Key OCP Policies on Managing Growth on Gabriola Island

This page provides information on the major policies and planning tools in the Gabriola Official Community Plan (OCP) that address issues of growth and its management. This page is available as a download by clicking here. It covers:

  1. the OCP’s goals and policies related to managing growth
  2. OCP policies that govern density
  3. examples of new policies that could mitigate the negative impacts of growth on Gabriola.

Key considerations

Gabriola’s Official Community Plan speaks to growth largely in relation to limiting additional density rather than managing growth in ways that would help to meet important social and environmental goals, such as the need for affordable housing and the need to protect and preserve our Coastal Douglas-Fir ecosystem and groundwater.


What does the Gabriola Official Community Plan (1997) say about “Managing Growth” on Gabriola Island?

The goals contained in the Gabriola Official Community Plan (1997) only explicitly mention the term “growth” once – in which “gradual and appropriate” rather than “rapid” growth is to be encouraged. The other policies and objectives speak to regulating the density that is already permitted through zoning. Anticipating or managing new growth (except for multi-family affordable housing) does not seem to be contemplated in the OCP. 

The OCP’s social goals (s.1.3) are:

  1. To preserve the rural character and atmosphere of the Gabriola Planning Area and ensure that the community remains a viable, healthful place in which to live, providing for a variety of lifestyles in harmony with the natural environment.
    1. To ensure that access and opportunity, now and in the future, are provided for the public to enjoy and appreciate the Gabriola Planning Area in harmony with the natural environment and existing communities.
    1. To ensure that options for future generations to make land use decisions are not jeopardized.
    1. To encourage gradual and appropriate, rather than rapid, change and growth.
    1. To co-operate and communicate with other government agencies, other agencies and First Nations, and to involve the public in the decision-making process to fulfill these goals.
    1. To encourage local food systems and community food security.
    1. To recognize that small, locally owned and home-based businesses contribute significantly to the character and sustainability of island life.

Section 2.0 General Land Use Policies:

k)   This Plan only supports the realization of additional residential density without subdivision when used for Affordable Housing for Special Needs residents and Seniors.


Which OCP Policies govern density on Gabriola Island?

In addition to the general objectives and policies listed above, the OCP includes objectives and policies related to density. 

Section 2.1 General Residential Land Use Objectives/Policies:

  1. To ensure that subdivision design is consistent with the rural character of Gabriola

5.   To support a mix of housing types which includes affordable and market housing in appropriate locations

  • Policy b) With the exception of affordable housing, no provision shall be made for multi-dwelling residential use in the Planning Area.
  • Policy c) No provision shall be made for mobile home parks in the planning area.
  • Policy g) On parcels 2.0 hectares (4.94 acres) or larger, one secondary suite shall be permitted per parcel, accessory to a principal single family dwelling.

Section 2.2 Small Rural Residential Objectives/Policies

  1. To encourage the consolidation of parcels designated Small Rural Residential.
  • a)   The principal use shall be residential.
  • b)   One single-dwelling residential unit shall be permitted per parcel.
  • c)   The minimum parcel size in the Small Rural Residential designation shall be 0.5 hectares (1.235 acres) and the average parcel size shall be 2.0 hectares (4.94 acres).
  • d)   In order to satisfy the Ministry of Health’s land area requirements regarding sewage disposal, the consolidation of small parcels shall be encouraged.

Section 2.3 Large Rural Residential Objective/Policies

  1. To permit a range of uses that will support the retention of unsubdivided land.
  • Policy a) The principal use shall be residential.
  • Policy b) One single-dwelling residential unit shall be permitted per parcel.
  • Policy c) The minimum parcel size shall be 2 hectares (4.94 acres) and the average parcel size shall be 4 hectares (9.88 acres).

Section 2.5 Gabriola Island Density Bank

 1. To identify and deposit unused residential densities into the Density Bank based upon the following eligibility criteria:

  • i. from the lands that are rezoned as parks; and
  • ii.   from the voluntary donation of residential densities.

2. To consider applications for the withdrawal of banked densities in accordance with the rezoning requirements in Section 2.4 provided that a Housing Agreement is in place to ensure affordability is maintained over time.

Section 3.1 General Commercial Objectives/Policies

d)   One single-dwelling residential unit per parcel may be permitted in any Commercial designation.

Section 5.1 Resource Lands Objectives/Policies

In keeping with the objective of maintaining a rural landscape in the planning area the intent is to retain much of the land in this designation in large parcels. Yet, as provided for in the policies below, residential density allowed on a parcel in the Resource zone may be transferred to another parcel in the Resource zone.

Resource Objectives

  • 1.   To preserve large parcels of land in a largely unsubdivided state;
  • 2.   To maintain representative areas of rural landscape on Gabriola; and
  • 3.   To provide transitional areas between the residential and forestry and agricultural parts of the community.

Section 5.2 Forestry Policies

  • b)   The minimum and average parcel size in the Forestry zone shall be 60 hectares (148.2 acres).
  • c)   The subdivision of land, in the Forestry zone, shall not be supported, except for purposes of creating an ecological reserve.

Section 5.3 Agriculture Policies

  • b)   The approval of subdivisions of land in the ALR, where such subdivision would reduce the long term viability of the parcel for farm use is not supported.
  • d)   The minimum and average parcel size in the Agriculture zone shall be 8 hectares (19.76 acres).

What are the rules around subdivision on Gabriola?

The Gabriola Island Land Use Bylaw sets out zoning regulations for each parcel of land on the island. Within each zone there is an established minimum lot size to guide subdivision of a lot into one or more lots. 

All subdivisions are approved by the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the Provincial Approving Officer cannot approve a subdivision that is not consistent with the Gabriola Land Use Bylaw.

Besides minimum lot size requirements, there are several conditions that must be met for a subdivision to be approved although most of these are not regulated by the Gabriola Land Use Bylaw but by the province (proof of potable water requirements; sewage disposal requirements;  minimum road construction standards; parkland dedication and several others).


What are the rules around secondary suites on Gabriola?

The Gabriola Official Community Plan and Land Use Bylaw set out the criteria for secondary suites on Gabriola Island.

Currently, one secondary suite is permitted on a lot that is 2 hectares or larger in size in the SRR, LRR, R, RR1, RR2, F, AG zones. Maps that show these zones are here:

The LUB contains regulations governing the construction of a secondary suite, such as maximum floor area and height.


What kinds of new policies or regulations could address the negative impacts of growth on Gabriola?

  1. New rezoning applications proposing an increase in residential density could be required to ensure all new dwellings are constructed using less water, energy and meet the BC Energy Step Code; requirements (which will be mandated across BC by 2032); and include universal access design principles.
  2. Require any new dwelling to be constructed with a connected rainwater harvesting system for household re-use.
  3. Establish more flexible zoning regulations for larger parcels allowing an increase in density (without subdivision) but decrease maximum lot coverage and total allowable build out (restrict floor area for each dwelling, restrict number of accessory buildings, require rainwater harvesting and re-use etc)
  4. Establish rental tenure housing for existing rental multi-family dwellings that requires the rental units to remain as rental housing
  5. Allow commercial properties to have an increase in residential densities if they remain rental units; affordable; meet Step Code requirements etc.
  6. Restrict further small lot subdivision (lots less than 1 ha) but encourage more mixed use (residential/commercial) on commercial zoned lots.

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