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Development Variance Permits

All lands within the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) are regulated by zoning. There are several different zones which outline numerous permitted uses and conditions of use. Included in these regulations are building setbacks from property lines and water features, and height restrictions.

Property features such as topography, rock, wetlands, and creeks can impact the available building envelope on a piece of land. Previous development of neighbouring properties can also pose a challenge when planning construction of your own. In these cases, the property owner has the option to apply to the ACRD for a development variance permit. If approved, this permit is registered to the property certificate of title and remains with the property through ownership changes.

A development variance permit can be issued to allow encroachment of a structure into a required setback from a property line or water feature or to exceed a height restriction. A variance cannot be issued to increase/ decrease permitted density or change permitted uses on a piece of land. The variance is very specific and applies only to the particular project that is proposed.

DevVar wordle The following procedure outlines the basic steps of the development variance permit process. Each application is unique and has the potential for various requirements to be satisfied prior to the issuance of the permit. It is recommended that all property owners who are considering development of property consult with the ACRD Planning Department prior to application in order to identify any additional steps that may be required.


1. Make an application. An Application for Development form can be obtained from the ACRD office and/or online. Payment of the applicable fee will be required. Click here for fee schedule.

2. Once the fee has been received, the proposal will be reviewed by the Planning Department. A report is prepared and will include recommendations and requirements to ensure compliance with all relevant regulations.

3. The documentation package (including report and application documents) will be submitted to the electoral area Advisory Planning Commission (APC) and Director for their review. The APC meeting is an informal public meeting of local volunteers who provide their recommendation(s) to the area Director. It is recommended that the applicant attend this meeting.

4. The documentation package is then forwarded to the Regional Board of Directors' meeting for their first consideration.

5. If the variance is supported by the Board, notification including details of the variance is sent by mail, and sometimes by hand delivery, to all property owners and occupants within 200 feet of the subject property. This is the public's opportunity to provide feedback, positive or negative, to the ACRD planning staff and Board members.

6. If the variance is not supported by the Board, the applicant is notified and given the opportunity to present their case at a following Board meeting. If the Board continues to oppose the variance, it is denied at this meeting. If the Board chooses to support the variance at this time, notification as outlined in step 5 is completed.

7. The development variance permit, along with a memorandum and any input received from the public, is forwarded to the Board for their second (and sometimes third) consideration. The Board considers issuing the permit taking into consideration the public input received.

8. Planning staff then forwards the completed development variance permit to the Victoria Land Title Office for registration onto the subject property.

IMPORTANT! Please Note: If at any stage, the proposal is not supported (ie. By the Planning Department, the APC, or the Regional Board), the applicant would be notified immediately and given the opportunity to amend the proposal and/or provide justification for the proposal as submitted.