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Any local government that has adopted a zoning bylaw or rural land use bylaw must establish a Board of Variance (BOV). See Section 536 of the British Columbia Local Government Act. The Board of Variance is an independent board consisting of three volunteer members of the public who have been appointed by the Board of the Regional District. These members may not be an officer or employee of the local government; they do not have representation on the Regional District Board of Directors.
The Board of Variance reviews applications and makes decisions on minor variances to zoning and rural land use bylaws when it is illustrated by the applicant that compliance would cause undue hardship. Click here to read the Board of Variance Bylaw.
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Zoning is a land management tool used by local governments to separate uses. Each of the nine Electoral Areas has a Zoning Bylaw with regulations specific for each zone, including; use, density and siting (e.g. setbacks). Permitted uses are identified for each zone additionally, each Zoning Bylaw is equipped with a section on definitions and general regulations. The CVRD web map can help you quickly determine what your property is zoned. For more information on how to use the Web Map see "What is the Web Map and how do I use it?"
The online Web Map allows anyone to search their property and find important information like zoning, OCP designations, development permit areas, service areas and more. To use the Web Map simply go to the Web Map and click on desktop icon (see image #1). From there a disclaimer statement will appear, click 'accept'. The map will launch and show the entire Regional District. To find your property you can either search by scrolling in and navigating to it, or use the address tool or parcel identifier (PID) for bare land (see image #2). Once you have found the property, use the 'identify tool' (top left - see image #3) by clicking on the tool and then on the property. By doing this, information should populate on the left side. From there you can click on any of the items shown in that list for more information. Links to other relevant bylaws are also provided (see image #4).
Riparian areas can be defined as the area of land adjacent to a watercourse or body of water, a ditch, spring or wetland, whether or not usually containing water (see image below). The entire CVRD is within a Riparian Protection Development Permit Area (DPA). It is the responsibility of the property owner(s) to ensure there are no activities in the riparian area, or apply for a development permit. For more information on Riparian Areas, please click here.
For visualization purposes only.
Subdivision is the process of altering legal property boundaries. It usually involves the dividing of a property into smaller lots. It can also include the realignment of existing property lines or the consolidation of two or more lots into a single lot. To subdivide land within an Electoral Area of the CVRD an applicant must apply to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI). A Provincial approving officer, appointed by the B.C. government, approves subdivision plans in regional district electoral areas after all requirements are met. The CVRD is referred the application from the Ministry and considers minimum parcel size (found in each of the 8 zoning bylaws), and development permit requirements (found in the Official Community Plan).
The following are types of subdivisions where approval of the Approving Officer is required:
Minimum parcel sizes and subdivision regulations are determined in the Zoning Bylaw (please note that each electoral area may have their own zoning bylaw, and each zone within the bylaw has its own minimum parcel size). Minimum parcel sizes depend on the level of servicing (e.g. community water and sewer services) - typically, the minimum parcel size will decrease as the level of servicing on a property increases. For example, a lot that is on well and septic will have a larger minimum parcel size than a lot that is serviced by community water and sewer. To determine if your property is, or can be, serviced with community water and/or sewer, please consult the Web Map and ensure the 'Utility' layers are checked on.
In addition, to the minimum parcel size, general subdivision regulations also apply. These refer to the subdivision of lots severed by a road, another parcel or jurisdictional boundary; boundary adjustments/parcel realignments; subdivision of parcels containing a water body, watercourse or wetland; panhandle parcels etc. Note: each zoning bylaw contains its own general subdivision regulations and it is important to know which electoral area your parcel is within.
An accessory dwelling unit, also known as granny suite, separate suite, small suite or carriage house, is a smaller house located on the same lot as a single-family dwelling. The building can be purpose built or may be a conversion of/or to an existing garage or accessory building. The maximum permitted size of these units varies across electoral areas and can be found in the applicable Zoning Bylaw.
Accessory dwelling units are allowed in many zones throughout the CVRD (with the exception of Area G). This specific use, however, depends on the size of the property and the level of servicing. To find out if your zoning allows an accessory dwelling unit first check the specific zone in the zoning bylaw, then confirm the size of your property meets the minimum parcel size required depending on its level of servicing. Not sure what your zoning is? Check out our Web Map! Please make sure to check with the Building Department for code and permit requirements prior to undertaking any work.
A secondary suite is a self-contained residential unit within a home. They can be located in a basement of a dwelling or attached at ground level to the dwelling. The CVRD zoning bylaws for each electoral area regulates the maximum size of the secondary suite and do vary by electoral area. Always consider the specific zone, general regulations and definitions when determining eligibility for a secondary suite. To find out if your zoning allows a secondary suite on your property, first check the specific zone in the zoning bylaw, then confirm the size of your property meets the minimum parcel size required depending on its level of servicing. Not sure what your zoning is? Check out our Web Map!
