Planning & Development

Application Process & Guides

The following guides provide information on the application and permit process for different types of development. Refer to the following sections for additional information on each type of development process.

  • Zoning in the ACRD is regulated by Zoning Bylaw No. 15, which applies to all six Electoral Areas within the ACRD.
  • Each Electoral Area has its own Official Community Plan (OCP) and Advisory Planning Commission (APC).
  • Each development application is unique and has the potential for various requirements to be satisfied prior to issuance or adoption, which in many cases involves review by the Electoral Area Advisory Planning Commission. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Advisory Planning Commissions
The authority to establish an Advisory Planning Commission (APC) is contained in Section 461 of the Local Government Act (LGA) and the Regional District's Advisory Planning Commission Bylaw No. A1045. Although it is not compulsory to have APCs, many Regional Districts choose to do so. In the ACRD, they provide invaluable local input into planning decisions and are heavily relied upon by both the Regional Board and Planning staff. There are six electoral areas within the ACRD, each with its own APC consisting of between five to 11 members. APC members are appointed by the Board of Directors.

APC members advise the electoral area Directors on planning matters referred to them for review. These include preparation and review of Official Community Plans and amendments, rezoning applications, temporary use permit applications, parcel frontage waiver applications, development variance permit applications, form and character development permit applications and in some circumstances, aspects of subdivision proposals and Crown lease referrals. More information on the ACRD APCs is available in the APC Handbook.
Short Term Vacation Rental Temporary Use Permit
Short Term Vacation Rental Temporary Use Permit (TUP) Guide

A short term vacation rental (STR) is the use of a dwelling unit for a temporary commercial accommodation for less than a month. In 2018, the Board of Directors adopted a STR Policy to consider Temporary Use Permit (TUP) applications to allow STRs in areas where zoning does not permit them. A business license is not required. These permits can be applied for through the ACRD and, if issued, permit a STR to operate on the property for up to three years (two years in the South Long Beach OCP area).

Temporary Use Permit
A Temporary Use Permit (TUP) is a type of permit issued by the ACRD after approval from the Board of Directors that allows a use on a property that would otherwise not be zoned for that use. TUPs allow for a short term variance of the Zoning Bylaw for commercial or industrial use. A TUP can be issued up to three years (two years in the South Long Beach OCP area) and renewed once for another three years (two in SLB OCP area) after which the property owner would need to either cease to use or apply to rezone to allow the use on a permanent basis.

Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) Applications
Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) Applications Guide

Land within the ALR is governed both by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) and ACRD bylaws and policies. It is important to familiarize yourself with ALC regulations, policies and bulletins as well as ACRD bylaws and policies before purchasing property within the ALR, purchasing building plans, clearing vegetation (e.g. brush, trees), bringing on fill, removing soil, excavating, or establishing/expanding a use. This includes creating new accesses and driveways.

Review the following agricultural resources first before contacting the ACRD Planning and Development Department to learn more about the use of ALR land, as well as the ALC. Most development applications received for properties within the ALR require approval of the ALC prior to Regional District approval. More information on agriculture in the ACRD and the agriculture committees is available here.

The ALR Use Regulation identifies uses of ALR land. ALR land owners who wish to pursue other uses or to subdivide their property must make an application under the ALC Act and secure approval from the ALC. The ALR General Regulation sets out application procedures.

The ALC provides a wealth of information, as does AgriService BC, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Development Permits
Development Permit Guide

An Official Community Plan (OCP) may designate areas of land as Development Permit Areas (DPAs) for protection of the natural environment and eco systems, protection for development from hazardous conditions, or establish objectives for the form and character of development. Each Electoral Area designates different DPAs. There are currently four DPA categories: Riparian Areas Protection, Natural Hazard Areas Protection, Coastal Protection and Form and Character. If a property owner is considering construction and/or development within any of the DPAs, approval of a development permit is required.

Summary of requirements for the development permit application process:

Development Variance Permits
Development Variance Permit Guide

There are several different zones in the Zoning Bylaw 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 (DVP). If approved, this permit is registered to the property certificate of title and remains with the property through ownership changes.

A DVP 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 property. The variance is very specific and applies only to the particular development that is proposed.

Official Community Plan (OCP) Amendment
Official Community Plan (OCP) Amendment Guide

As OCPs were developed on a broad community scale, it is sometimes necessary to make amendments based on individual development proposals on specific properties. These amendments may be required to facilitate subdivision, business development, and/or community services. This is where an application for an amendment to an OCP would be required.

Rezoning Guide

Rezoning is the process of changing the zoning of a property. The property owner or applicant can apply to have a property rezoned by an amendment to the Zoning Bylaw to obtain a different use or density that is not permitted under the current zone. The proposal must be consistent with the OCP or an amendment to the OCP will be required at the same time. Amendments to zoning can be required to accommodate a proposed use or facilitate a subdivision proposal. It is crucial that all rezoning proposals be reviewed and considered thoroughly to ensure compliance with every applicable regulation, and the end result is a positive enhancement to the community and is beneficial to its residents.

Subdivision Referral Guide

Subdivision is the process of altering legal property boundaries, usually dividing the property into smaller independent lots. This process may include several steps such as ALC approval, rezoning, OCP amendment, development variance permit, development permit, and/or minimum parcel frontage waiver. There are numerous factors to consider when planning a subdivision. These include environment, topography, surrounding neighbourhood, septic capability, potable water source, agency regulations, cost, design, and density, to name a few. In the ACRD, applications for subdivision are made to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI). MoTI refers the applications to other Provincial ministries, local governments, and technical agencies that may be affected by the proposal. When all required input is received, the application is forwarded to the Provincial Approving Officer for approval or denial.

This process differs from that of a Municipality as the they generally provide the majority of services internally. Each electoral area within the Regional District poses different scenarios as well. Some have water systems available where others require wells or other water sources. These details impact one's options when considering subdivision. Careful planning and a full awareness is crucial to creating a successful subdivision.