Rural Character & Building Form

The Issue

Cherishing and protecting Bowen Island’s rural character is central to maintaining our community’s quality of life. This value is put at risk by those forms of inappropriate development that encourage increasing suburbanization and weaken our sense of local identity.


Rural character primarily describes a quality of living with nature where natural processes, such as the Island’s forested setting, dominate our living environment. The cycle of the seasons, the ocean that surrounds us and the life of native plants and animals are an inclusive part of our daily experience.

This quality conditions our relationship to our neighbours, encouraging a sense of mutual assistance, and local initiative in the community as a whole. It extends to our livelihood as well: rural character includes an island-scale economy of locally owned shops and home-based businesses; of local food and farming; and in a contemporary sense, it also includes internet entrepreneurs living in “electronic cottages” while conducting commerce beyond borders.

Our community’s rural character also inspires the development of arts and culture. It is not a coincidence that Bowen Island has one of the highest rates of employed artists and craftspeople for its size in Canada. Nor is it surprising that Bowen Island’s involvement in the Islands Trust for over thirty five years has fostered an environmental land ethic that forms an important part of our political culture.

Bowen Island’s rural character is also expressed in the form and character of our buildings. For over 20 years, all of Snug Cove Village as well as multifamily housing and tourist commercial establishments have been subject to building permit guidelines that have ensured an Arts and Crafts style of architectural heritage. More can be done in an updated OCP to enhance the important connection between rural character and building form.


  • Commercial buildings and attached housing should be situated only within village or “hamlet” boundaries. Housing on the rural lands outside of village areas should retain its current character as detached, stand-alone buildings. (See Affordable Housing).
  • A new emphasis on island-indigenous design of buildings, including naturally occurring local building materials, and locally produced art, should be incorporated into a rewriting of the current guidelines that direct architecture and landscaping within village boundaries.
  • The continuous greenbelt of indigenous vegetation along Bowen’s roads forms an important part of the Island’s rural character. The already existing Traffic and Use of Streets bylaw (#133, 2005) which prohibits damaging and removing any plant, shrub or tree within the municipal road right of way should be inserted into the updated OCP.
  • As well, the OCP should state that the municipality will seek to eradicate invasive plant species on municipal owned land; and will assist volunteer organizations that seek to eliminate all such invasive plants on Bowen Island.