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The Islands Trust Area

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Working with Other Agencies

The Islands Trust works cooperatively with First Nations, Federal, Provincial and regional agencies to further the object of the Islands Trust. We have established protocol agreements with many agencies that outline areas of joint interest and how we will work together.

Building Inspection

The building inspection function is the responsibility of regional districts. In the Denman, Hornby and Lasqueti Local Trust Areas, the regional districts do not provide building inspection services. In most cases, the building inspectors interpret local zoning and land use bylaws when issuing building permits; in cases where the building inspector is not sure of the zoning, the building inspector will refer the permit application to Islands Trust planners to confirm compliance with zoning regulations. 

Minor Bylaw Variances

Landowners may find that zoning regulations create problems when applied to their property; in these cases, the landowner may seek relief from the bylaw by applying to the local trust committee for a Development Variance Permit or to the Board of Variance for a Board of Variance Order.

The Local Trust Committee may issue a Development Variance Permit to vary any construction and layout of trailer courts, siting, size, height, location and dimensions of any development, off-street parking requirements, run-off control requirements, signage requirements, screening and landscaping requirements, flood plain requirements, farming regulations in a farming area and subdivision and development requirements.

The Board of Variance is made up of three members appointed by the local trust committee. The Board of Variance may issue an Order to vary the siting, size and dimensions of a building or structure, the siting of a manufactured home in a manufactured home park, or  a subdivision servicing requirement in areas zoned agriculture or industrial, The Board of Variance may also vary the prohibition on structural alterations or additions where the use is considered legally non-conforming. The board of variance usually only considers minor variances in which the zoning regulations create a clear hardship.

A Development Variance Permit or a Board of Variance Order cannot vary use or density.

Applying for a Variance - Fact Sheet

Agricultural Land Reserve

Land in the Agricultural Land Reserve is subject to the Agricultural Land Commission Act and the Agricultural Land Reserve Use,Subdivision and Procedure Regulation. Generally, this land is protected for agricultural purposes, though the Commission does allow other uses. Applications for non-farm uses, subdivision in the ALR, or for exclusion from the land reserve should be made through your local trust committee.

Sewage and Waste Disposal

Sewage and waste disposal is regulated by the local Health authority except in cases where the volume of waste exceeds 5,000 imperial gallons per day, in which case the BC Ministry of Environment is responsible.

Water Supply

In most areas of the Islands Trust, local water supply is supplied through private wells. Currently BC does not regulate private groundwater use: however, land owners should take care not to disrupt the water supply to neighboring wells when drilling for a new water supply. Some areas of the Islands Trust are supplied by community water systems. These systems are either operated by the regional district or privately as a strata corporation or as an improvement district. Local trust committees can protect groundwater using land use planning tools. The Islands Trust also promotes sustainable water use and advocates on behalf of islanders for better provincial water legislation.

Mines and Quarries

The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas issues permits for mines and quarries including sand and gravel extraction. Please contact the Ministry for permit requirements.

Highway Access Permit

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is responsible for the safety of the provincial highway system; this includes all roads, lanes and unopened right-of-ways in the Islands Trust Area (except for Bowen Island, where the municipality is responsible). Before building a driveway connection to a road you should ensure that your driveway connection is consistent with Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure's standards. For commercial and industrial uses, you must obtain a Highway Access Permit from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastrcuture.

Development in Crown Foreshore Areas

The Province of British Columbia administers Crown Land*, including foreshore areas, the surface of the sea, and most lakes and rivers. Landowners wishing to construct private docks must ensure they have the appropriate zoning, and that they have followed the appropriate Provincial approval process. In parts of the Islands Trust Area, the Province requires landowners to apply for “Specific Permission” to construct private docks. In other parts of the Islands Trust Area, the Province allows “General Permissions” for dock construction, as long as development plans comply with certain criteria. In both Specific Permission and General Permission areas, the Islands Trust’s land use regulations apply and may limit or prohibit dock construction.

Local Trust Areas in which Specific Permissions are required include: Gabriola, Thetis, Mayne, Saltspring, Saturna, Galiano, South Pender, part of Ballenas-Winchelsea, and most of North Pender. Local Trust Areas in which General Permissions may be granted include: Denman, Hornby, Lasqueti, Gambier, part of Ballenas-Winchelsea, and part of North Pender. Bowen Island Municipality also falls into the area eligible for General Permissions.

More information on the Provincial requirements for dock construction can be found here:

* The term “Crown Land” assumes the land question of unceded Aboriginal title has been settled, but it has not. We continue to use the term because, at present, there is no other term that adequately describes land with unceded Aboriginal title over which the provincial and federal governments have asserted jurisdiction. This term is not meant to offend but merely to describe the current state of land claims in this region.

Subdivision Approval

In the Islands Trust Area, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is responsible for approving subdivisions (except on Bowen Island, where the municipality is responsible). The Approving Officer will issue a Preliminary Layout Approval (PLA), if the application appears to be consistent with the local zoning bylaws. The Approving Officer requires written confirmation from the Islands Trust planning staff that the proposed subdivision meets all local bylaws prior to issuing the PLA. Therefore, landowners should contact the Islands Trust planning staff early to discuss zoning issues.

Making changes to your Lot Line -  Fact Sheet

National Parks

The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve includes large areas of Saturna, Mayne, North Pender and South Pender islands as well as many smaller islands in the vicinity. Planning and administration of the park is the responsibility of Parks Canada.

Provincial Parks

Provincial Parks are on larger islands and many smaller islands, and include the many marine parks with water access only. The Ministry of Environment is responsible for planning and administration of these parks.

Regional Parks

Regional Parks are on located on many islands, some adjacent to Provincial parks. The local regional district is responsible for planning and administration of these parks.

Local Parks

Local Parks include small water accesses, trails, playgrounds and sports fields. These parks are planned and administered by a local parks and recreation commission under the jurisdiction of the Regional District or directly by the Regional District if no commission is appointed. On Bowen Island the parks are administered by the Bowen Island Municipal Council.

Liquor Control and Licenses

The Liquor Control and Licensing Branch is responsible for Liquor control and licensing. Some applications for new licenses or expansion of existing licenses are referred to the local trust committee for comment and community input.

Communications Towers

Industry Canada is responsible for regulating all communication towers. Industry Canada works with local communities and the local trust committees during the review of new tower applications.


Low-flying aircraft can be noisy and disruptive to sensitive wildlife. At the request of the Islands Trust, Transport Canada issued the advisories below to pilots to make them aware of sensitive areas in the Islands Trust Area. With sufficient evidence, Transport Canada can initiate enforcement against aircraft that fly below 500 feet.  Enquiries and complaints about low-flying aircraft can be made to Transport Canada at 604-666-5586.

Page last updated: 27/03/20
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