FAQs

Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

What can I do with my property? Can I build an addition? Can I subdivide it? Can I develop a small lot, duplex or apartment building?

The Zoning Regulation Bylaw is the main document that regulates what a property can be used for, the density of development, and the size and siting of all buildings. The zoning bylaw also regulates house conversions, secondary suites and off-street parking.

In some cases there may be additional development potential under the existing zoning. In other cases it may be possible to apply to amend the zoning to allow for a new type of development on your property (e.g. subdivide into two small lots, build a new duplex, add a garden suite).

To amend the zoning you must make a rezoning application to the City and have it approved by Council. A rezoning application is usually approved by Council only when it is consistent with already established City policies found in the Official Community Plan, neighbourhood plans or other city policies. If you have more questions about how the policies apply to your property or the rezoning process please consult the neighbourhood planner. The rezoning process is quite involved and includes the applicant preparing plans and reports related to the rezoning application, a period of consultation with neighbours and the Community Association Land Use Committee, review by City staff, review by the Planning and Land Use Standing Committee and Advisory Committees, preparation of legal documents, a Public Hearing and, finally, Council consideration of the approval bylaws. This process takes six months or more. For more information on the rezoning process consult the Rezoning Application Package.

How do I find out what the zoning is for a particular property?

The Zoning Regulation Bylaw establishes general land use regulations for the City as well as specific regulations by "zone". Each property in the City is mapped to a specific zone which corresponds to a zone table that defines the regulations for that zone.  Locate your property on the Zoning Map and then consult the Zoning Regulation Bylaw to determine what is permitted in your zone.

Are there digital or paper maps available?

Yes, the VicMap page on the City's web site has an interactive map and PDF maps available for viewing.  4'x3' paper copies of the Zoning and Address Maps are available at the Development Centre, located on the second floor of City Hall for $15 including tax.

Can I add a Secondary Suite on my property?

A Secondary Suite is permitted within single family dwellings in most of the zones within the City, but are not permitted in small-lot zones. Secondary suites must qualify and be built with all required building permits.  Consult the Zoning Regulation Bylaw and Schedule J to see the regulations for your property.

Can I add a Garden Suite on my property?

A Garden Suite is a self-contained dwelling unit located in an accessory building. Garden suites are a new initiative of the City and the draft policy guidelines are currently under review by Council. To build a garden suite a rezoning application and approval by City Council is required. Garden suites will be considered for lots with a single family dwelling, provided there is no secondary suite and the garden suite proposal is consistent with City policy.

What is a house conversion?

Many of the zones in Victoria allow for house conversions, whereby an existing house may be converted into a different use. Conversions to a duplex, multiple dwelling, boarding house, rooming house, housekeeping apartment building, rest home - class "B" or kindergarten are permitted depending on when the year the house was built, the existing floor area of the house and with certain restrictions on exterior renovations. For more information on house conversion consult the Zoning Regulation Bylaw and Schedule G.

My neighbour is developing their property, will I be consulted or notified?

The requirement to consult or notify neighbours of proposed development depends on the type of development being proposed and the type of approvals required from the City. There is no requirement for consultation or notification for building permits, subdivision, or Development Permits and Heritage Alteration Permits that comply with all bylaw requirements.

  • Property owners and occupants within 100m of a proposed rezoning are notified by mail with respect to meetings with the Community Association Land Use Committee and Public Hearing dates.
  • Property owners and occupants within 100m of a proposed Development Variance Permit, Development Permit with variances or Heritage Alternation Permit with variances are notified by mail with respect to Public Hearing dates.
  • Property owners and occupants of adjacent properties are notified of Board of Variance Hearing dates.

The City encourages all applicants with development proposals to consult with neighbours and the Community Association Land Use Committee to understand their concerns and minimize as best as possible any impacts.

What is a Development Permit?

A Development Permit is required prior to development, including subdivision, construction or alteration of the land, for properties within a Development Permit Area, although some exceptions do apply. Development Permit Areas are specified in the Official Community Plan (web site) and are designated to promote form and character objectives for intensive residential (e.g. small-lot subdivisions, duplexes, townhouses), commercial, industrial or multi-family development. Development Permit Areas are also designated for environmental considerations (e.g. shoreline protection). Some Development Permit Areas are also designated as Heritage Conservation Areas for the conservation of heritage resources.

An application for a Development Permit may take 3 months or more and is approved by Council. An application for a Minor Development Permit is processed by staff and can be obtained within days to weeks depending on the circumstances.

What is a variance?

A variance is an administrative exception to the Zoning Regulation Bylaw which can be granted by City Council by way of application to the Board of Variance, Development Permit with Variance or Development Variance Permit.

The Provincial Local Government Act sets out the Municipal means to grant variances. Variances can not be granted that effect use or density as set out in the zoning of the property.

An example of variances that commonly applied for are:

  • Setback requirements of distance from the front, rear, and side property lines to buildings
  • Site coverage, the percentage of buildings in relation to the area of the property
  • Height of a buildings
  • Open site space
  • Parking requirements

Variances are reviewed on an individual case basis and can be declined.

Which planner deals with my rezoning, Development Permit or Development Variance Permit application?

A Planner is assigned to each neighbourhood. Planners are familiar with the long range planning policy for a specific area and deals with rezoning, Development Permit and Development Variance Permit applications for the neighbourhood. A map of the City's neighbourhoods and planner assignments can be found here [PDF - 2.8 MB].

How do I find out about the heritage status of my property and what rules and regulations exist for heritage properties?

For any question related to heritage properties in the City of Victoria please click here.