>> Land Use
>> Local Government Bylaws
>> Improvement District Bylaws
>> Suitability For Intended Use
>> Lot Identification
>> Parcel Size
>> Parcel Split by a Road
>> Frontage of Lots
>> Panhandles
>> Remainders
>> Sketch of Further Subdivision
>> Aesthetics
>> Parks
>> Environmental Considerations
>> Creek Consideratons
>> Wildlife Considerations
>> Archaeological Interests
>> Aboriginal Interests
>> Farmland Impact
>> Transit Friendly Subdivision Guidelines
>> Servicing Needs
>> Postal Service Arrangements
>> Range Land Impact

In this section, land use refers to more than the human activities that take place on the land.  It looks at environmental protection, parcel layout, aesthetics and archaeological interest as well, all of which could affect the design or even the feasibility of the subdivision application.  Pursuant to Section 86 of the Land Title Act, approving officers need to balance a wide variety of factors to make sure the proposed subdivision does not unreasonably affect the land and its adjacent properties.

Local Government Bylaws

The Local Government Act gives Regional Districts the authority to enact subdivision servicing and zoning bylaws.  Section 87 of the Land Title Act authorizes the Approving Officer to refuse a subdivision if it does not conform to these bylaws. A local government may regulate the development of subdivisions in subdivisions by bylaw, including the provision of works and services pursuant to Section 506 of the Local Government Act.  The application will be referred to the Regional District to confirm compliance with their by-laws.

Improvement District Bylaws

You must comply with Improvement District bylaws. If the land in question is within an improvement district it will be reflected on the Certificate of Title or on the tax assessment form. Contact the improvement district to discuss your proposal and see what roles or bylaws they have.


 Not all Improvement Districts have subdivision servicing bylaws; ask your District Development Technician if an Improvement District has any jurisdiction in your area.

Suitability for Intended Use

Section 86(1)(c)(ix) of the Land Title Act allows the Approving Officer to refuse to approve a subdivision plan if the subdivision is unsuited to the configuration of the land or for the use intended.

Parcels without any of the following are may not be suitable for residential land use:

  • Building site
  • Available source of potable water
  • Sewage disposal capability
  • Vehicular Accessibility

Lot Identification

The District Development Technician may request the applicant to flag proposed property corners. This may be necessary in large or multi-lot subdivisions, particularly if there are potential natural hazards affecting the property. The Environmental Health Officer or Public Health Inspector may require lot corners or proposed sewage disposal areas to be identified as well.

Parcel Size

Parcel size in subdivisions is tied to health concerns such as water supply and sewage disposal capability, and to local government zoning bylaws. In areas that are not governed by any subdivision or zoning bylaws Section 6 of the Subdivision Regulations (B.C. Regulation 262/70) of the Local Services Act governs parcel size.

Subdivision plans that do not meet parcel size or zoning requirements may not be approved, except in the following cases:

  • One new lot is being created for a separate residence for a relative, pursuant to Section 514 of the Local Government Act. (See “Subdivision of Land for Relatives”)
  • A proposal met parcel size requirements when the Preliminary Layout Review was issued, and then rezoning rendered the proposal non-conforming under Section 511 of the Local Government Act. In such a case, the proposal can be given final approval within one year of the adoption of the bylaw.

Parcel Split by a Road

If the subdivision produces a new parcel split in two by a road (with a hook across showing one title on the plan), and creates a severance that is small enough to cause concern with respect to sufficient area for the building envelope and sewage disposal areas, use of that severance may be curtailed with the placement of a restrictive covenant. Bylaws may prohibit split parcels or establish minimum and maximum parcel sizes for a road severance.

Frontage of Lots

If a parcel being created by a subdivision fronts on a highway, Section 512 of the Local Government Act requires that the minimum frontage on the highway be the greater of the following:

  • 10% of the perimeter of the lot, or
  • The minimum frontage required by a bylaw

In general, the 10% rule is a good rule of thumb for avoiding parcel shapes that would be too small for a building envelope (building site, access, and so on) and for any further development of the parcel.

