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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Land use contracts revisited Miller, Thomas Wright


The changes to the British Columbia Municipal Act repealing land use contracts in 1978 by Bill 42, and the subsequent amendments leading up to Bill 62 in 1985 and Bill 30 in 1987 have been both dramatic and comprehensive in their effect on land development and the approval process. Since the repealing of land use contracts and in spite of the new amendments, B.C. planning legislation has been increasingly criticized among developers, planners, and local governments for the lack of development agreement provisions and adequate flexibility in the municipal approval process. This thesis investigates the possibility of reintroducing land use contracts as a development agreement control in the context of current planning practices. A literature review of the evolution of municipal planning control in B.C. is conducted to provide background information for a theoretical and practical evaluation of the current system of controls in comparison to the former system of land use contracts. The theoretical evaluation is based on measuring both systems against normative criteria, whereas the practical evaluation is comprised of a local government/development industry survey and several case studies. The following conclusions are made in this research: - Land use contracts were introduced in response to a growing need among local governments for some legitimate legislative means of entering into development agreements with developers to require developers to assist in providing the municipal services associated with their development. - Local government support for the land use contract was based on the ability to regulate design, ensure regulation performance, and to enter into off-site servicing and amenity agreements. - The development industry was initially supportive of land use contracts because they offered unlimited flexibility during negotiations and the certainty of a legal contract immune to future zoning changes. Developers eventually withdrew their support for land use contracts complaining of large scale downzoning, lengthy approval delays and excessive impost fees. Many of these allegations are dispelled in this research, but the real weakness of the land use contract was that it was difficult to amend and could be used extensively to replace zoning, effectively "fettering" future council's planning powers. - In the absence of the land use contract, many municipal governments are continuing with a land use contract practice, but without a legislative or in some instances legal basis. - The theoretical analysis, survey and case studies determine that the current planning legislation is adequate for the most part. There is a need however, for a land use contract mechanism to accommodate mixed use, comprehensive or complicated developments. This type of control was determined to be superior in accommodating these types of projects to the current approach of using a variety of planning mechanisms. Generally there is support among local governments and the development industry in B.C. for new land use contract legislation as long as it is more clearly defined to avoid the mistakes of its use in the 1970's. On the basis of this analysis, the study recommends that land use contract reintroduced but in a much more controlled and limited way.

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