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Zoning bylaws put the vision of the official community plan into practical, legalistic terms. In approving these types of bylaws, elected officials establish different zones in the community and provide guidelines on what type of development and buildings are permitted in each zone.

The zones regulate use and density. For example, an R1 (Residential 1) zone will often permits a single family dwellings on a single lot, while an R4 (Residential 4) zone will permit a multi-family development on a property.

Zoning bylaws also provide guidelines on the siting, size and dimensions of buildings and structures, minimum and maximum parcel sizes, conditions for the provisions of amenities, and may set different standards for works and service. For example: a house which has its own septic system may require five acres; while a house which has community water and sewer system connections may be permitted on a small lot (i.e. 80 feet by 100 feet).

Sometimes to simplify the number of bylaws, a local government will consolidate other provisions (such as parking space requirements or screening and landscaping) into a Comprehensive Bylaw.

Zoning bylaws can also include provisions for amenities and affordable housing. These provisions allow a local government to establish different (bonus) densities within a zone that will entitle an owner to a higher density in exchange for amenities such as a public square, art, or other public benefit. In addition, the higher density can be granted in exchange for the provision of affordable and special needs housing. In addition to, or in place of, density bonus zoning, increasingly, local governments are negotiating with the applicant/developer for community amenity contributions, as part of a rezoning process.   


Residents and others who may be affected by zoning bylaws play an important role in deciding how their community will develop by making their views known to their local government. The development of zoning bylaws or amendments to zoning bylaws usually provides an opportunity for a public hearing where comments and concerns can be expressed. In addition, a local government may refer a zoning bylaw to an Advisory Planning Commission for comment.

Once a zoning bylaw is adopted, there are certain circumstances where a person can receive a minor variance to the provisions in the bylaw by appealing to a Board of Variance.


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