Urban Containment Boundary

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Putting a Boundary on Growth

An Urban Containment Boundary sets aside land to be protected from most forms of development. Usually an UCB will delineate the edge of town and the beginning of rural areas.



Urban Containment Boundaries help local governments meet a number of planning goals that cross-cut with climate action, such as:

  • improving the viability of transit by concentrating development;
  • encouraging mixed-use development closer to homes and jobs, helping cut the number of car trips
  • maximizing the use of existing infrastructure and minimizing new infrastructure costs;
  • revitalizing downtowns and town centres;
  • maintaining a working land base (agricultural, rural, forested, and other resource lands) and the green infrastructure; and
  • protecting the environment.

On top of the climate-friendly results of UCBs, another benefit is in providing a degree of certainty to both developers and residents as to the location of future development. One potential disadvantage to UCBs is that it can contribute to an increase in land prices within the UCB. However, there is no consensus on this as there are many other factors involved in determining land value.

Community Examples

see also the West Coast Environmental Law website for further discussion of UCBs and examples

  • The Capital Regional District's (CRD) Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) includes the “Regional Urban Containment and Servicing Policy Area” (RUCSPA). Many measures and indicators in the CRD's State of the Region Report: 2008 Regional Growth Strategy Five Year Monitoring Review refers to the RUCSPA.
  • Nanaimo's (see Contain Urban Areas section on page 11) Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) designated UCBs around the urban parts of the region, with all of the RGS goals strongly supporting these UCBs.
  • Prince George OCP identifies an “Urban Area” in black outline, as well as a Growth Management Class which includes “Growth Priority”, “Infill”, “Phase 1”, “Phase 2”, and “Future” identified on Schedule B-4: Growth Management map (see Schedule B-4, and Section 8.1 starting on page 92 regarding Growth Management
  • The Saanich OCP 2008 (Appendix A to Bylaw 8940) continues to define an urban containment boundary in its policies and map designations. For example, Growth Management Policies 2, 3 and 4:

    “2. Maintain the Urban Containment Boundary as the principal tool for growth management in Saanich, and encourage all new development to locate within the Urban Containment Boundary.

    3. Do not consider major changes to the Urban Containment Boundary except as the outcome of a comprehensive five year review of the Regional Growth Strategy.

    4. Do not adopt any bylaw or resolution providing for a major expansion to the Urban Containment Boundary without first attaining the assent of the electors through a referendum or plebiscite.”
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