Ask Pat: Development permit process.

Alice Cavanagh asks—

Hi Pat!

Can you explain the development permit process a bit. This is mostly in reference to the RiverSky development that is already selling units even though the land they own isn’t zoned for residential. It’s zoned for commercial. If developers are given a green light for a project before the land is even zoned correctly it seems a bit backward. If the process is approve the development and then ask for resident feedback on zoning perhaps this should be looked at.


Rezoning to change the allowed use of a property in the City requires an amendment of the Zoning Bylaw. The Local Government Act outlines the City’s powers to zone starting around Section 903. It also outlines the steps a City must go through to amend that Bylaw. For example, Section 890 requires a Public Hearing be held between 1st and 3rd reading of the Bylaw Amendment. There must also be at least one day between the 3rd reading and Adoption, according to Section 135 of the Community Charter (which sets out a Local Government’s procedures in regards to Bylaw adoption).

In practice, when a Public Hearing is required, 1st and 2nd readings are done at one meeting, and an Opportunity to the Heard is immediately scheduled for the next Public Hearing (usually, the last scheduled Council Meeting of the Month). Once the Public Hearing is completed, 3rd reading is usually passed or rejected immediately. If rejected, the process ends there; If passed, Adoption takes place at a subsequent meeting.

The Zoning for the River Sky site is currently Comprehensive Development Zoning (CD_60). This is a special type of zoning that allows a mix of commercial and residential use, in this case 10,000 square feet of commercial and 519 Residential units in two towers.

The Zoning Amendment Bylaw that made that so (#7722, 2014) first came to Council on September 8, 2014 (after being initially reviewed in the months previous, and going through public open houses, presentations to the local Residents Association Community Board, etc.). The Committee of the Whole agreed unanimously to consider the Amendment for 1st and 2nd reading with no discussion. At the evening meeting there were three hours of delegations on the Whitecaps-in-Queens-Park proposal, so little surprise 1st and 2nd reading went by without a lot of discussion. A Public Hearing on the project was called for September 29, 2014.

On September 29, 2014, the Public Hearing was initiated. After it was noted that 12 pieces of correspondence were received on the project (5 in support, 6 opposed, and 1 neutral), it was determined that adequate notice had not been given to the neighbourhood about the Opportunity to be Heard, so Council recessed the meeting. The Public Hearing was rescheduled for October 27, 2014, by which time the correspondence had swelled to 17 pieces (7 in favour, 7 opposed, and 3 neutral/comments), and several residents and businesses spoke in favour or in opposition to the project as part of their Opportunity to be Heard. On that evening, Council read the Bylaw for the 3rd time.

The Bylaw was finally adopted on February 23, 2015. It became the law of the land at that time. The on-line zoning map does not appear to have been updated since 2013, but you can get an idea of how land was zoned in 2013 by looking at that. I’m not sure when the City’s GIS is updated, but my quick check shows the zoning for 1000 Quayside Drive has not been updated yet.

As for when the Developer can advertise properties for sale, I guess they need to risk-manage that. If there is some benefit for them advertizing early to gauge interest or help them develop a vision that is saleable, then risk disappointing customers when their plans aren’t approved as they hoped, I guess they could run that risk. I suspect they could even collect “speculative deposits” on a future development, but I doubt any mortgage company or bank would lend you money to buy an apartment that hasn’t been approved to be built yet. River Sky opened their display centre on February 14 (the day of the City’s OCP “Love Our City” event), but they did not start actual sales until after final adoption.

3 comments on “Ask Pat: Development permit process.

    1. The ground level of the new building will be retail- 10,000 square feet of it, facing south (towards the river) and east (towards the market). The west face will be townhouses (facing the townhouses on 10th). The north face will be on Quayside Drive, but will feature an accessible pedestrian link between Plaza 88 and the River Market via the McInnes Overpass.

  1. Thanks for answer. I was seriously confused as there is still a sign up saying a rezoning application was in process!

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