Planning Terms

planning terms

Ever look at a sign like this and wonder what it really means? Us too! Here is a brief, and in no way exhaustive glossary of terms you will encounter on Development Proposal signs and documents. If there are errors or suggested amendments to this page please send them via the contact page.


All development proposals that pass through the Planning and Development Department and eventually come before City Council for approval have to be pursued in the context of the land plans that govern the area.  More on these plans is found in the City Planning Documents Section of this website.

OCP – Official Community Plan. This is a term used by planners to reflect a comprehensive strategic plan or vision. Surrey has an OCP which you can view  here. In the umbrella of plans, the OCP is the top level and most encompassing.

GLUP: General Land Use Plan. This is a Secondary Land Use Plan; a more geographically-specific version of the OCP which is detailed about an area but which is not as detailed as an NCP (see below). Grandview Heights, for example, has a GLUP but it also has a number of NCP’s. Where there is no NCP for an area, the GLUP is the next mandate document up the line, then the OCP.

NCP – Neighbourhood Concept Plan. This is a more specific plan for a local area. NCPs are also called Secondary Use Plans. NCPs are organized by Surrey’s six communities (Cloverdale, Fleetwood, Guildford, Newton, Whalley and South Surrey). Grandview Heights itself has many NCPs, which can be viewed in the Grandview Heights City Planning Documents section of this website. An NCP will include guidelines for zoning and land use that developers must adhere to in applying for land development, although there is latitude for developers/applicants to apply for amendments. NCP’s are developed through a Community Consultation Process and take several years to complete. Do familiarize yourself with the NCP that is pertinent to where you live. It is City Council’s position, stated in the OCP, that comprehensive development cannot occur without an NCP.


By no means exhaustive, this list includes some of the very basic zoning terms you will encounter in Grandview Heights development. For full explanations of sizes/uses/setbacks/parking and more, this 543 page document may be referenced.

upa – Units per acre. A zoning may be described as 2-6upa, for instance, so this means that the allowed zoning is 2,3,4,5, or 6 units per acre. Therefore, if a lot is 2 upa, that can mean that it is a half-acre lot (2 units per acre). An observation is that although “upa” is still a part of zoning (reflected in documentation/signage etc) as an imperial measurements most of the other planning land measurements are in metric.

CD Zone – Comprehensive Development Zone: an area that provides for development or re-development of a larger site

RF– Single Family Residential zone. If you see a lot or area that is zoned RF with a number (ie: RF-12), that means that the single family dwelling lot will be 12 metres across. An RF-9 is 9 metres wide, RF-10 is 10 metres wide, etc. Typically any lot smaller than RF-10 is on an urban lot with rear lane. RF-9 lots have an extra catch though; up to 1/3 of the total number of lots within a subdivision of RF-9 lots mat be reduced to a lot width of 7.9 metres (thus really RF-7.9).

RF-(number) C – Single Family Residential with Coach House. For instance, an RF-12C would be a 12 metre wide urban lot intended for one single family home and a coach house/secondary suite.

RA – One Acre Residential zone. This zoning allows for single family housing on suburban lots of 1 acre or larger

RA-G – Acreage Residential Gross Density. When a single family lot has special characteristics or services on the property, the gross size of the lot may be one acre (or more) but a smaller percentage of the lot is serviceable for the dwelling.

RH – Half-acre Residential zone. ½ acre lots for single family dwellings, essentially 2upa.

RH-G – Half Acre Residential Gross Density. When a single family lot has special charactertistics or services on the property, the gross size of the lot may be ½ acre or more but a smaller percentage of the lot is serviceable for the dwelling.

RC – Cluster Residential Zone. This includes family-oriented housing on a large site such as single-family homes or duplexes on individual lots or multiple-unit residential buildings with a public open space.

RM-(number) Multiple Residential: RM-10, 15, 23, 30 etc refer to developments that would accommodate that number of dwelling units.

RM-10 to RM-15 are considered low density, ground-oriented spaces.

RM-23 is row housing.

RM-30 is medium density multi-unit residential buildings.

RM-45 is medium density, medium-rise multi-unit residential buildings.

RM-70 is high rise multi-unit residential buildings. Not certain if this is zoned for Grandview Heights.

RM-D – Duplex Residential Zone – typically one duplex on a lot with minimum lot width of 24 metres.

Infill – in Surrey, there are two types of lots: infill lots and new subdivision lots. Infill lots are created when an existing built area is demolished for new building. New subdivisions are created from greenfield (or previously undeveloped land).

Suburban/Urban – you will often see in Planning documents and signage a proposal to change “suburban” to “urban.” The OCP states that the

  • Urban designation includes single family (RF), duplex and buildings with three or four dwellings, townhouses, local community uses and public amenities;
  • Suburban is intended to support a semi-rural and suburban lifestyle … characterized by a range of larger sized lots.