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General News · 12th March 2018
SRD Karen
Do you like the idea of limiting the size of homes on Cortes to protect long term affordability of properties and the island's rural character?

We posted a supplementary survey to the existing Cortes Zoning Bylaw questionnaire to explore this idea with Cortes Islanders.

To respond, visit:


During the recent public consultations, a suggestion was made to establish a maximum floor area for homes in order to retain the rural character of Cortes Island and help protect the affordability of properties into the future.

Some other jurisdictions that are highly desirable places to live for both full-time and seasonal residents, such as Whistler and the surrounding rural areas of the Squamish Lillooet Regional District, have put limits on the maximum floor area of homes. The intent is to prevent creating communities of mini-estates that are only seasonally occupied and unaffordable to those residents trying to make a living locally.

The Cortes Island Official Community Plan includes the following related policy language:

303 a. To provide for forms of development that are mindful of the capacity of the land to support development, and that do not disrupt the area's rural character.

303 h. To preserve Cortes' unique natural environment so that current users and future generations may continue to enjoy the area's scenic beauty and physical attributes.

410.1 b. To provide affordable and attainable housing opportunities.

A limit on home size would not affect existing homes but would affect new homes.

Thank you for your openness to exploring this suggestion. We have learned a lot from you during this consultation process and look forward to reading your comments for or against.

Link to the survey question:

Thank you for your time!
Government Over-reach
Comment by Heather Bruce on 4th March 2018
I am sure that people are well-intentioned, however, this seems to be a red-herring on the true issues here. Legislating home sizes doesn't prevent people from stripping the land of trees and driving off wildlife. *That* is the rural character of Cortes.

I have kept my mouth shut on these recent survey issues, partially because I AM a seasonal resident and partially because I am an American (gasp). However, I feel the need to warn people that what I see being engineered here looks like it might end up creating more problems and restricting more freedoms than it solves any problems....

I have been in love with Cortes and it's rural character for almost 24 years. We purchased our 400 square foot cabin and piece of paradise 20+ years ago. I would love to live there full time except for the government ruling that states we aren't allowed to stay there more than 6 months of the year. I dearly love all the things that make Cortes unique, including the very things that Chris Walker speaks of: Live and Let long as my living doesn't run over the top of yours.

Where I live, in Washington state, they have taken government rules and regulations to the point of absurdity. Thus regular people can no longer afford to build a home, because it costs too much to jump through all the hoops to get there...It's not just the cost of the home, but it's the cost of all the permitting and fees, the cost of studies by "experts" all of whom want money for the studies that you're forced to hire them to do plus taxes to boot.

I completely agree that new homes should follow a universal building code, but all the rest of it is a money maker for the SRD as it costs money to enforce all the new codes and by-laws. Truly, it is not a good thing to try to legislate these kinds of "protections", because pretty soon, it will come back on you and just cost you more money to do whatever you want to do. We are not in a better place down here because of government regulations. We have a terribly high homeless situation and a terribly high cost of living. Our taxes here are 4 time what they are there on Cortes....If I could recommend anything and had a say in this I'd suggest less restrictions and more out of the box thinking.

My thanks to all the people that work hard to do the right thing. Unfortunately, not everyone can agree on what the right thing to do is.

Heather Bruce
Waste of resources
Comment by J Wills on 2nd March 2018
I agree completely with Chris Walker. His reasoning is sound. This is not a problem we have here, nor is it likely to be.
A greater problem would be the proposed increase in density. Many years ago FOCI did a very comprehensive study regarding population carrying capacity of various parts of the island. This study was directed to water resources, soil types, ability to support sewage, land accessibility, etc. This was a very comprehensive study as I recall. Unfortunately it seems to be totally forgotten.
As for limiting house size to increase"affordability", dream on. Even a bare lot is out of reach of people with little income. A very few years ago there was an attempt to sell 10 acre lots for less than $ takers.
I am getting tired of the current spate of attempted social engineering via these SRD sponsored surveys.
Re. Maximum Home Size
Comment by Chris Walker on 1st March 2018
One of the things I love about Cortes is the attitude of a) do your own thing, and b) leave others to do theirs, providing that a) does not overly interfere with b).

Another major factor is the relative freedom to build what ever you want on your land (while fully adhering to the Canadian Building Code, of course) without the expensive and suffocating oobleck of construction bureaucracy that afflicts 99% of this country.

Are mini-estates a growing property segment here? Not that I can see. Cortes is not Whistler or Squamish, and never will be, thank God. I'm sure there are a few out there but since anyone who can afford a 4000 sq ft house on acreage probably will not build where the house can be seen outside of a boat or a plane, so I dont see how these big houses are going to "disrupt the area's rural character." Having said that, by-laws addressing setbacks from roads, lot lines, waterfront and riparian zones are very important and should be adhered to.

SRD Karen states: "The intent is to prevent creating communities of mini-estates that are only seasonally occupied and unaffordable to those residents trying to make a living locally."
How does restricting house size alter the owner's decision to only occupy their house seasonally? This makes no sense.
I would suggest that restricting house size will not meaningfully change affordability - a 3000 square foot custom house on 5 acres on Cortes is hardly going to be more affordable to locals than a 5000 square foot model.
Practically-speaking, how is this size limit to be policed? How is it to be enforced? Will builders now need to submit plans before construction? Is this a step towards (Heaven forbid) building permits?

While I personally think a 4000 or 5000 sq.ft. house is excessive I would need to see a much more convincing argument for restricting other people's freedom to build one.

When in doubt, don't legislate.