Cumulative effects are extremely hard to manage in any approval process. By definition, the person or project seeking an individual approval does not usually control the other sources of cumulative impact. Nor is the necessary information about the other actual or potential impacts usually before the decision-maker. Occasionally, however, both of these obstacles can be overcome.
In Vasarinsh v. Niagara Escarpment Commission, the Niagara Escarpment Hearing Office declined to approve a proposed recreational development, because of the absence of sufficient evidence as to the cumulative impact of the proposed development and other phases that were predicted to follow. “In this case, … the future development of the park is relevant to the issue of cumulative impact, given that Burlington has decided to segment the submission of development permit applications. Generally speaking, it is preferable for applicants to submit comprehensive applications for an integrated development proposal rather than to segment a project with smaller components and phases. Nevertheless, in this case there is a management plan that clearly outlines the overall design and layout of the Park. Hence the Hearing Officer has an evidentiary basis on which to examine the cumulative impact of the development as a whole.
The future plans for the site are better known in this case than in other situations where the issue of cumulative impact arises … it is important to consider future unapproved developments that may impact the “site proper”. … while the Hearing Officer finds that the three soccer fields proposed in this present development permit application are in accordance with the Niagara Escarpment Plan, the uses for [the Park] as envisioned in the management plan are too intensive for a Park within the NEPOSS. Although major components of the present development permit application are in accordance with Niagara Escarpment Plan, the Hearing Officer finds that further development of the Park as envisioned under the management plan … would in its totality have cumulative impacts … not in keeping with the natural character of the escarpment environment.”