• So You need a Record of Site Condition.. Part 1

  • In Ontario a Record of Site Condition (RSC) is legally required when a property is to be changed to a more sensitive land use (e.g. from Industrial or Commercial to Residential). The legislation was formally adopted in 2011, but I still take a lot of calls from prospective clients who are caught by surprise when faced with the prospect of obtaining an RSC, and are even more shocked when they find out the potential costs. For true Brownfield developers and experienced environmental consultants this is nothing new, and the costs and efforts to obtain the RSC are just part of the process when redeveloping an old industrial site to a new residential or mixed-use development. This blog is directed to the those unfamiliar with the RSC process, especially eager new purchasers who don’t want to pass up a great deal on a commercial-type property on which to build their dream home; and also to consultants who are new to the RSC regime.  

    Do your Homework
    As noted, an RSC is mandatory for a change to a more sensitive land use. However, some municipalities could also request the RSC as part of Site Plan Approval, change in zoning, building permit, or land transfer (e.g. for a road widening or parkland dedication). It is very important to confirm for yourself with the appropriate municipal or regulatory agencies (in writing, if possible) whether the RSC will be required to meet your objectives for the property.
    In some cases (other than land use change), you may be able to negotiate with the municipality to waive the RSC requirements, or substitute something more cost effective like a CSA-compliant Environmental Site Assessment (ESA). If you are purchasing a property to build or redevelop, this is an important issue that the vendor, realtor, lender or other stakeholders may not tell you, or even be aware of.

    Talk to an Expert
    If you do in fact require the RSC, talk to a qualified environmental consultant before you finalize an offer or close the deal. If you have already purchased, or already own the property that requires the RSC, it is still important to consult with an experienced professional throughout the process. In order to file the RSC for regulatory acknowledgement, the owner will need to retain a licensed and insured Professional Geoscientist or Professional Engineer who is registered as a Qualified Person (QP) with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP). As this can sometimes devolve into a long and expensive project it is very important that you find a qualified QP, who is experienced in preparing RSC; and one who takes the time to answer your questions.

    I suggest talking to several consultants, to find someone you can trust to look after your interests, and move your project forward in a timely and cost-effective manner. Check with friends, family and colleagues who may know a suitable candidate, and check the qualifications, references and insurance of a prospective consultant before entering into a contract.

    The level of work and associated costs required to successfully obtain the RSC can vary greatly with site specific conditions (more on that in next month’s blog). The costs and quality of service can also range widely from consultant to consultant. Given the magnitude of potential costs and the delays and aggravation resulting from an improperly prepared RSC; it’s important to shop around, compare prices and scope of work; and look for the best value, not just the lowest base price.

    Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA
    Bill is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (www.aesac.ca); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at