Before granting relief from the frontage requirement, the Approving Officer may consider the following:

  • Is the frontage offered adequate to provide the access required now?  If not, more parcel frontage would have to be provided or the lot modified
  • Is the terrain suitable for access where that frontage is provided?  If not, frontage has to be provided elsewhere
  • Does the lot contain an adequate building envelope?  If not, a building cannot be constructed and the lot would have to be modified
  • Does the proposed parcel have further subdivision potential that will not be realized because the limited frontage will make it impossible to access that potential lot?  If so, the subdivision may be rejected


A panhandle is a long, narrow portion of a lot whose principal function is to provide access to the lot. It generally touches a road. Panhandles should be of sufficient width to serve the intended use. If the lot can be further subdivided, the panhandle should be wide enough to contain a public road. Local bylaws may apply.

Panhandle lots must also meet the following requirements:

  • There must be a waiver from the frontage requirements
  • Panhandles for lots that can be further subdivided must be suitable for construction of a future road. They must meet intersection and grade requirements If it is anticipated that a 20-metre panhandle will become a future road, provision should be made to allow for future corner cut-offs

  • The area of the panhandle cannot be included in the area of the lot for the purpose of meeting minimum parcel size


Remainders are always considered as another lot in the subdivision. Even though they are outside the bold outline, they are reviewed according to all subdivision requirements. They must be considered for road requirements, including but not limited to access to lands beyond and access to a body of water.

Sketch of Further Subdivision

Under Section 83(2)(d) of the Land Title Act, the Approving Officer may require the subdivider to submit a sketch showing how the proposed lots or remainder could be further subdivided.


As this is a land use question, the local government may provide comments. Local bylaws may speak to this and can be considered (eg: Development Permit Area Requirements). The Approving Officer may also hear from ther afected interests ( Land Title Act, Section 86)


Section 510 of the Local Government Act allows Regional Districts to acquire for park purposes up to 5% of the land being developed. Land designated for park under this Section should be shown as “park” on the subdivision plan.

This power to acquire parkland does not apply when:

  • The subdivision will create fewer than three additional lots
  • The smallest lot being created by the subdivision will be larger than two hectares
  • The subdivision consolidates existing parcels

Payment in Lieu of Dedication: If the Regional District has Letters Patent for the park function, the landowner has the option of paying money in lieu of the 5% dedication.

However, if an official community plan or a rural land use bylaw contains policies and designations regarding the location and type of future parks, the Regional District may decide whether the applicant should provide land or money.

The Regional District is responsible for identifying the need for park dedication and determining where it should be located. It does this in response to the Ministry's subdivision referral. The applicant and the Regional District work out the details of cash in lieu as well as any disagreement about the location of the park.

Dedication of Linear Parkland It may be in the public's best interest to establish a strip adjacent to a stream or river as Crown Land pursuant to Section 85 of the Land Title Act and Section 510 of the Local Government Act.

For example, if a river has high recreational value, a seven-metre wide strip adjacent to a river may be recommended to allow access for people wishing to fish.

A park does not qualify as a road.

Environmental Considerations

Approving officers, pursuant to Section 86 of the Land Title Act, have the authority to consider environmental input in subdivision proposals. The subdivision should be designed so that it protects the natural environment as much as reasonably possible.  This would include issues such as buffer zones, creekside protection, groundwater contamination, noxious weeds, wildlife, fisheries and wildfire concerns.  Developers should prepare a plan that minimizes changes to the existing terrain. See the Ministry of Environment Develop with Care: Environmental Guidelines for Urban and Rural Land Development in British Columbia.

Creek Considerations

The stated goal of the British Columbia Fish Protection Act (the “FPA”) is to protect and preserve fish habitat in waters under provincial jurisdictions.  The Environmental Stewardship Division of the Ministry of Environment often recommends protection of a creek's banks to maintain fisheries equilibrium.  The FPA authorizes the Regional Manager, Water Stewardship, Ministry of Environment to take into account the impact on fish and fish habitat when deciding to grant a license of approval under the Water Sustainability Act.  When this happens, the Approving Officer should ask the subdivider to return to the Crown a seven-meter strip plus the creek bed if he or she owns it.

