The statutory authority for land use contracts (as previously authorized under section 702A of the Municipal Act, RSBC 1960, c.255) was repealed by the Municipal Amendment Act, 1977. However, many land use contracts entered into before the repeal of section 702A continue in force, subject to the authority of a local government to amend or discharge the land use contract pursuant to section 930 of the Local Government Act.
Under the provisions of Bill 17, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2014, all remaining land use contracts will automatically be terminated, and shall be deemed to be discharged from the title to the applicable land by no later than June 30, 2024. Additionally, any local government that has jurisdiction over land that is subject to a land use contract must adopt, by June 30, 2022, a zoning bylaw that will apply to that land on June 30, 2024.
Clearly, the Provincial Government has decided that the era of the land use contract must be brought to a final conclusion.
The following are the most significant points of the new legislation:
- Part 26 of the Local Government Act is amended by addition a new section 914.1(1), providing for the termination of all land use contracts on June 30, 2024.
- New section 914.1(2) states that if a local government has jurisdiction over land that is subject to a land use contract, it must adopt, by June 30, 2022, a zoning bylaw that will apply to the land on June 30, 2024. If land is subject to a land use contract and is also covered by existing zoning regulations, then the existing zoning would presumably meet the requirements of section 914.1(2), although the June 30, 2022 deadline could possibly be interpreted as limiting the authority to change the “new” zoning rules between June 30, 2022 and the termination date. Rather than simply relying on existing zoning rules, which may be completely out of sync with the actual use of the land, consideration could be given to adopting a new zoning bylaw for the land that is consistent with the use and density permitted under the land use contract, otherwise the lawful use of the land as of the date of termination of the land use contract will become a lawful non-conforming use under section 911 of the Local Government Act (see below).
- Rather than wait until the new default termination date, under new section 914.2 a local government may, by bylaw, terminate a land use contract, provided it first holds a public hearing in accordance with section 890. A bylaw under section 914.2 must not be adopted after June 30, 2022, and provide that it comes into force at least one year after the bylaw’s adoption, and no later than the termination date. Section 892 is amended by adding requirements for the notice to be given in advance of the public hearing. Having adopted the bylaw, the local government must then give notice to the land title office, and also to the owner of the land that is subject to the land use contract.
- The Board of Variance is now to be invested with the authority to relieve the owner from hardship resulting from the early termination of a land use contract. Specifically, if hardship is found, under new section 901.1 the Board of Variance may order that the provisions of the land use contract continue to apply in relation to the applicant for a specified period of time ending no later than June 30, 2024. Such orders, if given, do not run with the land, and would therefore be for the benefit only of the owner who applied for relief from hardship. If the land was sold, presumably the order of the Board of Variance would no longer apply.
- Section 911 is amended by adding (in new subsections (12) to (14)) that if as of the termination of the land use contract, or at the expiry of the time period specified by the Board of Variance under section 901.1, the land or building or structure is lawfully used but the use does not conform to the zoning bylaw in force at the time of termination, the use may be continued as a non-conforming use.
- Section 914(1) is amended to state to that compensation is not payable for any loss or damages that result from the termination of a land use contract, whether by operation of section 914.1, or as a result of a bylaw adopted under section 914.2.
- Section 930, the current provision dealing with the modification, variance or discharge of land use contracts, remains in place for the time being.
In terms of the obligation to ensure that zoning will be in place upon the termination of a land use contract, local governments should consider whether existing developments should be allowed to continue as lawful uses under the terms of the zoning bylaw, once the land use contract terminates, or whether upon the termination of the land use contract, it is more desirable from a planning perspective for the existing use to become lawfully non-conforming.
Bill 17 also streamlines and simplifies the provisions of Part 26 dealing with Ministerial approval of certain bylaws. The default requirements for ministerial approval of regional district official community plan, zoning, temporary use permit, and subdivision servicing bylaws is gone, and instead, the amended provisions of Part 26 will allow the Minister to make regulations requiring ministerial approval before the adoption of an OCP, a zoning bylaw, a subdivision servicing bylaw, a temporary use permit bylaw or a land use contract amendment bylaw under section 930. However, the power to make regulations does not apply where the bylaw is a zoning bylaw, a subdivision servicing bylaw or a temporary use permit bylaw and only applies to an area for which an OCP is in effect and where the bylaw is consistent with the OCP, or to a land use contract amendment bylaw that applies in that area. It remains to be seen whether the new regulations will result in any real change in the current regime for Ministerial approval.
Additionally, the provision authorizing the Minister to establish policy guidelines for the adoption of Part 26 bylaws is expanded by allowing the Minister to establish guidelines for the adoption by a regional district of a zoning bylaw, a subdivision servicing bylaw, a temporary use permit bylaw, or a land use contract amendment bylaw under section 930(2)(a).
Finally, the protection for in-stream building permit applications from new development cost charge bylaws under section 937.001 is being broadened. Not only will the in-stream protection apply where a building permit application has been submitted in a satisfactory form and the building permit fee paid before adoption of a DCC bylaw, it will also apply if an application for the issuance of a development permit or an amendment to a zoning bylaw is “in-stream” as of the date the new DCC bylaw is adopted, and a building permit authorized as a result of that in-stream application being approved is issued within twelve months of the adoption of the DCC bylaw.