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Vancouver revamps regulation and rezoning resources

Warren Frey
Vancouver revamps regulation and rezoning resources

VANCOUVER – A tangled web of building regulations and bylaws is being streamlined for the digital age.

The City of Vancouver has launched a suite of online permit and building process tools to simplify building in the region.

“These improvements are part of the dedicated effort to speed up the permitting process and deliver much needed housing faster. This also better serves small- and medium-sized businesses by making it easier to work with the city,” Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart said in a statement.

City of Vancouver city-wide and regional planning project manager Marco D’Agostini said the city wants to address a long legacy of regulations that haven’t changed in decades.

“The zoning bylaw was first adopted in 1956, and there have since been over 8,000 amendments. This is the first time the city has done a comprehensive review of the regulations,” D’Agostini said.

A new zoning and development bylaw landing page has a video that gives an overview of the zoning process as well as instructions on finding and using bylaw information.

A new land use document library has also been created as a comprehensive source for all zoning and development-related documents and a bylaw user guide has been launched to explain basic zoning information, explain bylaw structure and help with navigation of the rules. Amendments to documents related to land use have also been consolidated into a single web page (LINK) to ease discovery.

“The work we’re doing around simplifying regulations will contribute to lowering permit processing time by making information more consistent and easier to understand both for the staff and the public. More clarity around regulations makes it easier to make decisions and approve applications,” D’Agostini said.

“What we launched is three new web pages consolidated from 50 to 60 pages previously,” he added. “It’s about simplifying, organizing, and making it more intuitive.”

The city previously launched Regulation Redesign in 2018 in an effort to clarify and simplify regulations that have accrued over 60 years of the zoning and land use process, and the new website improvements are a part of that initiative.

“It’s been a long-standing commentary from the public, and we did a round of staff consultation as well and found very common themes on the challenges of finding information, not understanding it and overall confusion as to where it’s located,” D’Agostini said.

D’Agostini said revamping the regulations was in response to rapid development in Vancouver not just physically but also in terms of the rapid development of policies to respond to needs such as housing affordability.

“What we found is new policies are intended to deliver things, but they aren’t reconciled with previous policies,” he said.

To change the regulatory structure, the city held open houses and a stakeholder roundtable featuring 65 different architectural and development firms, art and community groups and construction and real estate associations. A report summarizing the findings of the roundtable was released in November 2018.

While the City of Vancouver is streamlining and improving accessibility to the current regulatory structure, changing the regulations must occur at the city council level, D’Agostini said.

“The approach we’re taking is not necessarily driving change to policies and regulations, that’s part of bigger planning programs. But our intent is to reformat zoning laws and regulations to make them easier to understand,” he said.

“A lot of what we’re doing is based on best practice research, and by looking at the local and national level as well as cities in the United States. The intention is simplification and making things easier to find and understand,” D’Agostini added.

In June another stakeholder gathering of frequent users will meet to “help develop solutions on more complex regulations from a user perspective.”

“Staff, architects and designers will come together and bring forward their findings to council,” he said.

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