These are frequently asked questions with general answers provided for convenience only. The answers given are not intended to be used for legal purposes or as a substitute for professional advice. If you still have questions, contact Comox Valley Regional District Planning Services at 250-334-6006 or email.
Common Zoning Questions
An electoral area is a geographic area within the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD). Click here for a map showing the CVRD’s three electoral areas. The CVRD provides planning services for all three electoral areas: Baynes Sound – Denman/Hornby Islands (Electoral Area A), Lazo North (Electoral Area B) and Puntledge – Black Creek (Electoral Area C). Note, however, that the planning function for Denman Island and Hornby Island is provided by Islands Trust.
To determine the zoning on your property, launch iMap, locate your property and click on the zoning tab or use the “help” function or detailed instructions.
The zoning on your property regulates such things as density, setbacks, heights of structures, lot coverage, accessory building floor area maximums, minimum lot sizes and permitted principal and accessory uses (and conditions of those uses).
Setbacks for siting buildings and structures are found in the Zoning Bylaw in your area. To determine your setbacks, launch iMap. There may also be various setbacks for road rights-of-way, floodplain or environmental features, and siting exemptions for certain structures. Check with Planning Services to confirm your setbacks.
All measurements with respect to height are measured from the natural grade of the land. For residential properties, fences can be a maximum of 2.0 metres in height for any lot line abutting a road, or 2.3 metres for a side yard or rear lot line that are not adjacent to roadways. For Rural and Resource properties, the maximum fence height is 2.5 metres, and for commercial properties, the minimum fence height is 2.5 metres and the maximum fence height is 3.0 metres.
With respect to buildings on residential properties, accessory buildings can be a maximum of 7.0 metres in height, secondary residences and carraige houses can be a maximum of 8.0 metres in height, and main dweling units can be a maximum of 10.0 metres in height. Maximum heights for buildings on commercial and industrial properties can differ depending on the siting of the building. Please refer to the appropriate Zoning Bylaw section or contact a planner to confirm the height requirements.
The Comox Valley Zoning Bylaw permits various housing options for properties in the Comox Valley Regional District’s three electoral areas. The zoning of your property regulates density and outlines the types of secondary dwelling options available. Most residential zones permit one form of a secondary dwelling to address affordable housing in the Comox Valley. Note that those secondary dwellings must have full planning, building inspections, septic and water approvals. Other restrictions may apply if your property is within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
While there are no minimum floor area requirements for a dwelling unit, what people usually think of as a tiny home can be difficult to construct as they are often either considered an RV or do not meet the requirements contained in the BC Building Code. Please feel free to discuss and confirm your design ideas with a building inspector.
The Zoning Bylaw permits accessory structure allowances for properties in the Comox Valley Regional District’s three electoral areas. Please refer to the Zoning Bylaw to understand the restrictions that may be placed on the size, height, or siting of your accessory structure.
Properties zoned Residential One, Rural Residential and Country Residential One may have ‘domestic agriculture’ provided the lot is a minimum of 2000 square metres in size. Domestic agriculture allows for a limited number of chickens, beekeeping and a produce stand. Please see Section 304 of Rural Comox Valley Zoning Bylaw for details.
Other types of agriculture may occur on properties that permit ‘agricultural use’, which is identified by the zone you are in. Some zones permit agriculture as a principal use regardless of lot size , some zones permit agriculture provided the lot is a minimum of 4,000 square metres in size and other zones do not permit agriculture at all. Find your zone in iMap.
The CVRD’s Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw are in the process of being updated regarding the new provincial and federal regulations around the growth and resale of cannabis. At this time, the Zoning Bylaw prohibits the growth (beyond the allowed four individual plants) and resale of cannabis within the regional district. An interested party can wait for the OCP update for further clarification or pursue a site-specific Zoning and OCP amendment to allow for that particular use.
Mobile vendors may operate in all zones and in all three electoral areas of the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) and are subject to the following conditions:
- The vending of any goods by a mobile vendor shall not be carried out on any highway or foreshore area.
- The vending of any goods by a mobile vendor shall not be carried out for more than two hours per 24 hour period on any lot which does not permit retail sales.
- The mobile vending unit shall be removed from the site by the mobile vendor at the end of the mobile vending period (2 hours).
- No structure shall be placed or erected in association with the vending operation.
- One freestanding sign no larger than 1.0 square metre may be displayed on each side of a mobile vending unit.
- Vending of any goods within Regional District park boundaries requires the issuance of a Park Use Permit from the Regional District.
Unless prohibited by the Zoning Bylaw, portable sawmills are permitted in all three electoral areas of the Comox Valley Regional District:
- On a lot used solely to saw logs from trees grown and harvested from the lot on which the portable sawmill is located, or
- As a Domestic Industrial Use where permitted in the bylaw subject to those conditions.
Some of the larger acreage rural zones in the bylaw permit permanent sawmill use, with conditions. Check your zone to see where such permanent sawmill uses are permitted.