Riparian Areas Regulation (effective March 31, 2005)

The Riparian Areas Regulation B.C. Reg. 376/2004, enacted under Section 12 of the Fish Protection Act in July 2004, calls on local governments to protect Riparian Areas during residential, commercial, and industrial development.   They will do so by ensuring that proposed activities are subject to a science based assessment conducted by a qualified environmental professional.

The Riparian Areas Regulation model uses qualified environmental professionals, hired by land developers, to assess habitat and the potential impacts, develop mitigation measures and avoid impacts of development to fish and fish habitat, particularly riparian habitat.

The assessment methods attached as a schedule to the regulation are a key component of a regulatory regime for riparian protection that is clear and measurable, but does not rely exclusively on default set backs. The assessment is based on the best available science with respect to riparian habitats.

The Riparian Areas Regulation currently applies only to local governments located on the east side of Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the Southern Interior, as these are the parts of the province that are experiencing the most rapid urban growth. This includes the following regional districts and all municipalities within them: Capital, Central Okanagan, Columbia-Shuswap, Comox-Strathcona, Cowichan Valley, Fraser Valley, Greater Vancouver (except the City of Vancouver), Nanaimo, North Okanagan, Okanagan-Similkameen, Powell River, Squamish-Lillooet, Sunshine Coast, Thompson-Nicola and the trust area under the Islands Trust Act .

Wildlife Considerations

Impact on wildlife ecosystems will be considered. Many species and ecosystems at risk in British Columbia have been identified, through the cooperation of scientists and experts throughout the province. Each has been assigned a global and provincial rank by the B.C. Conservation Data Centre, according to an objective set of criteria established by the Nature Conservancy. The ranks assigned and listed in the tracking lists maintained by the CDC provide the basis for the Red and Blue lists of the Ministry of Environment (MoE). These lists include plants and animals that have population characteristics, population trends, or distributions which indicate that they require special attention so that they may be maintained as part of the wildlife of British Columbia. These lists are only one indicator of potential impact. A report by a certified professional may be required. To date, the MoE Red and Blue lists have included only vertebrates. Red and Blue lists are also available for butterflies and moths, dragonflies and damselflies, marine invertebrate animals, other invertebrate animals, vascular plants, and mosses.

Placing plants and animals on these lists flags them as being at risk and requiring investigation. The Red and Blue lists provide a list of species for consideration for more formal designation as Endangered or Threatened, either provincially under the British Columbia Wildlife Act, or nationally by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and provide a method of assigning conservation priorities for species considered at risk in British Columbia. Recovery planning is a process undertaken to ensure the survival and recovery of these species and ecosystems at risk.

The Ministry also lists animals and plants considered to be secure in British Columbia on the Yellow List - these are managed at the habitat level by managing for a diversity of habitats in the province.

See the brochure on Species Ranking in B.C. (PDF) for more details and an explanation of ranks and list status.

See Develop with Care: Environmental Guidelines for Urban and Rural Land Development in British Columbia document for links to information.

Archaeological Interests

It is important to identify areas with proven or potential heritage significance early on in the subdivision process.  This will allow for the least restrictive on-site development and the most cost-effective management of archaeological sites.  If there are known values on site, or an indication of high archaeological values present, a report from a certified archaeologist may be required. If there are no known values but an item or feature of archaeological interest becomes evident, it is vital to stop all work and hire an archeological professional to assess the site further. All applicants must comply with the Heritage Conservation Act.

Aboriginal Interests

In the Updated Procedures For Meeting Legal Obligations When Consulting First Nations, Interim (07 May 2010), the term “Aboriginal Interests“ refers to claimed or proven aboriginal rights (including title) and treaty rights that require consultation.

Please consult your District Development Technician.

Farmland Impact

Land within the Agricultural Land Reserve: Applications to subdivide land within the Agricultural Land Reserve must be submitted through the local government. Use the application form supplied by the Agricultural Land Commission. 

