The City of North Vancouver is setting forth on a years-long undertaking to revamp the City's zoning bylaw.

Adopted in 1995, the zoning bylaw is largely a carryover from the version adopted in 1967. In a City report last month, the Planning and Development Department noted that a comprehensive review of the zoning bylaw has never been undertaken, and that it's well overdue to be modernized.

"The world and the way we undertake city building has changed," the report said. "The existing Zoning Bylaw is cumbersome, antiquated, hard to navigate and understand for everyone (the public, Council, the development industry, businesses, staff, etc.), and is based on the principle of separating uses from the 1950's and 60's."

"While we have created mechanisms like Comprehensive Development Zones (CD Zones) to enable mixing of uses and better achieve Council's priorities, they do not solve the fundamental issue that the Zoning Bylaw is not meeting our current needs," the report added.

The City of North Vancouver is calling the project "Zoning for a Healthy City," an allusion to its stated goal of becoming "the healthiest small city in the world" and the Healthiest Small City Social Resiliency Collective created by Mayor Linda Buchanan amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City says that this is an opportunity to "modernize" the zoning bylaw and to "make it more nimble and responsive to a changing world; increase certainty, usability, and clarity; and streamline development review" in North Vancouver.

Some of the objectives are to support housing diversity and livability through design considerations and requirements, "right-sizing" parking requirements, improving how building forms and streets interface with one another, and creating a new framework that would allow continued innovation in the future, such as pre-zoning.

City of North Vancouver Zoning Bylaw Review (1)(City of North Vancouver)

"The modernized zoning bylaw will be modeled on a form-based approach, which is considered a best practice compared to conventional zoning bylaws for regulating land development and achieving policy goals," the report notes. "By definition, a form-based code (or bylaw) is more design-focused with particular attention to how buildings frame the public realm (massing and urban design relationships)."

Additionally, the City says that it's aiming to communicate the bylaw in visual ways, such as with diagrams and drawings, as another way of improving the accessibility and clarity of how zoning works.

City of North Vancouver Zoning Bylaw Review (2)(City of North Vancouver)

City staff will work with a team from Toronto-based consulting firm Urban Strategies Inc., who the City notes has extensive experience working with municipalities to modernize zoning.

The City has given the project team a budget of $375K from its 2022-2031 Capital Plan, and notes that the City also received grant funding from the Province of British Columbia's Development Approvals Process Review (DAPR) project. It's unclear how much funding the Province is providing, but according to the Union of BC Municipalities, who are administering the grants on behalf of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, the grant maximum is $500K.

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The project will now commence and unfold in three major phases across two years. From now until November 2023, the project team will gather and analyze information regarding existing City policies and best practices. From November 2023 to September 2024, the team will then work on drafting a new zoning bylaw -- including financial, location, and user testing, before the bylaw is finalized and approved between September 2024 and November 2024.

After the new zoning bylaw is implemented, the City will then evaluate it for a full year to see whether there are any issues that need to be addressed.