Secondary suites are permitted in many residential zones throughout the CVRD. This specific use, however, depends on the size of the property and its level of servicing (e.g. connection to water and sewer). To find out if your zoning allows a secondary suite on your property, first check the specific zone in the zoning bylaw, then confirm the size of your property meets the minimum parcel size required depending on its level of servicing. Not sure what your zoning is? Check out our Web Map!
The Official Community Plan describes the long-term vision of the nine Electoral Areas that make up the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD). The plan includes objectives and policies that guide decisions on planning and land use management which impact our communities' sustainability and resilience. Regional Districts have the authority to develop official community plans under the Local Government Act.
After the adoption of an official community plan, all bylaws enacted or works undertaken by the Regional District must be consistent with the plan. However, the official community plan does not require the local government to proceed with any works or projects mentioned in the plan. Official community plans must include certain plan statements and map designations and may also contain optional policy statements and development permit area designations. Other federal and B.C. government guidelines and requirements may influence the content of an official community plan.
If a local government chooses to prepare and adopt an official community plan, it must have statements and map designations for:
Development Permit Areas (DPAs) require permits under certain circumstances. Local governments have the authority to designate development permit areas in an official community plan. These identify locations that need special treatment for certain purposes including the protection of development from hazards, establishing objectives for form and character in specified circumstances, or revitalization of a commercial use area. This authority can also be used to achieve climate action goals for energy conservation, water conservation and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Unless a development permit is obtained, development in such areas is restricted.
If an official community plan designates development permit areas, then the implementing guidelines may be located in the official community plan or in the zoning bylaw.
A Development Permit (DP) is a land use permit used by local governments to review proposed developments to ensure they meet the policies and objectives of the Official Community Plan (OCP), and satisfy all required regulations in the zoning bylaw. A Development Permit may specify requirements respecting the character of development, including landscaping, and the siting, form, exterior design and finish of buildings and structures; environmental protection; protection from hazardous conditions and protection of farming. DP's may also impose conditions respecting the sequencing and timing of construction. Within designated Development Permit Areas (DPAs) land must not be subdivided or altered and buildings or structures cannot be constructed or altered, unless the owner has first obtained a DP. Once approved (by the General Manager or CVRD Board), the DP is registered against the title of the land and becomes binding on future land owners.
If you are planning to develop your property and it's located within one or more Development Permit Areas (DPAs), you will need a Development Permit (DP) prior to obtaining a Building Permit or obtaining subdivision approval, unless otherwise exempt. It is important to remember, a DP is not a building permit. To find out if your project requires a DP application you can call staff or follow the instructions below:
A Development Variance Permit (DVP) is a land use permit used by local governments to 'vary' or relax a regulation. A DVP is required whenever proposed development does not meet a regulation in a zoning bylaw, sign bylaw, subdivision bylaw or parking bylaw. Examples of regulations that may be varied include building setbacks, height or site coverage. Keep in mind - a DVP cannot vary land use or density. In order to do change a land use or the density of that use you will require a rezoning application. DVP applications are discretionary, which means depending on the merits of the situation it may be denied. All DVPs are first heard by the Electoral Areas Services Committee (EASC) and then approved/denied by the CVRD Board.
If your proposed development does not conform to the regulations of a development bylaw (e.g. zoning bylaw), you will need a Development Variance Permit (DVP). DVPs cannot vary land use or density (e.g. minimum parcel size), but can vary the siting and height of a building. Keep in mind, these applications are discretionary, meaning it could be denied. All options to satisfy the bylaw requirements should be exhausted prior to making an application to vary the regulation.
An Official Community Plan (OCP) Amendment application is required when a proposed development does not conform to the land use designation(s) of the OCP. An amendment is the process of legally changing the land use designation on a property through an amending bylaw. The approval process for an OCP Amendment is similar to a Rezoning Application – a bylaw amendment and a Public Hearing are required before the Board adopts an OCP Amendment. In some instances, an OCP Amendment must be made before a change to zoning can occur, and the amendment applications (OCP and Rezoning) typically occur in tandem.
When the Electoral Areas Services Committee (EASC) and CVRD Board assess new development proposals, they are required to determine whether the project is consistent with the OCP. This is done by considering the proposal based on its designation in the OCP, and through an OCP policy assessment that is done by Planning staff. Amendments to the OCP are carefully assessed, as each new proposal should help contribute to the community achieving its visions and goals.
There are some occasions where a proposal is consistent with the goals and visions of the OCP, but is in conflict with the existing OCP land use designation or specific OCP policies. In this instance, an OCP Amendment may be required.
If your proposed development does not align with the objectives, policies and land use designation(s) specified in the Official Community Plan (OCP), an application to amend the OCP will be required. Keep in mind, a strong rationale must be provided to Planning staff explaining why your proposal cannot align with existing policies and regulations.