If the Agricultural Land Commission allows the subdivision, the applicant should bring a copy of the approval letter to the District Development Technician. If a covenant is required as a condition of the Commission's approval, it should be in favour of the Land Reserve Commission. If the final subdivision plan differs significantly from the sketch approved by the Commission, the Approving Officer cannot give final approval.

Impacts on farming operations will be considered. Buffers and access conditions may be required. If the land is adjacent to the Agricultural Land Reserve, the application may be submitted directly to the Land Reserve Commission for confirmation of the Land Reserve Boundaries.  Please note that in some areas of the province, the authority to make decisions on land use and subdivision applications within the Agricultural Land Reserve has been delegated to local government pursuant to section 26 of the Agricultural Land Commission Act. As of January 1, 2005 only portions of the Regional Districts of Fraser Fort George and East Kootenay are affected.

Land Partially Within the ALR : Subdivision of land located partially or totally within the Agricultural Land Reserve cannot be approved without the permission of the Land Reserve Commission or local government, if delegated the authority, unless conditions specified in the Agricultural Land Reserve Transitional Regulation, B.C. Reg. 171/2002 are met.

Final plans require a notation in the form outlined in Schedule A of BC Regulation 171/2002. On behalf of the Provincial Approving Officer, the District Development Technician may check with the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food District Agriculturist and the appropriate ALC Regional Research Officer for an opinion on whether the subdivision proposal complies with BC Regulation 171/2002.

Subdividing Land for Farm Purposes : If the subdivision is for farm purposes or to provide a separate residence and is non-developmental, the Approving Officer should consider whether it is necessary and reasonable to protect road widening and access to lands beyond at this time.

Road dedications cannot exceed those allowed by BC Regulation 171/2002. Access by easement does not satisfy the requirements of the Land Title Act for access.

Further information, including the Agricultural Land Reserve Use, Subdivision and Procedure Regulation, B.C. Reg. 171/2002, can be found on the Agricultural Land Commission website.

Transit Friendly Subdivision Guidelines

Developers and regulators need to take into account the increasing use of transit as a means of transportation when designing and approving subdivisions.  Incorporating transit design into new subdivisions should be considered even if there is no transit service in the area at this time.  Expansion of transit service in the future may incorporate developments, which are now not serviced.  Creating a transit friendly subdivision requires greater thought at the planning stage, but creates a more transit efficient and desirable subdivision.    Detailed guidelines are available from BC Transit in the pamphlet Transit Friendly Design Features

Servicing Needs

The District Technician may inform the appropriate service and utility providers about the proposed subdivision, allowing them to consider whether existing services are able to handle the needs of the proposed subdivision. Such services may include: schools, ambulance, school buses, fire, water, police, sewer, electricity, storm drainage, telephone, mail, hospital and natural gas. The applicant is encouraged to contact these servicers early in the process to determine costs.

Postal Service Arrangements

The applicant should contact Canada Post to initiate arrangements for postal service:

  • Canada Post charges a one-time fee of $200 per address to set up Community Mail Boxes (CMB) and addresses in new residential and commercial developments.
  • Canada Post bears the responsibility and cost for ongoing maintenance of the CMB, as well as equipment repair and replacement as required.

Contact Jackie Bailey, 1(604)662-1606 ext. 25819, Jackie.bailey@canadapost.ca.

Range Land Impact

An approving officer may consider if a subdivision would injuriously affect established amenities of adjacent properties, or unreasonably interfere with farming operations on adjacent properties (Section 86 (1) (C) (i) or (x) of the Land Title Act). Subdivision of land that abuts crown land grazing tenures may be considered in that light. Installation of fencing or retention of existing fencing may be required..

If a subdivision introduces a significant change in land use adjacent to crown land grazing tenures, problems may arise as new lots are developed. A common problem is that of cattle venturing onto residential property. This possibility may not be realized until the resident has suffered loss.

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/DA/Subdivision_Home.asp) to make sure you version is sufficiently current.