Metro Vancouver Special Study Areas

From the beginning, the vision for Anmore South (formally the IOCO Lands) has been shaped by community input. Throughout the visioning process, icona has achieved an unprecedented level of engagement, with feedback collected from more than 700 participants, nearly one-third of the Anmore community. Throughout this community engagement, Anmore South has been described as a “Special Study Area” – a unique parcel of land located in the southwest part of Anmore that offers a rare opportunity to realize a complete community within the Village of Anmore.

But what is a Special Study Area (SSA) and why is it important to community planning in the Village of Anmore?

History of Metro Vancouver’s Rural & General Urban Designations

To understand the meaning and importance of Special Study Areas, it is helpful to understand the origins of the Regional Growth Strategy and how this Strategy has shaped decisions on land use in Metro Vancouver and the Village of Anmore.

In 1996, the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors, which included Anmore Mayor Weinberg, adopted the Livable Region Strategic Plan (LRSP), one of the first regional growth strategies in the Province adopted under new provincial legislation that was created to guide cooperative land use planning at the regional level and integrate it with local planning at the municipal level. During the years that the LRSP was in effect, from 1996 to 2011, the Plan did not include a Rural designation, every municipality including the Village of Anmore, had its own Urban or Growth Concentration Area overlay. Only Green Zone Areas, Agricultural Lands in Green Zones, and Areas under Municipal Consideration were identified separately in the LRSP. For the Village of Anmore, this meant that the current Rural designation, which includes the Anmore South lands, was identified as Urban in the LRSP, not Rural.

Under the LRSP, the Green Zone protected 72% of the Metro Vancouver region. The Green Zone comprised watersheds, wetlands, recreation and agricultural/forestry areas. Urban Areas within the Growth Concentration Area comprised the remaining 28% of the Metro Vancouver region. The Rural land within the Village was included in the Growth Concentration Area and was intended to accommodate growth at medium and higher residential density, to reduce pressure on the Green Zone and to provide a better balance of jobs and housing close together, and a more concentrated settlement pattern to support expanded transit service.

In 2010, work was well underway to replace the LRSP with a new regional growth strategy – Metro 2040. Metro Vancouver planning staff were working closely with municipal staff to create a new ‘Rural’ designation for the regional plan. Only five municipalities in Metro Vancouver agreed to include this new designation for specific lands within their municipalities – Maple Ridge, Township of Langley, Pitt Meadows, Surrey and Anmore.

While four of these municipalities chose to have most of their residential lands included within the Urban Containment Boundary, the Village of Anmore selected to identify all of its developed and its undeveloped residential land (including the Anmore South lands) as Rural in Metro 2040. The Village of Anmore accepted changing the regional designation from a Growth Concentration Area (now referred to as an Urban Containment Boundary) to a Rural Area for the residential lands in Anmore on the understanding that it intended to re-visit the Rural designation of the Anmore South lands in the future. As a result, the Village of Anmore and Metro Vancouver agreed to identify the Anmore South lands as a “Special Study Area” acknowledging Anmore’s history and declared interest in changing the Rural designation in the future once a comprehensive land use plan was accepted by the Village.  

Recognition of Anmore South as a Special Study Area

In fact, the identification of Anmore South lands as an area of the municipality that would require a special designation was first documented in 2005 when the Village of Anmore Council recognized the unique attributes and opportunities of these lands. It adopted a new Official Community Plan (OCP) that created a special designation for the Anmore South lands which reflected many years of discussions within the community regarding the future of these lands and with many different Anmore Councils. This special designation appropriately recognized the need for further discussion and study before preparing a comprehensive development plan that would address land use and density, environmental attributes, servicing, transportation, community amenities, parkland and financial implications.

Village of Anmore Official Community Plan. Towards a Sustainable Future. Map 3: Regional Context Statement Map. Village of Anmore (2019, April).

This is why the Village of Anmore requested that the Anmore South Lands be included as a “Special Study Area” in the update to Metro Vancouver’s LRSP – Metro 2040, Shaping our Future adopted by the Metro Vancouver Board in 2011.

It was an important milestone for the Village of Anmore. The Special Study Area designation confirmed the intention to both Metro Vancouver and to the Village of Anmore that this land was in transition from its current designation of Rural to a new land use designation – and most appropriately, to designate as General Urban within the new regional land use designation scheme in order to manage growth in the future

Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy – Metro 2050

In the spring of 2022, the Anmore Council passed a resolution endorsing the draft Metro 2050 Regional Growth Strategy, which proposed to maintain the Special Study Area. On February 24, 2023, the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors finally adopted the new Regional Growth Strategy – Metro 2050 – which replaced Metro 2040.

Metro 2050 has retained its regional land use designations: General Urban, Industrial, Employment, Agricultural, Rural and Conservation/Recreation. In addition, Metro 2050 has preserved Special Study Areas, confirming the understanding with municipalities that these areas are important and will accommodate new growth in the future.

A Special Study Area continues to be defined as a unique area of land that a municipality has identified that it intends to alter through a change to its land use designation. There are only 11 Special Study Areas in all of Metro Vancouver and the Anmore South lands are included in this select group of lands.

Metro 2050 – the regional growth strategy. Map 12: Special Study Areas and Sewerage Extension Areas. Metro Vancouver Regional District (2022, February).

The Importance of a Special Study Area

And this is why the Anmore South lands are so important to Anmore’s future.

Lands with an underlying Special Study Area designation are considered an exception to Metro Vancouver’s policy of no expansion of the Urban Containment Boundary and no expansion to the regional sewer system. For the Village of Anmore, this means that its Special Study Area lands have been formally recognized within Metro 2050 as lands the municipality wishes to be considered for re-designation from Rural to General Urban through Metro Vancouver’s amendment process set out in Metro 2050 and for future connection to regional sewer.

The Special Study Area designation for the Anmore South lands provides the key to unlock opportunities for the municipality to create a more complete and sustainable community for all of Anmore. This will be achieved through the thoughtful and comprehensive planning process that is built upon icona’s vision of a nature-based design that preserves and accentuates the special qualities of the Anmore South lands, and integrates this design with the unique and highly valued characteristics of the existing Anmore community.

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