Roles and Authorities

>> Special Circumstances
>> Indian Reserves
>> United States Border
>> Pipelines
>> Railway Crossings
>> Covenants
>> Utility Right of Way in Subdivisions
>> Authority for Controlled Access Highways
>> Arterial Highways
>> Authority for Road Closures
>> Agricultural Land Commission

These do not apply in the majority of cases. Where applicable, they may add to the time to review the proposal, and the Approving Officer may require addtional approvals prior making a final decision on the application.

Indian Reserves

Development within Indian Reserves is entirely outside the Ministry's authority. Roads within Indian Reserves are not public roads as defined by the Transportation Act and the Ministry's only input would concern their connection to the public road system. Before approving their connection to the public road system, the District Development Technician or District Manager, Transportation must make sure that they meet the same requirements as other types of access.

If a subdivision application is made for land beyond an Indian Reserve and proposed access is through the reserve, that access must be dedicated as a highway right of way. Access by easement through the Indian Reserve does not satisfy Section 9 of BC Regulation 334/79.

United States Border

When a subdivision adjoins the United States border, the Approving Officer may request the developer to return to the Crown an 18-metre strip of land along the border.  Alternatively, the Approving Officer may consider a covenant restricting building on the 18-metre strip.  There is no legal requirement to obtain this strip of land; however it is useful if a right of way is granted along the Canadian side of the border.  The covenant restricting building would facilitate the right of way.

Section 5 of the International Boundary Commission Act (Revised Statutes of Canada 1985, Chapter 1-16) provides that, except with the permission of the International Boundary Commission, no person shall construct, enlarge or place any work within three metres (ten feet) of the United States border.

The following constitutes an infraction under the Act: 

  • erection of billboards or other structures within ten feet of the international boundary
  • reconstruction of a line building or other structure which has suffered destruction
  • additions to structures erected on the international boundary
  • interference with boundary monuments


A proposed road in a subdivision plan may cross a gas or oil pipeline.

The Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) has regulatory authority where proposed subdivisions cross a pipeline, pursuant to the Provincial Oil And Gas Activities Act and Regulations. This applies to all pipelines operated wholly within the Province of British Columbia.

The OGC has divided its authority between the Compliance and Enforcement Branch for pipelines containing a pressure of 700 kPa or greater and Technical Safety BC for pipeline pressures of less than 700 kPa. The OGC does not exercise regulatory authority over public road crossings of pipelines under provincial jurisdiction.

Oil or natural gas pipelines that cross interprovincial or international boundaries are regulated by the National Energy Board pursuant to the Federal National Energy Board Act.

The Board does not regulate the dedication of roads over pipelines. The Board regulates the construction of roads that cross pipelines to ensure compliance with construction standards. These pipelines can carry oil, natural gas and other hydrocarbons at pressures of several thousand psi, which require certain construction standards to ensure safety. Accordingly, the Board has the National Energy Board Pipeline Damage Prevention Regulations – Authorizations and the National Energy Board Pipeline Damage Prevention Regulations – Obligations of Pipeline Companies. These are contained in the NEB publication “Pipeline Damage Prevention – Ground Disturbance, Construction and Vehicle Crossings” which can be found at

Railway Crossings

Railway Crossings relative to subdivisions are governed by Technical Safety BC, Transport Canada and the Canadian Transportation Agency. The Approving Officer does not approve the final subdivision plans until the Ministry receives the agreement from the railway company, or a decision authorizing the level grade crossing and no objections have been filed in response to a Public Notice in accordance with the Railway Safety Act.

Railway Crossings

1) The developer submits plans for the Approving Officer and the Ministry of Transportation’s Rail, Navigable Waters Coordinator that concur with the following;

  • BC Supplement to TAC Geometric Design Guide 2007 Edition (Chapter 1100) or updates.
  • Federal Guidelines for grade crossing design "RTD-10" or its' update or replacement.

2) If the Approving Officer provides a Preliminary Layout Review letter (PLR Letter) which sets out what the approving officer will "likely" require to grant approval to the subdivision, the Rail, Navigable Waters Coordinator then seeks an agreement with the railway company or an Order or Decision from the Canadian Transportation Agency. The Rail, Navigable Waters Coordinator then makes public notice in accordance with the Railway Safety Act.

3) The Approving Officer does not approve the final subdivision plans until the Ministry receives an Agreement from the railway company or an Order or Decision authorising the level grade crossing and no Objections have been filed in response to the Public Notice. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure makes copies of the Agreement, Order or Decision available to the developer for construction purposes.