The procedure to formally legalize nonconforming structures on a property, whether they intrude into the property setbacks or are overheight, is done by a Development Variance Permit or a Board of Variance Appeal. These procedures, if approved, relieve that portion of the nonconforming structure from the provision of the bylaw. Please visit the Planning Applications webpage to learn about the Development Variance Permit and Board of Variance requirements. If you have any questions about this process, a planner would be happy to provide you with help.
Temporary residential occupancy of a recreational vehicle on your property may be permitted in certain circumstances in the Comox Valley. For example, you are permitted to stay in a recreational vehicle while building a main residential home on the same lot. See the Comox Valley Zoning Bylaw to view the specific conditions. In rural zones, there are specified days for how long someone may “camp” on their property in a recreational vehicle. Campgrounds on your property for commercial use are only permitted within Tourist Commercial zones.
AirBnB and other similar temporary rental options are not allowed within the Comox Valley Regional District. This is to increase the availability and accessibility of rental properties within the Comox Valley. However, most residential zones allow owners or tenants to operate a small home-based business or bed and breakfast from their property. Please see Sections 305 and 306 of the Zoning Bylaw for the regulations that govern these uses. You can use iMap or contact a planner if you are unsure how your property is zoned.
The approving authority for all subdivisions in the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD), outside of municipal boundaries, is the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI). MoTI refers subdivision applications to the CVRD as a referral agency. Minimum lot size, road frontage, parkland dedication and servicing standards, among other things, are reviewed prior to the CVRD recommending the approval of any subdivisions to the MoTI. It is highly encouraged that you speak with a planner at the CVRD about the possibility of subdividing your property before submitting an application to MoTI.
Street addresses, or house numbers, are assigned to properties at the building permit stage. Once a building permit to construct on a vacant property is obtained, a street address will be assigned and tied into the Emergency 911 system.
Section 309 of the Zoning Bylaw does not allow for an accessory building to be constructed before a principal building. An accessory building can be constructed at the same time as the principal building, or anytime afterwards.
You may live in an existing single-family dwelling during the construction of a new single-family dwelling where the maximum number of dwellings exists. To do so, there are three main requirements that are required to be fulfilled:
- A registerable covenant is completed, which contains language to remove, demolish or convert the existing single-family dwelling and includes a rent charge in the amount of $5,000 to ensure the covenant details are fulfilled by the owner.
- The proposal has approval of the local health authority.
- Conditions of the Agricultural Land Reserve are satisfied, if applicable.
View the Additional Dwelling Performance Bonding package for more information.
If a pool of any constructed material(s), or a prefabricated pool, has a surface water area greater than 15 square metres (160 square feet) or a depth greater than 500 millimetres (20 inches), or both, the pool is required to meet setback requirements as stipulated in the Zoning Bylaw and will require a building permit.
If a rezoning or Official Community Plan amendment is being processed, a series of public notices about the application and its public hearing will be run in a local newspaper. The notice will also appear on our website on the Public Notices page.
A survey certificate, prepared by a British Columbia Land Surveyor, is required to confirm the setbacks or heights of buildings and structures conform with the Zoning Bylaw when being constructed within one metre (3.3 feet) of property setbacks or maximum permitted height, or when the building inspector cannot easily determine that the building or structure is beyond the setbacks or above the height restriction. A survey may also be required for certain permit applications.
An Official Community Plan (OCP) is a policy document that provides the overall planning framework for a community or area. It’s also a strategic document that guides land-use decisions anywhere from five to 20 years in the future, contains policies to manage growth and maintain local character and aims to protect the environment. An OCP may also identify local greenway objectives or transportation, industry and parkland policies, among others, to help a community plan for the future. An example of an OCP is the Rural Comox Valley Official Community Plan.
Electoral Area Plans and Local Area Plans outline the same type of future land use planning specific to an electoral area or community, but they also provide more detailed development polices tailored to that community or area. Examples of these are the Area C Electoral Area Plan, the Union Bay Local Area Plan and the Area A Greenway Plan.
A plan affects properties by designating them into different land-use categories, such as “residential” or “commercial,” and outlining policies and objectives for each of these uses. To view all plans for the various communities, electoral areas and islands within the Comox Valley Regional District, search for “Official Community Plans” on our Bylaws page.
If you have a concern with an activity or a prohibited use occurring on a property, you may submit a bylaw complaint. This is a formal process initiated by a complainant so that the Comox Valley Regional District may investigate the questioned activity.
If you have a concern with an activity or a prohibited use occurring on a property, you may submit a bylaw complaint. This is a formal process initiated by a complainant so that the Comox Valley Regional District may investigate the questioned activity. Bylaw complaints must be in writing and include the complainant's contact information and signature; anonymous complaints will not be investigated. During the complaint investigation process, anonymity is maintained unless where required by a court of law.
