Resources for land developers
A Special Place
The south Okanagan enjoys beautiful lake views and abundant natural areas. As our valley’s population grows, we want to maintain these natural assets so that future generations enjoy the same quality of life that we do now.
Expenses and time associated with development approval can be reduced if you begin the planning process by considering environmental values.
- The South Okanagan enjoys high property values and studies show that lots adjacent to protected open spaces, parks and recreation trails have 15 – 30 % higher property and resale values.
- Our valley’s natural and working landscapes are a very important asset, so by protecting them we are benefiting the community and ensuring the continuing value of real estate.
Where to start?
- Protecting sensitive natural environments is the responsibility of all levels of government–federal, provincial and municipal or regional. Find out which regulations apply to you and understand the approvals you need before you begin work. This will save you time and money in the long run.
- Regulations apply not only to where you build, but also how you build. If you are working in a sensitive area you may be asked to monitor the impact of excavation and construction and mitigate damage that can occur. Keep in mind that you can reduce the cost of land clearing and post-construction landscaping by clearing a smaller portion of the property to be developed.
Think about it – protecting the environment can have lots of advantages
- faster planning approval
- reduced land clearing costs
- higher property values
- faster sales
- greater community buy-in and recognition
- protection of green space and wildlife
- a better development for everyone
Local Bylaws that Apply to Development
The Official Community Plan contains many policies to guide Council decisions regarding conservation of natural areas and features. Check to see if your proposal respects the general intent of the Official Community Plan Objectives and Policies.
How do you know if there are natural features to protect on your property?
When you are applying to rezone, subdivide or otherwise alter land, local government staff will use municipal mapping to identify if your property contains known Environmentally Sensitive Areas. Official Community Plan Bylaws such as Watercourse Development Permit Area (WDPA) or Environmentally Sensitive Development Permit Area (ESDPA) requires landowners to apply for a permit before subdividing, construction, or altering the land. Development within an ESDPA requires an Environmental Assessment conducted by a registered professional biologist (RPBio) with experience working with local ecosystems.
Riparian Areas Regulations (RAR)
In recognition of the importance of riparian corridors as fish habitat, the provincial government now requires local governments to protect these corridors. Under RAR a local government must not approve a development proposal that is near a riparian zone until a qualified environmental professional has carried out an assessment.
Qualified Environmental Professionals
You may be asked to engage an environmental professional early in your planning so that you can respond to their findings and incorporate their recommendations into you development design prior to the disturbance of the site.
Take time to talk to several consultants about their expertise, availability, fees, and experience with the ecosystems in your area and the type of assessment that you need. A Registered Professional Biologist should always be part of the team of professionals hired because of their expertise with ecosystems and wildlife species. A good development plan that meets environmental requirements will progress much more quickly through the approval process and safe you money in the long run.
What is a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP)?
A QEP is an applied scientist or technologist, acting alone or together with another QEP. A QEP must be a member in good standing of a BC professional organization. The applicable professionals include Biologists (RPBios), Geoscientists (PGeo), Foresters (RPF), Agrologists (PAg), Professional Engineer (PEng) and Applied Science Technologist and Technicians (AScT).
Working with a Qualified Environmental Professional will probably involve implementing mitigation measures for potential impacts from the planned development. Your QEP will likely use the sequence of mitigation options below to guide their assessment of the potential impacts that a proposed development will have.
Locate proposed development in pre-disturbed locations on the property
Design development to include Alternative Development Standards or to avoid ESAs
Mitigate to reduce potential impacts based on recommendations from the QEP
Compensate as a final resort to achieve a no-net-loss of environmental values onsite
Success Stories: Protecting Sensitive Ecosystems and Species during Development
Bighorn Mountain Estates, Okanagan Falls
The Environmental Assessment identified rare Antelope-brush grassland, property use by California Bighorn Sheep and other species at risk. The developers avoided the environmentally sensitive areas by clustering development into a disturbed portion of the property (an old gravel pit). Approximately 16 hectares of remaining land was donated to The Land Conservancy.
The ‘gated-community’ design incorporates a cattle guard and snake proof barrier fencing to prevent conflicts between domestic pets and wildlife.
“All the people that live here chose this area because they love nature. I can watch up to fourteen sheep, including adults and young, run down the cliff from my porch. We looked all over the South Okanagan until we found this place which just felt right. We are close to an urban area yet we are semi-rural. It’s like being in a little piece of heaven.“ ~ Resident
Summerland Waterfront Resort
Developers of Summerland Waterfront Resort were not required, but voluntarily protected, restored and enhanced the natural wetland and riparian area along the property shoreline. This included retaining and enhancing one of the few natural wetlands along the shores of Okanagan Lake. They now have wildlife observation and walking pathway for guests.
“Guest are presently surprised and delighted by the wildlife viewing and natural ambiance that this natural wetland brings” –General Manager
The following information and free publications will help you learn about natural habitats and development guidelines to consider before you begin a land development project.
Develop with Care: Environmental Guidelines for Urban and Rural Land Development in British Columbia
Published by BC Ministry of Environment the document is intended to assist people who are involved in planning, implementing, reviewing and/or approving land developments in British Columbia’s urban and rural areas. Its primary purpose is to provide province-wide guidelines for the maintenance of environmental values during the development of urban and rural lands. It also provides information on ways that environmental protection and stewardship can benefit the community, the property owner and the developer, as well as the natural environment. link to document
Sensitive Development Guides to South Okanagan Municipalities (available at planning department front counters):
Environmental Best Management Practices: An annotated bibliography and searchable database.
An easily accessible and searchable bibliography and database of existing information sources that provide guidance on how to manage for a wide range of environmental values – practices termed ‘best management practices’. Link to documents.
Riparian Areas Regulations: regulations that protect the features, functions and conditions of healthy streams during development
Link to document
Stewardship publications for developers
The Stewardship Centre for BC is committed to working with local communities, local governments and the planning and building professions to provide science-based best practices for land and water protection in British Columbia.
Access Near Aquatic Areas: a guide to sensitive planning, design, and management
Community Greenways: linking communities to country, and people to nature
Land Development Guidelines: for the protection of aquatic habitat
Stream Stewardship: a guide for planners and developers
Wetland Ways: Interim Guidelines for Wetland Protection and Conservation in BC
Written for people who are planning some form of activity or development near wetlands, as well as those looking for guidance on ways to best maintain the high ecological values in these areas.
- Bobolink Meadows Restoration
- Summerland Wildlife Habitat protected from ORV traffic – January – April
- McTaggart-Cowan Wildlife Area Created
- NCC launches campaign to protect section of historic ranch
- National Park Study Released by Okanagan Nation
- Nature Conservancy of Canada protects key grassland sites