. It is used to confirm the location and boundaries of the feature and then assesses the impacts of the proposed development on that feature. 

What impact will the RNHS mapping have on agriculture?

All existing agricultural uses are permitted to continue. It is possible however, that new agricultural buildings proposed within the RNHS or within 120 metres of the RNHS may require an EIA. Determination of the need for an EIA depends on the size of the building, the sensitivity of the environmental feature and the location of the building. 

How does the RNHS mapping affect development on vacant parcels of land?

New development on vacant parcels of land may be affected by the RNHS, depending on the size of the building, the sensitivity of the environmental feature and the location of the building. The owners of vacant lots are encouraged to review the mapping very carefully to determine if the new mapping affects their property. 

How does the new RNHS affect properties that are already the site of an existing house?

The house and all legally constructed accessory buildings would be recognized as existing uses. Any new uses or expansions to existing homes may be impacted by the new RNHS depending on what is proposed, its location in relation to the boundary of the RNHS and the sensitivity of the environmental feature that is on or near the property. 

What are the impacts of the RNHS if my property is subject to the Niagara Escarpment Plan?

In cases such as these, the Niagara Escarpment Commission is the approval authority and is responsible for issuing development permits for development and site alteration. When considering development permit applications, the Niagara Escarpment Commission will take into account the RNHS policies established in the Region of Halton Official Plan.

If an EIA is required for new development on my property, what options will the Town consider in terms of the process to be followed?

There are a few options available under the Planning Act to determine if an EIA is required. The process may involve the lifting of a holding provision, entering into a Site Plan Agreement  or approval of a minor variance.  Further details on the types of processes being considered by the Town are found in other FAQs and in the discussion paper on the Town’s website.

What is a holding provision?

A holding provision is placed on properties in the Town’s Zoning By-law and requires that a condition must be met before certain things can happen on a site. For example, the Town could place a holding provision on properties to determine if an EIA is required prior to building an addition or a new agricultural building. If it is determined that an EIA is required, the holding provision would be removed upon the successful completion of the EIA allowing the property owner to proceed with their plans. 

In order to have a holding provision lifted, staff must prepare a report for Council recommending the hold be lifted. 

What is a site plan?

A site plan is a drawing, or set of drawings that illustrate where things are on a property such as the location of buildings, driveways, parking areas, pedestrian sidewalks, landscaping, fences, etc. To determine if a site plan is required, a building permit must be submitted and then through the site plan process, it would be determined if an EIA would be required. 

What is a minor variance?

A minor variance is an application that is submitted requesting that a proposed development be permitted to vary slightly from the requirements outlined in the zoning by-law.  In this instance, any development within a certain distance of a key environmental feature would require a minor variance, which would trigger the requirement for preparation of an EIA. A minor variance is considered by the Committee of Adjustment, which is a committee of Council and the Committee of Adjustment meets once a month.