Zoning and Land Use

The Municipality of the District of Chester, as with all municipal units in Nova Scotia, has a set of official planning documents that have been formally adopted by Council. They are:

  • Municipal Planning Strategy (and maps) - a document that sets the direction for future land use in the Municipality through a series of policies. These policies deal with residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial land use, and with service matters such as solid waste collection and disposal, sewage and treatment systems, and recreation.
  • Land Use By-law - a document that divides the Municipality into zones, states the uses permitted in each zone, and provides requirements for each zone, including minimum lot size, setbacks from property lines, and height. Residential use includes standards for density, while other areas may include specific design requirements.
  • Subdivision By-law - a document that sets out the rules under which property may be subdivided. This includes requirements for the approval of plans of subdivision and sets out the procedure for review of proposed subdivisions.

At the present time, there is also a Secondary Planning Strategy and a Land Use By-law for the Village of Chester and surrounding area. These documents provide land use policies and zoning regulations that reflect the distinct character of the Village.


reVISION - Some Community Assembly RequiredPlan Review Logo

Beginning in the fall/winter of 2014/15, the Municipal planning documents are undergoing a process of review to determine the future course of the Municipality, and what policies and regulations should be replaced or revised due to changing social and economic conditions. There will be opportunities for the public to participate in this process throughout the review period, which is expected to continue through 2015 and 2016. This is an important process where citizens will have an opportunity to directly influence the future of this Municipality.


More about Zoning

A "zone" is a specified area of land in which uses are permitted and development standards, such as height and setback from the property line, are applied.

The types of zones are:

  • Residential: A zone that permits housing. This zone varies based on desired density – whether single family dwellings or multi-unit buildings. Sometimes design standards are required, such as in the Village of Chester.
  • Commercial: A zone that permits many types of retail and service use, such as stores, restaurants, gas stations, motels and banks. The list of possibilities is quite long. Mostly, commercial zones are in the Village but do exist in Mill Cove as well. These uses usually require more parking than in other zones.
  • Institutional: A zone that permits uses that serve the public such as schools, hospitals, churches, fire halls and community centres. Normally, these uses are in larger buildings which require larger lots than other zones.
  • Industrial: a zone that permits operations like boat yards and marinas in the Village. It does not exist in elsewhere in the District.
  • General Basic: This is a kind of rural development zone where all uses are permitted – residential, commercial, institutional, industrial, including larger manufacturing or processing facilities. There are no established standards for development. Some developments, however, require special approvals because they could potentially impact the environment, or could lead to an intensity of use that requires analysis.

About Planning Permission

Under the provisions of these planning documents, new development can either take place as of right, because it meets all policies and regulations, by "site plan approval" where required (to meet certain design stipulations], or by Development Agreement. A Development Agreement is a legal agreement between a developer and the Municipality to undertake a development subject to specific terms and conditions.

Often, a development is desired that is permitted in the zone, but does not fully meet the requirements. For example, a proposed house may meet all the development standards except that it has, for example, a shorter side yard setback than what is required under the Land Use By-law. In this case, the developer or owner may apply for a variance and declare why they can not meet the land use bylaw requirements. Variance approval is not guaranteed to be granted.

The procedure for amending planning documents to permit a specific land use or a change in development standards, or for granting variances, is governed by the Municipal Government Act of the Province of Nova Scotia. More information on Provincial planning legislation can be found at or contact the Community Development Department, 186 Central Street, Chester, NS, 902-275-2599.