Community Charter


Municipalities have always had the right of possession of local highways but ownership was in the name of the province. The Community Charter gives municipalities ownership of most municipal highways. Only routes designated as arterial highways pursuant to the Transportation Act and the roads and lands described in Section 35(2) of the Community Charter remain in the possession of the Crown. This provides municipalities with the general authority to do the following, subject to provincial legislation:

  • to regulate, prohibit and impose requirements in relation to highways as a service
  • to regulate and prohibit all uses of a highway
  • to restrict the common law right of public passage over a highway
  • to make agreements with persons in relation to the regulation of extraordinary traffic

Since municipalities now own local highways (subject to the provincial right of resumption), provisions have been established if a municipality wants to use a portion of a highway for a different purpose, or if it wants to dispose of it. All of these provisions can be found in Part 3, Division 5 of the Community Charter.

Municipal ownership and regulation of highways ensures that municipalities can manage their highways in a way that meets the needs of their communities. As well, it provides control over a land resource. Councils may want to consider closing a highway and removing the highway dedication:

  • as part of a major community redevelopment
  • as a rationalization of their road network system
  • as a way to remove unused highways from their land bank and generate revenue or create a park

Municipalities who want to dispose of the property for a closed highway must do so in accordance with the property disposal rules set out in Part 3, Division 3 of the Community Charter. If a municipality plans to dispose of property for a closed highway that removes public access to a body of water, it must do one of the following:

  • provide alternative public access to the same body of water
  • set aside money in a reserve fund to acquire property that will provide public access to that body of water

Section 35 (8) of the Community Charter provides a provincial right to resume property that was once a highway for the following purposes:

  • for the purpose of or in relation to a Provincial arterial highway
  • creating a park
  • making a recreation area
  • setting aside an ecological reserve
  • for any other transportation purpose
These rights-of-way can be resumed under the Park Act, the Ecological Reserve Act or the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act. The Minister of Transportation can remove the right of resumption; alternatively the Minister of Transportation can enact BC Regulation 245/2004, which sets out the circumstances where the right is automatically removed. The Ministry of Transportation is currently developing its approach to the removal of the right of resumption. For further information, municipalities may contact the Manager, Transportation Policy at (250) 953-3068.

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This guide is a living document; it is subject to change without notice. Please check the Rural Subdivisions Website (http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/permits/Subdibision_Home.asp) to make sure you version is sufficiently current.