Development Permits

What is a Development Permit?

A Development Permit is a type of development approval given by the Development Review Committee. Specific areas have been designated as Development Permit Areas in the Official Community Plan and Development Bylaw. Each of these areas has a set of development guidelines which specify the Municipality’s development objectives for that area. Development Permits are permitted by Section 488 of the Local Government Act for the following purposes:

  • To protect the natural environment;
  • To prevent development from creating hazardous conditions;
  • To achieve objectives for the form and character of commercial, industrial, intensive residential development or multi-family development;
  • To revitalize an area in which a commercial use is permitted;
  • To promote water and energy conservation and improve sustainability; and
  • To protect Provincial or Municipal heritage areas.

The majority of Development Permits are used to evaluate the proposed design of new or renovated commercial or industrial developments, wildfire areas or multi-unit residential and other intensive residential development and their related parking areas, landscaping and signage. They are in addition to normal zoning, servicing, Building Code and Fire Code regulations. They may supersede other bylaw requirements by setting terms and conditions that differ from or supplement those in the Development Bylaw. However, a development permit may not vary the permitted uses or densities of land use prescribe by existing zoning regulations.

A Development Permit for a proposed project is approved and issued when the Development Review Committee is satisfied that the project meets all guidelines and conditions for the Development Permit area.

Not a Building Permit

Development Permit approval must be received before a Building Permit can be obtained. You need to apply and receive a Building Permit before starting construction. Please contact the Building Inspector to determine the information required at the Building Permit stage. Typically, Building Permit plans require a higher level of detail than Development Permit plans and some buildings require drawings prepared by a professional architect or engineer.

When is a Development Permit Required?

You need to apply for a Development Permit in the following cases:

  • When you propose to subdivide, build, add to or alter a building structure or land on property located within a designated Development Permit Area. These areas are shown on Schedule J and K of the Official Community Plan. These areas are identified as Downtown Mixed Use, Highway Commercial, Multi-family and Wildfire Interface. The guidelines associated with each area are included in the Development Bylaw.
  • When you want to significantly amend an existing Development Permit.
  • When Council or the Development Review Committee determines that your development proposal requires a Development Permit.


Exemptions to obtaining a Development Permit in all Development Permit Areas include maintenance of existing elements (i.e. repainting) and interior renovations. It is best to ask about all other activities. Planning staff will be happy to assist you.

How is an Application Made?

The District office has application packages that outline the required information, drawings and fees. To avoid unnecessary delays, it is important to make an appointment with planning staff before submitting a formal application. Staff will be pleased to review requirements and provide information. This will ensure a complete application and prevent any unnecessary delays. The District has a Sign and Façade Policy that aims to help businesses meet the design criteria for Development Permits.

Please note that the Development Application Form requires both the civic address and the legal description. A complete description of the development or use you propose should be indicated and described.

A Development Application Checklist is included in this guide for your convenience, and is required to be completed and submitted with your application.

If the application is denied by the Development Review Committee there is an appeal process to District of Houston Council, but if denied by Council, the applicant may not re-apply until 6 months after the date of refusal.

Development Permit Guide and Application

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