Zoning FAQ

For more information please contact:

Planning & Development Department
Email: planning@slrd.bc.ca

What is zoning?

Zoning is a way of regulating the use of land by assigning parcels of land to particular categories that include a specific range of permitted uses, permitted densities and siting regulations, for example.  Zoning is the primary method of implementing the policies that are described in the Official Community Plans.

In many cases there will be a number of overlapping permitted uses and other regulations, but between each of those categories there will also be some differences. For example, often the minimum permitted lot sizes in agricultural areas is larger than in commercial or residential areas, to reflect the typical pattern of needing larger lots for farming. Likewise, often commercial neighbourhoods have smaller setback requirements, like a typical village street where the store front is right beside the sidewalk, not up a driveway.

How does zoning affect me?

Zoning sets up categories of regulation, usually based on a particular land use such as ‘residential’, ‘commercial’ or ‘agriculture’. This means that for property owners the types of uses that are permitted on their land is set out in the bylaw. This provides many benefits by separating non-compatible uses from each other, such as an industrial factory in a residential neighbourhood or beside an elementary school. This also sets out common rules for everyone in the zone to abide by, and can help provide certainty for residents and potential residents about what could occur on lands adjacent to theirs.

How do I find out what zone my property is?

Launch the publicly available GIS map here: http://maps.slrd.bc.ca/public/

You can click on the User Guide to learn how to really master the system: http://maps.slrd.bc.ca/public/docs/UserGuide.pdf

Or email planning@slrd.bc.ca with your request, and the property identification info, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.

What if I want to do something that the zoning doesn't allow?

It depends on the exact ‘something’, but generally speaking if you want to do something different with respect to the use or density of the land (like industrial activity instead of residential, or five houses instead of one you would apply for a Zoning Amendment to change the zoning to allow your proposal.

If what you wanted to do was in relation to a different part of the regulations, like the siting of your building, or the height of it, then you could apply for a Development Variance Permit (DVP) to allow that particular variance to the normal regulations.

Another option for variance requests would be to apply to the Board of Variance. Boards of Variance are separate from the DVP process and having applied for one doesn’t preclude application for the other.

Depending on the nature of your proposal, these processes can range from relatively simple to quite complex, and can vary in the amount of time and resources required to see the application through to a decision.

Where are short-term rentals permitted in the SLRD?

Short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, are only permitted in Residential Tourist Accommodation Zones. As such, most areas in the SLRD do not allow for this use.

Short-Term Rentals versus Bed and Breakfast

Residential Tourist Accommodation Zones allow for the use of single-family dwellings for temporary tourist accommodation during periods when such dwellings are not occupied for residential use. 

Bed and breakfast use provides for an accessory use of a single family dwelling where the bed and breakfast is operated by a person or persons whose ordinary and principal residence is within such single family dwelling. Additionally, the bed and breakfast must be located within the single family dwelling, with not more than 4 guest rooms serving a maximum of 8 persons in total. To be clear, bed and breakfast use is not meant to be a turn-key operation and does not provide for short-term rentals.

Note that a dwelling used as a bed and breakfast requires a change of use permit - from a single family dwelling to a single family dwelling with a B&B - to ensure safety requirements set out in the BC Building Code are met. For more information, visit the Bed and Breakfasts in the SLRD page.   

How do SLRD zoning bylaws address recreational vehicles and tiny homes?

A recreational vehicle may be parked/stored on a property, but is not meant to be used for permanent or rental dwelling purposes. A recreational vehicle may be used as temporary* living or sleeping quarters, but cannot be connected to services associated with a principal dwelling.

* Temporary means a total of less than four consecutive weeks in a calendar year.

A tiny home on wheels/trailers is considered a recreational vehicle. A tiny home sited on a permanent foundation is considered a dwelling unit, and is subject to zoning, septic approval and building permits. 

See the difference between Dwelling Units and Recreational Vehicles here

What is a rezoning and when do I need one?

Whenever a change in land use is contemplated, a rezoning is required if the proposed use is not permitted under the existing zoning. A rezoning implies a change in the Zoning Bylaw that would enable the change in land use to occur.

Any change in land use or density will require a new zoning amendment bylaw to be adopted in order to amend the existing zoning on the land. 

Rezoning can be a complex and time consuming process.  It involves pre-application consultation, review of the proposal by staff, drafting of a zoning amendment bylaw, referrals to government agencies, a public hearing and in some cases, approval by provincial ministries.

A relatively simple rezoning takes at least 3 or 4 months.  A major rezoning can take a year or longer.  

If you would like to apply for a rezoning, please contact the SLRD Planning and Development Services Department, or for general information on zoning amendments, consult the Guide to Zoning Amendments.

How often are zoning bylaws reviewed?

It is customary that zoning bylaws be reviewed every 5-10 years, or after the adoption of a new Official Community Plan, since the policies of the plan are the basis for the zoning regulations. This is done to ensure that the regulations reflect the needs of the community and don’t become out of date. 

Isn't the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) a form of zoning?

The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) is a provincial zone in which agriculture is recognized as the priority use. It is different from zoning under a Regional District bylaw. The ALR is administered by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC). The ALC is an independent Provincial agency whose purpose is to preserve agricultural land, encourage farming in collaboration with other communities of interest and to encourage local governments, First Nations and the government to enable and accommodate farm use of agricultural land in their plans, policies and bylaws (excerpted from ALC website).

Please visit the ALC website for more information about how the ALC and the ALR work.

The process for applications for development on lands in the ALR is separate from the processes under the Regional District regulations. In some cases proposed development will require the permission of both the ALC and the Regional District, in other cases it will be only the ALC. ALC regulations apply only to land that is actually within the ALR, so for a parcel that is partially within the ALR and partially outside it, the ALC regulations apply only to the portion of the land that is physically within the ALR boundary, not the entire parcel.