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Common Planning Terms Glossary

Affordable Housing

Housing which costs (rent or mortgage plus taxes and including 10% down payment) 30% or less of a household's gross annual income. This housing must be within the affordability parameters of low and moderate income households, defined as those within the first two income quartiles for the City of Surrey.

It may include the following:

  • Rental housing (at or below market rents)
  • Market and non-profit housing for the elderly, disabled, disadvantaged and for families in need of assistance
  • Small lot single family dwellings and duplexes
  • Rental or strata suites in buildings that were constructed originally as detached dwellings and later converted
  • Strata townhouses and suites in apartments marketed for the first time home buyer

Community Charter

Provincial enabling legislation establishing a full set of principles for municipal-provincial relations. The Community Charter distributes local government legislation in three key areas: municipal-provincial relations, broad powers and accountability.

Density - Units

The figure obtained when the total number of dwelling units (excluding secondary suites) constructed or proposed to be constructed on a lot is divided by the total area of the lot. Unless otherwise permitted in the Zoning Bylaw, the calculation of unit density shall exclude the undevelopable area from the total area of the lot.

Design or Development Guidelines

Policies that provide design criteria that are expected from all developers and builders in planning, designing and constructing new development or projects. Developers and/or builders may be required to formally demonstrate, through the submission of secondary plan, block plan, subdivision or site plan-specific design documents, how the design and Development Guidelines are being met, and focus on unique attributes or planned 'character' elements that will heighten the overall design of the plan, and/or site.

Development Permit Area

An area designated in the Official Community Plan requiring a Council approval before a building permit can be issued. Generally, Development Permit Areas are designated so as to safeguard special characteristics, such as heritage buildings and unique physical appearance or character.

Development Variance Permit

Situations may arise when the stated zoning bylaw requirements pose difficulties. This may be due to the design of a structure, the limitations imposed by existing buildings, the shape of physical constraints of property or the physical preferences of the property owner. A Variance

Permit is the tool which allows Council to relieve difficulty(ies) posed by the zoning bylaw. In order to issue each Development Variance Permit, an application must be reviewed and approved by Council.

Infill Development

New buildings and developments constructed on vacant or underused sites within a previously built-up area. This may be via subdivision of large lots to smaller ones or additions to existing buildings, e.g., by building on an existing side yard.

Local Government Act (LGA)

Provincial enabling legislation governing municipalities and regional districts in British Columbia:

to provide a legal framework and foundation for the establishment and continuation of local governments to represent the interests and respond to the needs of their communities;
to provide local governments with the powers, duties and functions necessary for fulfilling their purposes; and
to provide local governments with the flexibility to respond to the different needs and changing circumstances of their communities.

Neighbourhood Concept Plan (NCP)

A neighbourhood concept plan is a policy and planning document, endorsed by Surrey City Council, to be considered with future amendments of the Official Community Plan (OCP) , Zoning Bylaw and other development Bylaws. The neighbourhood plan is different than the OCP as it does not have bylaw status, but specifically outlines a vision and direction for future urban neighbourhoods with greater detail on:

  • Land use Plan, Policies and Objectives
  • Circulation of Transportation network
  • Parks and Open Space
  • Infrastructure, Amenities and Utility Servicing
  • Environmental Protection and Enhancement

Official Community Plan (OCP)

A general statement, in the form of a bylaw, of the broad objectives and policies of the local government respecting the form and character of existing and proposed land use and servicing requirements for the entire City. It provides the policy framework for developing the detailed policies in the Secondary Land Use Plans.

Regional Growth Strategy (RGS)

This Planning Strategy establishes the general nature of future development in the Region of Metro Vancouver and forms the framework within which Regional Growth boundaries and Official Community Plans are to be prepared. In this respect, the City of Surrey Official Community Plan functions as a link between the broad concepts of the Regional Plan and local conditions and municipal objectives in the City of Surrey.

Secondary Land Use Plan

A neighbourhood level plan (General Land Use Plan, Neighbourhood Concept Plan, Local Area Plan, Infill Area Plan) that outlines the City’s vision, principles, policies and guidelines for managing change in a distinct area of the City. It generally provides detailed information about land use change. A secondary plan is prepared with the early involvement of residents and other stakeholders, as well as City Council, Council’s advisory bodies and City staff.

Streamside Setback Area

The horizontal area within a lot, that is calculated by measuring the distance perpendicularly, (specified in Part 7A of the Zoning bylaw), from the top of bank in the direction away from the stream, where land disturbance of any kind is prohibited.


The division of land into 2 or more parcels, or consolidation 2 or more parcels of land, whether by survey plan or by metes and bounds description or otherwise.

Surrey City Centre

The primary commercial centre for Surrey and as the Metropolitan Core for the entire South of Fraser Region, supporting the highest densities of residential, commercial and mixed-use development within the City, as shown with the Surrey City Centre Plan.

Undevelopable Area

The portion of a lot containing the following features:

  • utility rights-of-way, excluding City services; or ravine, swamps, river banks and similar features which make the said portion of the lot unsuitable for the placement of buildings and structures of which the boundary shall be determined by a line 5 metres (16 feet) inland from the top-of-bank.

Universal Design

The design of products and environments to be useable by all people, to the greatest extent possible without the need for adaptation or specialized design. In the context of housing design, universal design means designs that minimize or eliminate restrictions to occupant movement, usually included in homes for seniors or people with disabilities. Examples include wider hallways, wider doorways, ramps, etc.


The division of the City by Bylaw #12000 into discreet areas in which density, use, siting, size and height of buildings and the shape and dimensions and areas of parcels of land are regulated.


Definitions of words and phrases used in this Planning definition Glossary are provided for Convenience only, and relied on at your own risk; for accuracy and reliability, please refer City of Surrey Bylaw and any amending or replacement by-laws where applicable.