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Is your retaining wall in an area regulated by a Conservation Authority ?

You might be far from a ravine or greenspace. Still, your property might be in a restricted zone regulated by a Conservation Authority. Regulated areas can sometimes encompass large areas several kilometers from a watercourse. Therefore, it is always a good idea to visit the website of the relevant Conservation Authority and inquire by simply entering your postal address. This quick and free service offered by most Conservation Agencies will save you many headaches and costs further along the project. Below are the links to a few Conservation Agencies in the GTA.

Grand River Conservation Authority
Hamilton Conservation Authority
Niagara Escarpment Commission
Niagara Conservation Authority
Halton Conservation Authority
Credit Valley Conservation Authority
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

Suppose your property is within a restricted zone. In that case, you must apply for a building permit from the relevant Conservation Authority to replace an existing retaining wall.

In most situations, the following documents are mandatory to apply for a building permit from a Conservation Authority:

  • A stamped engineering drawing.
  • A Site Plan showing the location of the retaining wall on a survey plan.
  • A Slope Stability Assessment by a Geotechnical engineer.
  • A Topographic Survey Plan.
  • An Arborist Report (if trees will be removed or injured during the retaining wall construction).

Each situation is unique, and the type of supporting documents needed will vary depending on the location and complexity of the retaining wall. For example, sites close to a watercourse generally have more stringent requirements. Most Conservation Agencies would visit the site to assess the conditions. They will assist you in determining which documents you must submit to support your building permit. It would be a good idea to allocate a minimum of 8-10 months to complete these reports and apply for a building permit.

Suppose you do not have an existing retaining wall but would like to build one. Generally, Conservation Authorities rarely grant permission to build new structures on regulated lands. To build a new retaining wall in a regulated area, a Geotechnical Engineer must provide a Slope Stability Assessment supporting the construction of a new retaining wall to stabilize the deteriorating slope. In essence, the unstable slope must pose a risk to other existing structures for a building permit application to be successful.

Pick an experienced retaining wall contractor before you schedule a meeting with a representative from a Conservation Authority. It is ultimately the responsibility of the retaining wall contractor to construct the proposed retaining wall successfully. Therefore, having them on board from the project’s inception to coordinate with all the relevant stakeholders would be the most efficient approach. Each stakeholder would be responsible for their specific field of responsibility, and having an experienced contractor to coordinate between often competing interests would influence the success of your project heavily.

The retaining wall contractor, Structural Engineer, and Geotechnical Engineer must agree on the retaining wall’s design and construction. The last thing you would want is an approved retaining wall design ready for construction, but unfeasible because the site can’t support machinery large enough to move the 2-ton blocks or the 12′ deep foundations the design specifies.

Finally, the Conservation Authority will likely require a Letter of Completion as a condition of the building permit approval. A Letter of Completion is a certified report issued by a Structural Engineer who holds a P.Eng. The engineer will review the construction of the retaining wall at different stages and certify that the retaining wall has been built as per the approved design and specifications. Even if a Letter of Completion is not mandatory, it is an excellent idea to have an independent Structural Engineer review the construction of the retaining wall and issue a Letter of Completion. Also, consider it as insurance on your significant investment.

We provide in-house design services and have extensive experience working with every City in the Greater Hamilton and Greater Toronto Areas. We also offer Stamped Design drawings, Slope Stability Assessments, Arborist Reports, and Letters of Completion.

Contact us today for a free consultation. We would happily provide an innovative solution for your retaining wall project.

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