4) The full cost of surveys, plan, construction and maintenance of all level grade crossings contained within a subdivision are the developer’s responsibility until the crossing is accepted as a public road by the Ministry. These costs will include invoices from the railway company for work including, but not limited to, crossing surface installation, clearing of sightlines, installing drainage and crossing signs. Construction may include signals where necessary in accordance with BC Supplement to TAC Geometric Design Guide 2007 Edition (Chapter 1100) or Federal Guidelines for grade crossing design "RTD-10" or its' update or replacement.

Proposed railway crossings must meet all applicable requirements of the Safety Standards, Safety Autority,Canada Transportation and the Railway Safety Acts and supporting standards, regulations and guidelines before work can commence.


The Approving Officer may require a covenant as a condition of approval, or there may already be one or more covenants on the title which must be complied with. The following are some of the most common cases, but there are others as well:

  • A parcel cannot satisfy sewage disposal regulations (with respect to on-site primary and secondary sewage disposal areas)      
  • Part of the lands to be subdivided is subject to natural hazards, including erosion, flooding, landslip or rock fall
  • Approval is based either on specific land uses only or on denying specific land uses

A covenant may be of a negative or positive nature and may include one or more conditions as noted under Section 219 of the Land Title Act. Various agencies and line ministries can recommend covenants as conditions of approval under different Acts such as:

Community Charter (Regional District, municipalities)

Drinking Water Protection Act

Health Act

Heritage Conservation Act

Agricultural Land Commission Act

Local Government Act (Regional District, municipalities)

Utility Right of Way in Subdivisions

If road dedication takes place over a utility right of way, the utility as holder of the right must sign the final plan.  The applicant is responsible for obtaining the signature and paying all costs associated with obtaining it.

Authority for Controlled Access Highway

Section 48 of the Transportation Act designates some highways as “Controlled Access Highways”.  These highways may be located anywhere in the Province.  The Ministry of Transportation has zoning, access and subdivision regulatory roles over the land adjacent to these highways. 

The Minister of Transportation regulates subdivisions adjacent to controlled access highways to minimize the impact of development on safety and traffic flow on these highways.  This requirement applies whether the lots proposed abut the controlled access highway or only the remainder is adjacent to the highway.  The Ministry of Transportation requires all access to be via a local street or frontage road if at all possible.

Under Section 80 of the Land Title Act, the Provincial Approving Officer is limited to considering the impact of the development on the controlled access highway where the local government is the subdivision approving authority.  Regulation of these subdivisions by the Provincial Approving Officer ensures that alternative road access is provided to the subdivision as required by B. C. Regulation 8/89 of the Land Title Act. This process ensures that the controlled access highway will not be compromised by land locking new parcels to the corridor.

Arterial Highways

Arterial highways are provincial roads within a municipality.

According to Section 45 of the Transportation Act the Ministry may:

  1. designate the following as arterial highways -
    1. any municipal land that the government acquires
    2. a municipal highway that has been resumed under Section 35 of the Community Charter, or
    3. any municipal land or improvements referred to in Section 35 (2) (a) to (f) and (j) of the Community Charter, and
  2. remove the designation of "arterial highway" from any highway.

Section 47 of the Transportation Act states that the Ministry has the right to improve or otherwise alter an arterial highway. Where the ministry requires right-of-way for an arterial highway for a subdivision under Section 80 of the Land title Act, the dedication of the land as “arterial highway” is created on deposit of the subdivision plan and gazette publication notice of the plan under Section 44.1 of the Transportation Act.

Authority for Road Closures

Road closures refer to the cancelling of highway rights of way, or parts thereof, creating titled land.  For highways under provincial jurisdiction, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure administers road closure permits pursuant to Section 60 of the Transportation Act.  Often a subdivision plan or reference plan of consolidation will result in a disposal of land. 

If a subdivision proposal includes the closure of an existing highway right of way, that closure is made through a separate process. For information about road closure applications, ask your district development technician.

Agricultural Land Commission

Subdivision proposals that include land within the Agricultural Land Reserve must meet the approval of the Agricultural Land Commission in order to receive a Preliminary Layout Review.

The Agricultural Land Commission’s authority and responsibilities for managing the ALR are found in the Agricultural Land Commission Act and regulations passed by the provincial legislature and cabinet.  The Commission encourages local governments to adopt plan and bylaw provisions that are supportive of farm activities and compatible uses in the ALR, and that recognize the wide range of agricultural values and the economic, social and environmental contributions of a healthy agricultural sector to communities and regions. 

This authority may be delegated to a regional district. In any case, application is made through the relevant regional district. There is a fee charged for application.

For more information about the Agricultural Land Commission and developing properties, see the ALC publications on Land Use Planning.

This guide is a living document; it is subject to change without notice. Please check the Rural Subdivisions Website ( to make sure you version is sufficiently current.