Municipal Highway Closure & Removal of Highway Dedication

Municipalities have ownership of most municipal highways subject to the B.C government's right of resumption. Municipalities also have the authority to regulate and prohibit activities in relation to highways, and to permanently close highways. A municipality may use a portion of a highway for another purpose, or dispose of it.

Municipal highways include municipal streets, roads, lanes, bridges and viaducts as defined in the Community Charter.

Highway Closure Bylaw

Municipalities may permanently close a highway and remove its highway dedication by bylaw. The highway closure and dedication removal may be done in a joint bylaw or separately.

Prior to adopting a highway closure bylaw, a municipality must:

  • Provide public notice in accordance with the Community Charter.
  • Provide an opportunity for persons who are affected by the bylaw to make representations to council.
  • Deliver notice of its intention to close a highway to operators of utilities who council considers will be affected by the closure. The operator of a utility affected by a closure may require the municipality to provide reasonable accommodation of the utility’s works. If the municipality and utility are unable to reach an agreement, the matter must be settled by arbitration under the Arbitration Act.
  • Ensure that a proposed highway closure does not completely deprive an owner of access to their property, unless the municipality receives consent from the property owner or compensates the owner and provides alternative access
  • Refer any highway closure bylaws to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure for approval where the proposed highway closure is within 800m of an arterial highway. Specified Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure regional and district staff may grant such approval on behalf of the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Prior to adopting a highway dedication removal bylaw, a municipality must:

  • Provide public notice in accordance with the Community Charter.
  • Provide an opportunity for persons who are affected by the bylaw to make representations to council.
  • Obtain consent of the owner of property in the rare circumstance in which the highway in question is part of a subdivision, where the highway has not been developed and the owner of the land who created the subdivision continues to own all the parcels.

Raising Land Title

Once the highway closure bylaw and removal of highway dedication bylaw are adopted by the municipal council, and the removal of highway dedication bylaw is filed in the appropriate Land Title Office, the property ceases to be a highway. The highway dedication is then cancelled and title to the property will be registered in the name of the municipality in accordance with the Land Title Act.

In order for title to be raised in the name of the municipality, the Land Title Office requires that municipalities submit the bylaw and plan package, the property transfer tax form and fee to the Registrar of Land Titles.

As raising title and disposing of the land may occur in close conjunction, note also the Land Title Office filing requirements for property disposal.

Disposing of Property

Once land title is raised, municipalities that want to dispose of the property must do so in accordance with the property disposal rules set out in the Community Charter.

If a municipality plans to dispose of property for a closed highway that removes public access to a body of water, it must either provide alternative public access to the same body of water, or set aside monies in a reserve fund to acquire property that will provide public access to the same body of water.

Provincial Right of Resumption

The Community Charter provides a provincial right to resume property that was once a highway for the purposes of:

  • An arterial highway
  • Other transportation purposes
  • A park, conservancy, recreation area, ecological reserve or other area established under the Park Act, the Ecological Reserve Act, the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act or the Environment and Land Use Act.

The right of resumption may be removed by order of the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Under the Resumption of Highways Regulation, the right of resumption is automatically removed if the relevant municipality files with the Land Title Office a statement certifying the following three facts, the:

  • Municipality has, by bylaw, closed the highway and removed its dedication
  • Closed highway is not adjacent to a park, conservancy, recreation area, ecological reserve or other area established under the Park Act, the Ecological Reserve Act, the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act or the Environment and Land Use Act; and,
  • Closed highway land is to be disposed of for either of the following two purposes:
    • In exchange for land necessary for the purpose of improving, widening, straightening, relocating or diverting a highway
    • To one or more adjacent land owners for the purpose of consolidating it with the landowners’ existing adjacent parcel or parcels of land.

The certifying statement from the municipality must be satisfactory to the Land Title Office. Typically, this means a written statement from the municipality that:

  • Identifies the closed highway land
  • States the three conditions in the regulation
  • Certifies that the land at issue satisfies those conditions and therefore the right of resumption is to be removed
  • Is signed by the corporate officer and is accompanied by the prescribed Land Title Office fee

If the corporate officer of the municipality can certify that the transaction meets the circumstances set out in the regulation, then the municipality does not need a specific order removing the right of resumption from the land. Instead, the right of resumption is automatically removed on the date that the certifying statement is filed in the Land Title Office.

The municipality is responsible for satisfying itself that the three conditions in the regulation are met. This means the municipality is responsible for confirming the boundaries of the road in question and, in relation to the second condition (parks and conservancies), is responsible for confirming those boundaries relative to the boundaries of provincial parks and similar areas.

To assist in determining the location of a road relative to provincial parks and similar areas, a municipality can obtain a list of provincial parks and protected areas in its region from the appropriate Ministry of Environment regional office.

For any situations not covered by the regulation, a municipality may still seek removal of the provincial right of resumption. That may be done through an order from the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. To seek such an order, municipal staff may contact:

Transportation Policy Branch
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
Phone: 250 953-3068