West Coast Living: Riparian Zone Cautions

Home Inspector with EKAN Home Inspection CPBC #69177

The term riparian is used to describe that area immediately adjacent to a river or the bank of a stream. Here in British Columbia watercourse protection is a high priority with both the public and local governments.  On a recent Bowen Island home inspection I ran into an interesting situation. The home was built on a sloping lot with ocean view.  The driveway slopes down to a level parking area. A footpath leads down to the home - a very thematic pacific (north) west coast type of entry. The house itself was well constructed with desirable features such as 9 foot ceilings, hardwood flooring throughout and a commanding view.

The house was heavily shaded especially on the south side. For this landscaping the usual conditions were present - moss growing on the roof, gutters filled with debris and branches close or touching the house. A thorough roof and gutter cleaning was in order. On first glance, some pruning of branches would be appropriate.

One wonders why the seller did not consider removing some trees as well. When I walked into the forest on the south side of the property, I found a creek. What followed was an “ah ha” moment. I was into a riparian zone. That meant that the immediate bank is protected for 15 meters (50 feet) on either side of the creek. The shade trees on this property were in this protected zone and as a result environmental development permitting is required to do any landscaping work or construct any structure or impervious surface. Even if the permit is applied and paid for ($300 in some municipalities), there is no guarantee that a request to remove a tree will be approved by the municipality. 

I personally enjoy the rain forest ambience and understand the implications. However new home buyers who are unfamiliar with our coastal regulations should be adequately informed as to what restrictions may accompany their real estate purchase, especially when their property has a riparian zone.

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EKAN Home & Property Inspections

Sunshine Coast, North Vancouver, West Vancouver 

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