Board of Variance

A Board of Variance is an independent decision making body with limited powers, established in accordance with Part 14 of the Local Government Act. Boards of Variance can grant minor variances to Zoning Bylaw and other rulings as set out in the Act. The variance must be justified by the presence of “undue hardship”, as determined by the Board.

In the City of White Rock, the Board of Variance Committee is comprised of three volunteers that are appointed by City Council for a three year term.

The Board is an avenue for appeal on the application of certain local government bylaws in specific circumstances defined in the Act. The Board of Variance is not an appeal board for local government policy decisions and it cannot replace the decisions of elected officials. A person may appeal to the Board for a variance only if the application of the regulations to their particular site would impose undue hardship upon them.


What can the Board of Variance vary?

The jurisdiction of the Board is set forth in Section 540 of the Act. The Board may only order a minor variance or permit an exemption in relation to circumstances that include, but are not limited to the following:

  • The siting, size, and physical dimensions of buildings and structures (such as lot coverage or setbacks) as
    regulated under the Zoning Bylaw; or
  • Prohibitions on structural alterations or additions in relation to buildings containing lawful non-conforming uses

Additionally, the Board cannot order the issuance of a minor variance or a permissible exemption if the proposal would, in the Board’s opinion, result in the following:

  • result in the inappropriate development of the site;
  • adversely affect the natural environment;
  • substantially affect the use and enjoyment of adjacent land;
  • vary permitted uses and densities on the site; or
  • defeat the intent of the bylaw

Only the Board of Variance may determine what constitutes a minor variance or a permissible exemption, and whether or not undue hardship has been demonstrated.

Board of Variance Application Process

The Board of Variance application is fully detailed in the White Rock Planning Procedures Bylaw. For reference, a general overview of the Board of Variance application process is provided below:

It is strongly recommended that you arrange a meeting with Planning staff at City Hall to discuss your proposal prior to application submission.

Staff will be able to advise you on various aspects of your proposed development, including commentary on site characteristics and details on relevant City bylaws, policies, and other related plans. Staff will also provide assistance on advising you on what type of variance application to make.

Frequently Asked Questions

All applications before the Board are subject to the ‘undue hardship’ threshold test. The intent of this term (‘undue’) is to limit the concerns of the Board to types of hardship that result from aspects of the site, rather than those created or generated by the owner (e.g. increased cost or loss of an amenity). An example of ‘undue hardship’ resulting from the specific characteristics of a property is provided below:

Example: The subject property has bedrock protruding in the building envelope area. This physical characteristic makes achieving both compliance with the setback regulations of the zoning bylaw and building a home with a functional layout difficult and unreasonable.

This hardship created here is specific to the site, is difficult to comply with, and is created through no fault of the property owner.

The undue hardship may also be borne from circumstances that unfairly penalize only one or a few property owners. This circumstance should be considered exceptional to the general circumstance.

For example, if compliance with the siting regulations is onerous for all properties within that particular zone, then there is likely not any undue hardship in this circumstance.

An example of ‘hardship’ (but not ‘undue hardship’) is provided below:

Example: An applicant wants to vary the angle of containment regulation of the RS-2 zone to install a permanent awning on their top deck. The angle of containment regulation requires that no portion of a building (except open-type guardrails) protrude above this south-facing terracing setback.

As this hardship is applicable to all properties within the RS-2 zone, and is an issue being generated by the property owner, then there may not be undue hardship.

If your proposal does not meet the qualifications of having ‘undue hardship’, or if the proposal relates to varying regulations that fall outside of the jurisdiction of the Board (such as off-street parking requirements), then you may wish to look into making application through the Development Variance Permit process.


If you have any questions, contact or call 604-541-2277.