Wildfire Hazard Development Permits

BACKGROUND

The District of West Vancouver has developed a set of guidelines that incorporate FireSmart principles into new building design and construction near areas of the community that are at risk of wildfires.

The Wildfire Hazard Development Permit Area was approved by Council on December 14 and includes all properties within 100 metres of a forested area—approximately 50% of land in the District.

The Development Permit Area will make our neighbourhoods safer by reducing the risk of wildfire hazards to new buildings, as well as minimizing the spread of fires into the community. A development permit is now needed before constructing most single- and multiple-family homes and coach houses. Although the District Fire Department recommends these guidelines for all existing homes, a development permit is not required for work on existing homes.

FireSmart principles include increasing the space between structures and nearby trees and brush, and incorporating fire-resistant design features and materials into buildings to help protect the community from wildfires.

In 2019, Council recognized that climate change constitutes an emergency for West Vancouver and directed staff to prepare a climate adaptation strategy. The Community Wildfire Protection Plan was adopted in 2019, providing a framework that can be used to review and assess areas of moderate and high-risk to fire hazards, and outlining how to respond in an emergency. The plan also included the recommendation to establish a Wildfire Hazard Development Permit Area.

Many homes in West Vancouver are located next to forested green space, creating significant risk of urban wildfires. Climate change has caused this threat to increase in B.C., nearby in Alberta and Washington State, and in many other areas in North America. Recently, Kelowna, Williams Lake, and Fort McMurray had significant wildfires and, in West Vancouver, wildfires occurred at Whyte Lake and in Lions Bay in 2018.

DETAILS

To protect development from the risks of wildfire hazard by taking appropriate precautionary measures, informed by professional studies and assessments to guide safe development, forest management, building design, construction and long-term maintenance and monitoring. The Development Permit Area (DPA) will:

1.   Manage development to:

  • Minimize risk to people and property from wildfire hazards;
  • Minimize the risk of fire to the District’s forests and parks; and
  • Promote management activities to reduce wildfire hazards and protect the environment.

2.  Assist in proactively managing conditions affecting potential fire behaviour.

3.  Reduce the risk of post-fire hazards including landslides, debris flows, and erosion.

4.  Conserve the ecological, aesthetic, and recreational assets of the District’s forests and parks for the benefit of present and future generations.

APPLYING FOR A WILDFIRE HAZARD DEVELOPMENT PERMIT

If you are doing any of the following work on your property, within the Wildfire Hazard Development Permit Area, you will need a wildfire hazard development permit:

  • Development of land with the installation of a new single or multi-family dwelling, duplex, or detached secondary suite, with habitable space, as defined under the District’s Building Bylaw No. 4400, 2004.
  • Subdivision of land.

You can view whether your property is within the DPA under the Planning/Wildfire Hazard DPA layer in WestMap

A wildfire hazard development permit needs to be approved prior to applying for a building permit.

Your application for a wildfire hazard development permit should include the following:

  • Completed Natural Environment Development Application Form 
  • Wildfire Hazard Assessment Report developed by a Qualified Professional
  • Arborist Report (if applicable) – for work proposed on Protected Trees as defined in the District’s Tree Bylaw Section 4.3 
  • Site Survey – a plan drawn to scale and prepared by a BC Land Surveyor
  • Architectural Drawings – must show exterior building materials and finishes, and adhere to the recommendations outlined in the Wildfire Hazard Assessment Report
  • Landscaping Plan – must adhere to the recommendations outlined in the Wildfire Hazard Assessment Report

     

Applicants must submit all necessary documentation as outlined above. Plans and documents must be in PDF format and submitted to:

Stephanie Louie
Environmental Protection Officer

Email

All fees can be paid online. Directions for online payment will be provided to the applicant following application submission.

Note: It is important that Architectural Drawings and Landscaping Plans submitted as part of the Wildfire Hazard Development Permit application adhere to the recommendations outlined in the Wildfire Hazard Assessment Report developed for your property. 

Wildfire Hazard Development Permits can typically be processed in 4-6 weeks, however, process time varies depending on whether or not there are any other Development Permits required, the completeness and accuracy of the reports, information received, and the overall complexity of the project. 

FAQs
  1. Why is wildfire hazard protection needed?