A Rezoning Application is an application to amend the Zoning Bylaw. The purpose of rezoning is to change land use regulations to allow development that aligns with CVRD Board priorities and is often used to secure development contributions to help provide public amenities.
While conditions such as building setbacks or height can be varied through a Development Variance Permit (DVP), changing the permitted uses or allowable density in a particular zone requires a change to the zoning bylaw through a rezoning application. if your intention is to use your property for a use not currently permitted under the existing zoning you will need to apply to change it.
Although 'Air B&B Inc.' is a specific short term rental marketing company, it is commonly used as a blanket term when talking about short term rentals. Zones that permit short term rentals are limited in the CVRD. Bed and breakfast short term rentals are permitted within most single-family dwellings, however they are regulated, and generally require that it be contained within a single family dwelling (not an accessory building), and that the owner reside in the single family dwelling. To determine if your property is within one of these areas, please consult the Zoning Bylaw to determine the permitted uses on your property. You can find your zone and a link to the zoning bylaw using the Web Map. Note: secondary suites and accessory dwelling units/detached suites are typically intended for long term rentals.
The CVRD does not have a tree cutting bylaw. The CVRD does, however, regulate the cutting of trees in certain areas that have been designated as a Development Permit Area (DPA) and may even prohibit the cutting of trees and other vegetation. The Riparian Area Protection DPA is one of these areas that will require a permit prior to cutting or removal of any vegetation. Other areas that may require a permit prior to cutting trees are areas designated as a sensitive ecosystem and/or steep slope.
Tree cutting should occur during identified low-risk timing periods (mid-September to January). If tree cutting must occur outside this time window, a thorough nest search should be conducted. Removal or modification of a nest tree requires written permission (permit) from the Province (MoE) and may also require a federal permit.
Chickens are becoming a popular land use activity as more people look to their own yards to provide some food security. Before you start your chicken coop plans, be sure to check your Zoning Bylaw to ensure that chickens and/or livestock are a permitted use on your property. Keep in mind that the zoning bylaw for each electoral area may address chickens differently - in some areas such as Electoral Areas A and C, there are specific regulations for the keeping of chickens while in other zoning bylaws the 'Agriculture' use covers all livestock. Be sure to read through your zone thoroughly and don't forget to check out the definitions at the beginning of the zoning bylaw for additional clarity.
No. An RV is a recreational vehicle designed to be used as temporary quarters for recreational, camping or travel use. Currently in the CVRD, RVs are not a permitted use in any of the zoning bylaws because RVs do not meet the BC Building Code regulations for dwellings.
A Building Permit (BP) is typically needed for the construction of any structure over 10m2. You may also require a BP for any structural changes proposed to an existing building. For more information regarding the building permit process, please visit the Building Inspection webpage.
No. The CVRD does not have the necessary legislative powers to require business licenses. Please note that any construction or renovation work for a new business (e.g. new kitchen), may require a development permit and/or a building permit. A sign permit may also be required for any new signage (or the alteration of existing ones). You may also want to check with the Building Inspection Division that the building you are conducting your business in meets the BC Building Code requirements (e.g. certain uses have specific fire safety building requirements in the Building Code). Note: the zoning bylaws do regulate ‘home based businesses’, which regulate the size of the business space, parking and signage.
To see whether or not your property is within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) go to the online Web Map and search your property by scrolling, using an address or parcel identifier (PID). Once you have located your property, use the 'identify' tool (top left) and click on your property. Information should populate on the left with information like your zoning, and OCP designation. If your property is in the ALR you will see it listed in the items on the left. Please note: This mapping service is for general reference only. Mapping errors can occur.
You may also consult the Agricultural Land Commission Mapping System. Note: If your property falls within the ALR, additional regulations may apply.
The BC Building Code requires all dwellings to be code compliant, have permanent foundations and be connected to an approved septic system. It is not the size that counts, but the connection to services and compliance with the BC Building Code. The zoning bylaws regulate the maximum size of a dwelling but not the minimum (except some in Area D). Note: tiny homes on wheels, or recreational vehicles on wheels, are not permitted to be used as full time dwellings because they do not meet BC Building Code Regulations.
While conditions such as building setbacks or height can be varied through a Development Variance Permit (DVP), changing the permitted uses or allowable density in a particular zone requires a change to the zoning bylaw through a rezoning application. If your intention is to use your property for a use not currently permitted under the existing zoning you will need to apply to change it.
Zoning bylaws rarely have this information listed in the particular zone but rather details their specifics under separate sections. In the first few pages of the zoning bylaws you will find an index, which can be used to find the ‘General Regulations’. These sections apply broadly across all zones and include regulations for accessory buildings, suites, home-based businesses and much more.
Although we don't require a building permit for the construction of a fence, we do regulate the height of fences in the zoning bylaw. Make sure to check the 'general regulations' section in the zoning bylaw before you dig.