In the previous issue of Hessey’s SME Toolbox, we covered the basics of zoning and land use in the City of Vancouver. This third installment will help you understand the requirements of a zoning district so that you can find the right space for your organization.

Zoning bylaws regulate the uses and development that can take place at each specific address. These regulations include the types of businesses and organizations that you can legally operate, as well as the form of development that can be built. For most Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the most valuable information is whether your use is permitted or not for a given address.

This article will walk you through the process of understanding zoning regulations by address including finding a specific property’s zoning district, and diving into the major categories of uses—outright allowed and conditionally allowed.

Step 1: Finding Your Zoning District 

For each specific site, you must first determine its zoning district. Once you have an address in mind, finding its zoning district only takes a few easy clicks using the VanMap Property Viewer.

With this interactive map, you can select or search for a specific address to learn details about that site, such as information about zoning. Once you select a property, you can find its zoning district on the right sidebar under ‘Zone Name’ (e.g., C-1, I-1A, RM- 3). For detailed instructions on using the Property Viewer, you can visit VanMap’s how-to page.

You can now use this information to find zoning regulations for that specific address.

Step 2: Understanding Allowable Uses 

To find the right bylaw (called the ‘Zoning District Schedule’) for your zoning district, visit the City of Vancouver’s Zoning and Land Use Library. You can also access this page directly from VanMap by clicking on the zone name during a property search. Another effective way of doing this is by searching for the specific zoning district schedule by name in Google or other search engine. For example, if VanMap indicated your address were part of the HA-1A zone, you would search ‘HA1A Zoning District Schedule Vancouver’.

The zoning bylaw is written for two audiences – those developing buildings, and those intending to occupy space in already constructed buildings. Most SMEs are intending to occupy space in already constructed buildings and can ignore information about building height, density and other regulations related to the form of development.

Under the bylaw, the zoning district schedules list the allowable uses in that zone. These These uses are either listed as an outright approval use (permitted without condition) or a conditional approval use (requires a Development Permit, including for Change of Use even when no construction is planned).

If your use is not listed in the district schedule, it is not permitted and would need to undergo a variance process in order to be approved.  Variance processes are lengthy and not advised in normal leasehold situations. As an example, the C-2 Zoning District Schedule allows outright approval for a grocery store or office space but requires conditional approval to run an artist studio or community care facility. There are some uses, such as a Social Service Centre, which are always listed as conditional uses and therefore always require a Development Permit.

Knowing this information can help you decide how good a fit a specific location is for your organization. For questions or clarifications, you can always contact the City’s Development and Building Enquiry Centre for support.

Good luck and stay tuned for our next installment of the SME Toolbox!

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This article is Part 3 of our SME Toolbox series. This series is intended for Executive Directors, CEOs & other decision-makers to discover resources for navigating Vancouver’s space and real estate landscape.