For more information about submitting a bylaw complaint, and to download a bylaw complaint form, visit Bylaw Complaints.
The Comox Valley Regional District does not provide copies of surveys completed by a British Columbia land surveyor. Contact the surveyor to request a copy of a survey if one was completed in the past. You must hire a surveyor if no survey exists for a property or it’s unknown whether a survey was completed.
There is a noise bylaw in effect for all three electoral areas of the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD). The purpose of the noise bylaw is to regulate or prohibit objectionable noise within the electoral areas. The CVRD believes certain sounds are objectionable or liable to disturb the quiet, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of individuals or the public. You can view and download a copy of the noise bylaw here.
Properties within a floodplain could be subject to floodwaters that may cause damage to buildings or structures. The Floodplain Management Bylaw may affect your property if it contains or is adjacent to a specified distance of the ocean, a lake, river, wetland, pond, stream, creek or other body of water defined as a watercourse.
If you are constructing habitable space within 100 metres of the sea, the Floodplain Management Bylaw requires that you provide a report prepared by a Qualified Professional Engineer to determine the site-specific flood construction level and floodplain setback in accordance with the provincial Flood Hazard Land Use Management Guidelines.
Denman and Hornby Islands are a part of Baynes Sound – Denman/Hornby Islands (Electoral Area A) of the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD). Their planning services, however, are provided by Islands Trust. The CVRD is involved with emergency planning and parks, among other things, on Denman and Hornby Islands.
You can also use iMap to find general property information for Denman and Hornby Islands.
Special events are important to the Comox Valley: they help drive the local economy, give residents exposure to entertainment and allow communities to gather and celebrate together. Music festivals and other special events are a catalyst for cultural and regional economic development.
Special events carry some degree of inherent risk, whether that risk is generated by the event or subject to some external hazard. The intent of the Special Events Permit Bylaw is to identify, discuss, minimize and mitigate the risks associated with special events, while reducing the impacts on the host community. The bylaw addresses these risks though provisions that transfer liability to the event organizer and minimize risks to the Comox Valley Regional District. Further, the bylaw intends to provide for adequate health, sanitation and protective measures for people attending large events.
Here is a summary of the Special Events Bylaw:
- If a special event is likely attended by between 400 and 1,000 individuals per day, a class I special event permit is required. If a special event is likely attended by more than 1,000 individuals per day, a class II special event permit is required.
- If the property of the special event is not zoned for special events or permitted by senior level government acts or regulations, a temporary use permit is required.
- The bylaw outlines events that do not require a special events permit. However, other permits and approvals may still be required.
- An application must be made not less than 60 days and no more than 270 days before the first day of the special event.
- The bylaw lists the requirements for a completed application.
Refundable security deposit:
- Class I special event: $5,000
- Class II special event: $10,000
- Class I special event: $200
- Class II special event: $300, plus additional fees
Download Bylaw No. 395, being the “Comox Valley Regional District Special Events Bylaw No. 395, 2016.”
Special Events Permit Application
Agriculture Land Reserve
The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), is a provincial designation over land in the province which is regulated by the Agricultural Land Commission Act. You can also visit the Agricultural Land Commission website here for further information and to view the Agricultural Land Reserve Use Regulation.
Subdivisions within the Agricultural Land Reserve must be reviewed and approved by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC). This review is initiated by submitting an application on the ALC website at http://www.alc.gov.bc.ca. These applications are forwarded to the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) to provide comments and recommendations. Please visit the CVRD Planning Services department to review a proposal before submitting a formal application.
Properties within the Agricultural Land Reserve are permitted one single detached dwelling. Additional residences are limited to one secondary suite within that single detached dwelling. Proposals for other additional residences (e.g. separate accommodations for farm workers or family members, etc.) must be necessary for a farm use and be approved by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) via an application on the ALC website. These applications are forwarded to the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) to provide comments and recommendations. Please visit the CVRD Planning Services department to review a proposal before submitting a formal applications.
The Agricultural Land Reserve Use Regulation allows for specific types of agri-tourism (e.g. farm tours, educational activities, petting zoos, livestock shows, harvest festivals, etc.) only where the property has farm status and where no permanent facilities are constructed in connection with the agri-tourism activity. Tourist accommodations are permitted in the form of a bed and breakfast (limited to four bedrooms) with the property's single detached dwelling. Accommodations in relation to an agri-tourism activity are permitted in the form of campsites under 150 square metres or cabins under 45 square metres on Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) properties with farm status. The number of sleeping units (e.g. a campsite or bedrooms) is limited to a maximum of five on properties under 8 hectars and 10 on properties over 8 hectars. Visitors are limited to a maximum stay of three months. Should a campsite involve covering an area of 1,000 square metres with fill (e.g. gravel or dirt) from another property for any purpose (e.g. campsites, internal roads etc.), then a Notice of Intent must be submitted to the Agricultural Land Commission at http://www.alc.gov.bc.ca/.