Municipal Law

In British Columbia as in the rest of Canada, no level of government affects our day to day lives more than local government. After all, everyone in British Columbia lives within a village, town, city, or regional district.

The Local Government Act and the Community Charter are the two main pieces of legislation that set out the powers and responsibilities of local government. Between them, there are over 1,000 sections. That is only the beginning: as authorized by the legislation, each local government enacts and regularly changes a myriad of bylaws and policies. Through those bylaws and policies, local governments can, and often do, tell us where we may live, how big our house may be, when to be quiet, where we can operate a certain type of business, where and when we can park our car, and what we can put in the trash. Local government can even require a homeowner to cut the grass on neighbouring municipal property.

For most of us, and for most of the time, we go about our days with little thought to the degree to which our lives and our community are controlled by local government. However, with that degree of regulation, inevitably conflict follows. Sometimes, the conflict involves land use questions such as whether a business is permitted at a certain location. It may be that the zoning has changed since the business started, or that the business has grown to a point that it no longer fits easily into the permitted uses for that particular site. At other times, the conflict involves building code violations or a lack of proper permits for what is being built.

With twenty years of experience in municipal law, we can help an owner to understand what is and is not permitted in a particular area of the community and help resolve a dispute with local government. Where the owner is in the wrong, we will help work out a game plan with the local government to restore compliance. Where the local government is in the wrong, we will try to get that point across to the government officials. If that does not work, we will take the local government to court. And yes, you can fight city hall and win.

For property developers, the conditions placed by local governments in return for development approval are often the difference between profit and loss. Local governments have a say in almost every aspect of land development within their boundaries. Local governments control minimum lot sizes; land requirements for parks and schools, including financial contributions towards existing and future infrastructure; the provision of services such as water, power and sewer; road construction standards; restrictions due to slope stability concerns; the protection of corridors for the movement of wildlife; and so on.

if you are a property developer, we can assist you to navigate the seemingly endless list of approval requirements. Whether through negotiation or litigation, we can provide you with confidence that what is being asked of you is within the powers of the local government.

Our municipal lawyers are Jeff Frame, and David Hughes.