Gabriola Island Trust examines steep slope regulations

The Gabriola Island Trust is examining and updating regulations for building on steep slopes and in riparian areas.

The Trust has created two reports on the issue that could eventually lead to the creation of updated bylaws.

Sheila Malcolmson, chairwoman of the Islands Trust Council and a trustee on the Gabriola Island Trust, said Gabriola Island has had development permit areas for watershed protection and steep slopes for years. However, since that time the mapping technology has advanced and allows for a precise look at the areas.

“It’s a total different area in terms of the level of precision in identifying what we want to protect in terms of fish habitat or steep slopes,” she said.

The steep slope mapping was done in the late 1970s, but with more precise mapping of areas now available, the Gabriola Trust has been updating and correcting information.

Malcolmson said there is also “more awareness about the local government’s responsibilities, and the legal implications if the governments grant development permits on a steep slope and there is a slide.

She said if someone receives a building development permit, builds a home on an unstable slope and the house slides down the hill, it’s a “very serious responsibility.”

“All governments are in a heightened awareness about the potential loss of life,” she said.

The aim is to make it clearer for landowners about their responsibilities and the process for removing trees or vegetation from their property. It also attempts to identify hazards to help protect developers who are contemplating building on steep slopes.

Malcolmson said the responsibility of wetland and riparian protection was downloaded to local governments about five years ago.

The riparian development permit area focuses on protecting fish habitat and clarifying what a riparian area is. It can be confusing to people because sometimes habitat isn’t confined to where the fish live.

Many streams don’t run all year round and rise and fall due to rainfall and other factors, but there are still rules governing development in those areas.

Malcolmson said the Gabriola Island Trust decided to work on both processes to save time. Eventually it will create a bylaw based on community feedback and the reports.

The development permit for riparian areas and steep slopes draft reports are available at More information on the development permit areas, such as brochures and factsheets, is also available at by pressing the Gabriola Island link.

The local trust committee is seeking feedback on the drafts. To comment please call Gabriola Islands Trust planner Chloe Fox at 250-247-2203 or e-mail

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