UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Land use controls : flexibility and discretion Hughes, Willard Gerald


Zoning has existed in North America since the early 1900's and has evolved from the traditional self-executing Euclidean zoning approach to the recent use of flexible zoning techniques involving increased discretionary judgment by delegated boards and officials. This study examines the evolution and increased use of flexible zoning techniques which afford greater opportunity for creativity and innovation, and allows for individualized treatment of projects compared to the traditional approach of pre-determined, rigid regulation which often inhibits and responds poorly to changing public needs. However, because these techniques are more flexible and decisions more discretionary, they are more difficult to administer, have the potential for abuse, and involve greater public risk. The thesis examines the concept of administrative discretion, and formulates a conceptual framework which identifies three preconditions which must be provided in a discretionary zoning system in order to inform and control discretionary judgments. First, a substantive basis is required comprised of two parts: a) a technical basis in standards; b) a policy basis in a comprehensive plan. Thirdly, procedural safeguards are required to prevent abuse, and increase openness and accountability. The second part of the thesis examines the City of Vancouver land use control system with respect to the nature and extent of administrative discretion and its relationship to the conceptual framework. It reveals that wide discretionary powers are granted to Vancouver boards/officials (the Development Permit Board and the Director of Planning). The study concluded that the Vancouver discretionary zoning system complies with the intent of the conceptual framework; however, major deficiencies in the Vancouver legislation and process are identified. Comments and suggestions are offered towards compliance with the conceptual framework and achievement of planning objectives. The study revealed that there is no universal answer to the question of what is the optimum balance between flexibility and certainty in land use regulation. The two extremes of complete unfettered discretion or complete rigidity are not desired. Rather, what is needed is flexibility with restraint. Discretion must exist, yet it must be part of a continuous comprehensive planning process which offers substantive guidance and safeguards, and is exercised by competent boards/officials to whom decision making has been delegated.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.