The City of Vancouver is a notoriously difficult place to occupy commercial leasehold space. A leasehold unit that appears, to the common person, to be appropriate and available for a potential use all too often becomes the subject of delays related to permits and subject to expensive base building upgrades at the responsibility of the tenant.

So how does one navigate Vancouver’s often confusing zoning process? In Hessey’s second installation of our SME Toolbox, we will take you through the basics of zoning in the City of Vancouver, starting with what Vancouver’s zoning bylaw is, what land use is, and how you can find your organization’s use.

Vancouver’s Zoning Bylaw 

Zoning is the way that municipal governments organize cities based on what land can or cannot be used for (its land use). It can also regulate what a building looks like in terms of size and height, where it can be located, what can or cannot be built in the zone, and more. For SME organizations, the important thing to remember is that zoning bylaws define what the allowable uses are related to an address.

The City of Vancouver’s Zoning and Development Bylaw 3675 serves this function and divides Vancouver into five broad zoning districts: residential, commercial, industrial, historic, and limited agriculture. Additionally, the area can be categorized as a Comprehensive Development (or “CD-1”) district (a unique district with a mix of uses) and these can be either site specific or area specific.

Checking with the zoning bylaw is the first step in determining how your organization’s operational parameters and use of space fits within these land use regulations. It ensures that your organization’s occupancy is legal, and it can save a lot of wasted time and effort when going through the City’s approval processes, timelines, and building upgrades.

Finding Your Use 

Section 2 of the Zoning and Development Bylaw is a great resource that defines the many kinds of organizational operations and its associated definition of “use.”  Section 2 can be used to look up what use best describes the work that your organization does and what operations are associated with it. For example, a “Clothing Manufacturing” use corresponds to organizations that manufacture clothing and garments, including leather clothing, but this does not include plastic and rubber products manufacturing, nor shoes/boots manufacturing.

It may be tricky when it seems like an organization has multiple uses or may apply to more than one definition. When in doubt, contact the City’s Development and Building Enquiry Centre to clarify. Stay tuned for our next installment of the SME Toolbox where will discuss your location’s zoning district.

Try it out for yourself and good luck!

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This article is Part 2 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.