Skip to content

How is a Sunshine Coast subdivision born?

What processes do developers need to follow?
Building frame structure on a new development site

With questions bubbling up over about the subdivision near Coopers Green Park, Halfmoon Bay director Lori Pratt gave a March 23 presentation on subdivision development in rural areas.

This was no quiet information session – questions from residents pushed the meeting past the two hour mark. 

Pratt was joined by around 75 people for the virtual session. Directors Leonard Lee (Area A), Andreas Tize (Area D) and Donna McMahon (Area E) were also in attendance as she explained the process as it applies in the Sunshine Coast Regional District’s (SCRD) rural areas.

Subdivisions 101 

Under the Land Title Act, a subdivision is the division of land into two or more parcels, and includes changing property lines, stratifying or making one property into two or more. 

The SCRD has seven official community plans (OCP) across its five electoral areas. There are two zoning bylaws in the regional district, one of which is currently under review. 

“Not all applications are made equal,” Jonathan Jackson, the SCRD’s manager of planning and development, told Coast Reporter following the presentation. And not all subdivision applications have to go through the SCRD’s elected board, as some are compliant with zoning. Applications that require a rezoning or amendment to the area’s OCP, or don’t meet the minimum 10 per cent frontage width (requiring a frontage waiver) will go before the board. 

There are 18 active subdivision applications under review by the SCRD: Two in Area A, five in Area B, four in Area D, six in Area E and one in Area F. The applicants must also make a parallel application with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), the approving officer for all subdivision applications in the regional district. 

While MOTI has final say, they basically take SCRD’s advice, said Jackson. MOTI looks to SCRD staff to see that an application fits within the area’s zoning. 

“In terms of lot layout, it often ends up being at the purview of the approving officer at the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure,” said Jackson. 

The ministry also deals with the stormwater management, while the SCRD will provide comments on items like water and sewage. If an application includes a basic septic field, and does not need a community sewer, then Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) reviews the application concurrently to make sure it meets VCH requirements. If a community sewer is proposed that is large enough that the SCRD would have to take over long-term maintenance, the regional district would be involved to ensure it is up to standard.

The SCRD will also provide comment on water development, cost charges payable at the time of the subdivision, and other matters. Water access depends on the location of the property, and can be drilled or hooked up to the water main.

“So we’re basically a referral group to the Ministry of Transportation. But we do require that an application gets made to us,” Jackson said. 

All three applications – to MOTI, the SCRD and VCH – are then reviewed by their relevant staff. MOTI and the SCRD will make referrals to internal and external agencies. While MOTI and VCH can approve or deny an application at this stage, the SCRD’s process may also include any zoning changes and OCP amendments applications (and referral to the relevant advisory planning committee), public information meetings, then bylaw amendment, adoption or abandonment at a public board meeting, and finally the decision whether to approve or deny the application. 

Pratt said a pre-application phone call is recommended.

If a property is in a development permit area, the applicant is required to apply for a development permit, which sometimes also involves the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) such as when a creek is involved. If someone has started work on a site before applying for a required development permit, Jackson said they will be charged double the application fee. Bylaw compliance measures can also be enforced in the case of a bylaw infraction, and MOTI can issue a stop work order. The public is recommended to submit a dual complaint with first-hand information if they believe it’s under the jurisdiction of both the SCRD and FLNRORD. Questions can be directed to the SCRD’s planning department.

“When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to make a complaint,” Jackson said. 

The early marketing of a development for sale is regulated by the provincial superintendent of real estate under the Real Estate Development Marketing Act, and several permissions and approval in principle are required. 

The applicant can be the property owner or an agent designated by that owner, Pratt said during her presentation. 

Once the developer’s stormwater and drainage management plan is submitted, it is under the jurisdiction of MOTI to ensure the plan is followed. But that doesn’t always happen, Pratt acknowledged, adding that it’s a problem province-wide, not just on the Coast. The developer is responsible for building roads to standard, but the maintenance of roads is MOTI’s responsibility in rural areas. 

The regional district approves building permits for the rural areas, and conducts building inspections. A tree cutting bylaw identifies tree cutting permit areas, mostly near riparian areas, Pratt said. 

“To be frank, outside of those areas that aren't covered by that bylaw, there's not much we can do about it if somebody wants to cut trees on their property, and they're not within one of those riparian zones, those bylaw areas. Essentially, it's their property – and forgive my language on this – but they can do what they want to do, because it's theirs,” Pratt said. 

Questions and comments

Many of the night’s questions centred around a property near Coopers Green Park in Halfmoon Bay called Bayview Hills. That development project has yet to appear before the SCRD board of directors, Pratt pointed out.  

Concerns raised by residents surrounded the process, early marketing of lots for sale, environmental considerations, stormwater, tree cutting, erosion, wastewater management and flooding concerns. 

One resident asked how properties in general are allowed to create roads, grade the land and prepare septic without the regional district stepping in, when they do not have a development permit. 

Pratt countered that MOTI approves subdivisions, not the SCRD. Director Leonard Lee said a bylaw complaint must be filed before the bylaw officers can investigate. In a list of questions answered on Facebook after the meeting, Pratt said a landowner can clear and prep their own property as long as development permit areas, local regulations and bylaws are not contravened.

During the virtual session, Halfmoon Bay fire chief Ryan Daley said young families need affordable housing “and the only way we’re going to get affordable housing back on the Sunshine Coast is to put out product on the market. We do not have enough product, which will drive costs.” 

He raised the difficulty of recruiting for the fire department. “I've lost a lot of men and women over the last few years moving to places where they have products available to purchase. And we don't have any Halfmoon Bay, and we don't have any on the onset of being available. So there's a double edged sword here,” Daley said. 

Lee also raised his concerns about housing costs, and urged people to consider allowing manufactured trailers. “I’m quite concerned that there’s widespread opposition to the low-end housing,” he said. 

Next Halfmoon Bay meeting

Pratt, MLA Nicholas Simons and MP Patrick Weiler are scheduled to attend the upcoming Halfmoon Bay town hall meeting on April 6 at 7 p.m. Residents are invited to submit challenges facing the Halfmoon Bay community for consideration. See more event information at