Development Services (Community Planning, Building, Business Licensing)

Development Services (Community Planning, Building, Business Licensing)

The Planning Department manages land use and development applications through the implementation of regulations that support the public's vision of the community as established in the Official Community Plan.  

Developing land is often a multi-stage process with multiple city departments involved.  Land use applications are regularly referred to the Advisory Planning Commission to make recommendations to City Council.  Some applications require a public process. Input and approvals may be required from external agencies (provincial, utility providers, community etc.) as well. See Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) for detailed information.

Official Community Plan (OCP) Bylaw

Housing Needs Assessment (full report)  or At a Glance (summary)


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's):
Do I need a Permit to build or renovate?

Yes. If you wish to build, renovate or change the use of land in Port Alberni you will be required to obtain permits and inspections.  You will need a minimum of one or more of the following:

  1. Building Permit - The Building Inspector reviews applications for compliance with Port Alberni's zoning and building regulations and with the BC Building Code prior to issuing a building permit.    For more specific information regarding Building Permit applications see Building and Renovating.
  2. Demolition Permit - More information.
  3. Development Permit  -  If you are planning a project located in a Development Permit Area you may also need to obtain a Development Permit before you begin.

Note: Other permit types may also be required for your project.

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I want to subdivide (or consolidate) land.  How do I start?

For detailed information about the subdivision application process and where to start with the process see Subdivision or Strata Titling.   Please note that Development Cost Charges may apply to your project.

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What is the Official Community Plan and how does it affect me?
A.  Community Vision
Land use decisions made by Council should be consistent with the OCP.  The Official Community Plan (OCP) Bylaw  is a key policy document adopted by City Council and developed through a collaborative process including the participation of people that live and work in the community.  The plan expresses the community’s vision for the future and serves as a statement of the broad objectives and policies of the local government respecting existing and proposed land use and servicing requirements in the area covered by the plan.  The OCP is used by Council when considering issues relating to: residential, commercial, and industrial development; the provision and maintenance of parks and recreation amenities; the natural environment; transportation infrastructure and the orderly provision of utilities. 
To implement the policies and objectives in the OCP several regulatory tools are required including the Zoning bylaw,  Development Permit Areascapital expenditures planning, and Subdivision control. These bylaws and regulations should be consistent with the OCP. 
The OCP is not a static plan. Its objectives and policies are reviewed and may change over time as the community’s needs and aspirations change. 
If your development plans do not comply with the Official Community Plan Bylaw you may need to apply for an Official Community Plan Amendment.

B.  Development Permit Areas

The Official Community Plan includes a number of Development Permit Areas which apply to the form and character of development for many properties zoned as commercial, industrial, or multi-family. If your property falls into one of these categories you may need a Development Permit before applying for a building permit.

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Do I need a Zoning Bylaw Amendment?
The Zoning Bylaw regulates how a property can be used, what type and size of buildings may be constructed, the size of lots that can be created and required parking for vehicles and bicycles.

If your development plans comply with the zoning regulations consult with the City Building Inspector to determine what type of building permits will be required.  You will also need to determine whether a Development Permit is needed.  

If your development plans do not comply with the parameters given in the Zoning Bylaw your options may include one or more of the following:

Where a development plan does not meet the use or density requirements of the existing zoning designation, then a Zoning Bylaw text or map amendment is required. The Official Community Plan, local and neighbourhood plans and other City policies or guidelines specify under what circumstances a rezoning may be appropriate. These documents should be consulted before you make a decision to apply for a rezoning and your first step will be to schedule a meeting with the Manager of Planning.  

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Do I need a Variance?

If you are unable to build because your project does not meet the requirements of a relevant bylaw it may be possible to obtain a Variance.  There are two types of Variance's to consider.  Discuss your options with the Building Inspector or Manager of Planning prior to making an application:

  1. Board of Variance (BOV):  The Board of Variance has the authority to grant minor variances from the building regulations specified in the Zoning Regulation Bylaw, but cannot vary use or density.  If the variance that you need exceeds the jurisdiction of the Board of Variance, you will need to apply for a Development Variance Permit (DVP).  
  1. Development Variance Permit (DVP):  A DVP is a Permit granted by Council to vary the provisions of the Zoning Bylaw, Subdivision Bylaw, Sign Bylaw and other Land Use and Development Bylaws.   A DVP cannot cannot vary use or density (ex. permit a land use not otherwise permitted in a zone, or increase the maximum number of dwelling units permitted on a parcel of land). A Development Variance Permit requires a public notice and is registered on the Land Title.

See More Information about the Variance Application process.

What happens after I apply and how long will it take?

Staff review development applications and make recommendations to the Advisory Planning Commission and to City Council when bylaw amendments, permits or variances are requested.  Staff also coordinate public notices and hearings when required by provincial legislation.  Some applications may require approval from Provincial authorities (Min. of Transportation and Highways).

Note: When your application requires a Public Notice and Hearing process or Council approval, City staff cannot guarantee that your application will be successful.  For applications that do not require approval by Council, staff must ensure that the proposal satisfies conditions specified in City bylaws, and other relevant legislation, before they are approved.  

How do I obtain a Land Title document?

I require a current Land Title (click here for information) for my application.

To do your own Title Search visit the MyLTSA website  or consult a Notary Public.

For more information, please contact
Development Services
Community Planning

4850 Argyle Street
Port Alberni BC V9Y 1V8