In 2019, Council recognized that climate change constitutes an emergency for West Vancouver and directed staff to prepare a climate adaptation strategy. The Community Wildfire Protection Plan was adopted in 2019, providing a framework that can be used to review and assess areas of moderate and high-risk to fire hazards, and outlining how to respond in an emergency. The plan also included the recommendation to establish a Wildfire Hazard Development Permit Area.

Many homes in West Vancouver are located next to forested green space, creating significant risk of urban wildfires. Climate change has caused this threat to increase in B.C., nearby in Alberta and Washington State, and in many other areas in North America. Recently, Kelowna, Williams Lake, and Fort McMurray had significant wildfires and, in West Vancouver, wildfires occurred at Whyte Lake and in Lions Bay in 2018.

  1. Which properties are included in the Wildfire Hazard Development Permit Area (DPA)?

All properties located within approximately 100 metres of an undisturbed forest interface. Under the Planning/Wildfire Hazard DPA layer in WestMap, you can view whether your property is within the DPA. 

  1. When would I need a Wildfire Hazard Development Permit?

If your property is in the Wildfire Hazard DPA and you are planning to build a new or replacement house, or subdividing the land, a development permit is required.

  1. What do I need to do to apply for a Wildfire Hazard Development Permit?

You will need to submit a signed report by a Qualified Professional with the appropriate credentials. Please see the Wildfire Hazard Report Requirements for more information. 

  1. Where can I find a Wildfire Qualified Professional?

The District of West Vancouver maintains a list but does not recommend one company over another.

  1. I am only doing an interior renovation. Do I still need to get a Development Permit?

No. Renovations are exempt from requiring a Wildfire Hazard Development Permit. However, the FireSmart guidelines are strongly recommended for all auxiliary structures, new roofs, or renovations within the Wildfire Hazard DPA.

  1. Can I apply for my Wildfire Development Permit at the same time as my building permit?

No. The wildfire hazard Development Permit must be approved prior to applying for a building permit. Any recommendations/conditions in the Development Permit must be addressed at the building permit stage.

  1. Is my Wildfire Hazard report also an Arborist report?

No. The wildfire report only determines the wildfire risks and recommends the measures to reduce this risk to the proposed new development. The Arborist report looks at the construction, excavation, servicing, drainage, grade changes, and landscaping impacts of the new development and recommends protection requirements for retained trees on and off-site or protected trees that may need to be removed.

  1. I have my Wildfire Development Permit. Can I now undertake the work to the trees slated for removal or pruning?

No. You will still require a tree permit to be issued for the removal or pruning of any protected trees under the Tree Bylaw.

  1. How will the Wildfire Hazard DPA affect my property for future development?

Any new development that involves building a new home will have to comply with the Wildfire Hazard DPA to help reduce the risk from wildfire hazards to people, property, and the District’s forests.

  1. Will the Wildfire Hazard Development Permit affect how large of a home I can build?

Potentially the building footprint may need to be adjusted to reflect development permit requirements, depending on its location to a forested area.

  1. How long does the Wildfire Hazard Development Permit process take?

Process time varies depending on whether or not there are any other Development Permits required, the completeness and accuracy of the reports, information received, and the overall complexity of the project.

  1. How much does a Wildfire Hazard Development Permit cost?

The fees are set out in the Fees and Charges Bylaw.

  1. Why do I need a Qualified Professional to sign off once the house has been built?

To ensure that all fire risk recommendation measures pursuant to the submitted Qualified Professional report and the Wildfire DPA guidelines have been successfully met. This will be a requirement at the building permit final inspection on order to release the DP security deposit.

Official Community Plan (go to schedule ii)

  1. Do I have to landscape my property with low-flammable plants and trees?

Yes. It is recommended that, within the defensible space immediately surrounding the house, low-flammable plant species are used as recommended by the Qualified Professional and required in the DPA guidelines.

  1. What do I submit if the property falls within multiple DPAs?

Properties within multiple DPAs should have a coordinated response to ensure that the potential impacts to the site are assessed at an early stage and to avoid recommendations to reduce wildfire risk that conflict with recommendations by other qualified professionals on other aspects (i.e., guidelines for other DPAs). To achieve this, you will need to designate a lead professional to coordinate all aspects of the required DPA reports to review the process with District staff.

Contact

Heather Keith
Manager of Environmental Protection

604-921-2925

Email

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