Sustainable planning guide for homeowners and builders encourages working with natural areas

·2 min read

A new guidebook for homeowners and builders offers recommendations for planning sustainable construction, landscaping and major renovation projects in the Regional District of Nanaimo.

The RDN released the sustainable site planning guide, the third in its green building series, to encourage sustainable practices tailored to the RDN’s habitats and landscapes.

It provides suggestions on site planning, understanding natural systems, service and site layouts that harness the benefits of natural features as well as minimize impacts to them and details on incentives and rebates available from the RDN.

To develop the guide, RDN staff worked with an architecture firm and looked to best practices in areas like landscape architecture, rural community planning and solar design. The ultimate published product is not a regulatory framework, said Geoff Garbutt, RDN general manager of strategic and community development. Rather, all the guidebooks are “advisory documents for people to think about impacts and opportunities they can address when they develop their properties,” he told the Sounder.

While a number of other resources related to green building and low-impact development already exist, Garbutt said the RDN’s guide has been “fine-tuned to be about rural development and to be very applicable to be appropriate for development in our region.”

The guide also encourages “developing beyond the basic requirements set out in government land use regulations.” While the RDN does not regulate land use on Gabriola and in Area B, Garbutt characterized the RDN’s building requirements and development permits as being at the front edge.

“Just like the B.C. building code – anybody can go beyond the requirements of that code,” he said. “The regulations that we have incorporate best practices.”

The guide suggests that retaining natural areas may increase property values. Meanwhile, the real estate market in central Vancouver Island is red hot with the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board saying in a March 1 press release that buyer demand continues to outstrip supply. In February, the benchmark price of a single-family home in Nanaimo rose by 12 per cent over last year, hitting $617,700.

When asked what he considered incentives might be for developers to retain natural areas, Garbutt said the RDN “expects landowners to follow the values of the area.

“We can’t say what will motivate people. Our communities that develop our community plans and our policies have said that working with and developing with the environment is something we desire. So that’s the culture that we have here and this is a good way of putting those desires and feelings as a community in writing.”

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder