Board of Variance
Updated on September 17, 2020
Board of Variance
What is a Board of Variance?
Any local government that has adopted a zoning bylaw or rural land use bylaw must establish a Board of Variance (BOV). See Section 536 of the British Columbia Local Government Act. The Board of Variance is an independent board consisting of three volunteer members of the public who have been appointed by the Board of the Regional District of Nanaimo. These members may not be an officer or employee of the local government; they do not have representation on the Regional District of Nanaimo Board of Directors.
The Board of Variance reviews applications and makes decisions on minor variances to zoning and rural land use bylaws when it is illustrated by the applicant that compliance would cause undue hardship. In order to grant a variance, the Board of Variance must be of the opinion that the variance or exemption does not:
- result in inappropriate development of the site;
- adversely affect the natural environment;
- substantially affect the use and enjoyment of adjacent land;
- vary permitted uses and densities under the applicable bylaw; or
- defeat the intent of the bylaw.
Who can apply to the Board of Variance?
In the Regional District of Nanaimo, the Board of Variance shall hear all representations from Electoral Areas A, C, E, F, G and H. Registered property owner(s) may apply to the Board of Variance or may appoint an agent to act on their behalf.
Properties in Electoral Area B (Gabriola Island) can apply to Islands Trust, who govern land use planning for Gabriola. Properties inside municipal boundaries within the Regional District of Nanaimo can apply to their municipal office Board of Variance.
What issues can go before the Board of Variance?
A person may apply to the Board of Variance to request that a minor variance be permitted from the requirements of a zoning or rural land use bylaw. The applicant must adequately demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the Board, that compliance with certain bylaw provisions would cause the applicant undue hardship.
What is a minor variance?
A minor variance may be viewed as a matter of judgment and common sense after considering all the surrounding circumstances. The decision on what is, or what is not, a minor variance is at the discretion of the Board of Variance and will be decided by the Board upon consideration of all information provided by the applicant. The onus falls to the applicant to demonstrate the variance to be minor in nature.
What is undue hardship?
A person may apply to the Board of Variance for a minor variance if they allege that compliance with any of the following would cause hardship:
- a bylaw respecting the siting, dimensions or size of a building or structure, or the siting of a manufactured home in a manufactured home park;
- the prohibition of a structural alteration or addition under section 531 of the Local Government Act;
- a subdivision servicing requirement under section 506 of the Local Government Act in an area zoned for agricultural or industrial use.
Undue hardship does not include financial hardship.
Can I apply for a Variance on a non-conforming building?
A person may apply for relief of certain restrictions imposed under Sections 528 - 532 of the Local Government Act with regards to legal non-conforming buildings* if:
- undue hardship would be caused to the applicant through compliance;
- it would not result in inappropriate development of the site;
- it does not adversely affect the use and enjoyment of adjacent land;
- it does not vary permitted uses and densities of the applicable bylaw; and
- it does not defeat the intent of the bylaw.
*The same criteria applies to conforming buildings.
How do I apply to the Board of Variance?
The first step is to call or visit the Planning Department or the Building Department to discuss your application prior to submitting the application. You will need information such as the legal description, plan, drawings, and surveys. Board of Variance application forms are available at the Planning Department at the Regional District of Nanaimo office and online, see BOV application package. Applications for the Board of Variance are received by the Board of Variance Secretary at the Planning Department counter on the 1st floor of the Regional District office, 6300 Hammond Bay Road in Nanaimo. There is a deadline for the submissions of applications prior too each Board of Variance meeting. See BOV Schedule. All applications must be complete with a fee submitted prior to consideration.
How much does it cost to apply to the Board of Variance?
A Board of Variance Application fee is $400 and is payable to the Regional District of Nanaimo when the application is submitted. The application fee is non-refundable.
Will my neighbours be notified of my application?
Yes, as required by the Local Government Act, the Board of Variance must notify all owners and tenants of the subject property and of land that is within 50 metres of the subject property. Notification will include details of the proposed variance and the date of the Board of Variance meeting; recipients will be afforded an opportunity to present their evidence and arguments to the Board of Variance at the meeting. The Board of Variance Secretary will also accept written submissions to be presented at the meeting. In addition, the electoral area director of the Regional District of Nanaimo will be notified.
If a variance is granted, how long do I have to begin construction?
The Local Government Act states that construction should be substantially started within 2 years from the order, however it gives the Board of Variance authority to specify a different time frame if deemed appropriate. The Board of Variance shall consider the time frame for each individual application.
Can I appeal a Board of Variance decision?
A decision of the Board of Variance is final (Section 542 Local Government Act). If the application is denied, the applicant may elect to submit an independent Development Variance Permit application to the Board of the Regional District of Nanaimo. The applicant should first consult with staff at the Planning Department.
Meeting Times and Location
The Board of Variance meets the second Wednesday of every month if there is a current Board of Variance application to be heard. The meetings are held at 4:00 pm in the 1st-floor Committee Room at the Regional District of Nanaimo office, 6300 Hammond Bay Road, Nanaimo. There is a deadline for the submission of applications prior to each Board of Variance meeting. See current Board of Variance Schedule.
For more information, or for meeting documents prior to 2018, contact the Board of Variance Secretary at planning [at] rdn.bc.ca.