Property Owners and Developers
Frequently Asked Question
- Why should I be concerned about archaeological sites on my property?
Archaeological sites are the only physical evidence for 98% of the past history of British Columbia. The Province recognizes the importance of these sites and controls damaging activities by protecting them by law and requiring a permit to develop within site boundaries. Damaging an archaeological site without a permit is unlawful.
- How do I find out if a protected archaeological site is on my property?
You can ask the Archaeology Branch to check our records of known, protected archaeological sites by completing the
BC Archaeological Data Request Form.
- I have a protected archaeological site on my property but I want to develop, what do I do?
The law requires that you obtain a site alteration permit in order to develop within a protected archaeological site. To receive a site alteration permit, the Archaeology Branch will need to know exactly where the archaeological site is located, the site significance, and how development will affect the site. This task, called an archaeological impact assessment, includes field work and is completed by a professional consulting archaeologist under Provincial authority. The archaeologist will work with you to develop options on how to manage impacts to the archaeological site.
If development related damage to significant archaeological deposits cannot be avoided, it may be necessary to complete an archaeological excavation to recover the information that will be destroyed as a result of development. This work is completed under a separate permit by a professional consulting archaeologist.
If the impact assessment results show that you are able to develop without affecting the archaeological site, you will not require a site alteration permit to proceed with development.
- Are there any costs involved?
The property owner is responsible for the costs of required archaeological studies. However, by taking early action, you can minimize the costs to manage impact to the archaeological sites.
The Archaeology Branch does not charge for issuing heritage permits.
- What options are available for managing impacts to archaeological sites?
An impact assessment study will determine if the archaeological site has significant heritage value. If there is no significant value, there will be no objection to developing within the site (but you will still require a site alteration permit).
Most often, however, there is significant heritage value, and the preferred option is not to alter the archaeological site. This can be accomplished by resiting development or building redesign. If the site cannot be avoided, impacts may be reduced by adopting less intrusive building techniques. Finally, if major damage to a significant archaeological site cannot be avoided, the site can be scientifically excavated to recover the information that will be lost as a result of development.
- How do I hire a professional consulting archaeologist?
About 60% of archaeological consultants belong to the BC Association of Professional Consulting Archaeologists. You can contact a consultant through the association's
Consulting archaeologists also may be contacted through local internet or telephone directory services.
7. Will a site on my property affect property value?
There are two issues that may affect property values: how does an archaeological site affect the present use of my property and how will the site affect the future use of my property?
The current use of the property is seldom affected unless the use involves significant land alteration. A house on a fully developed lot is not affected by overlapping with an archaeological site. An active gravel pit is a concern, because this current use will damage or destroy a site.
New development, such as changing the building footprint, major landscaping, or installation of an in ground swimming pool, will be a concern, because the new activity may damage the archaeological site. When planning for land use change, ensure that a professional consulting archaeologist is part of the planning process. They can determine if the new development will have an affect on the archaeological site.
In many cases, the archaeological site is not within the development zone. As an example, sites on waterfront properties are usually close to the water and are often contained within zoning setbacks set up to protect other environmental values.
The most elemental piece of information a property owner should have is the site record for the archaeological site on their property. You can receive this information by completing the
BC Archaeological Data Request Form.
8. When I applied for rezoning, demolition or building permits,
I received a letter from my municipality requiring me to hire
an archaeologist. What does this mean?
Many municipalities have information on the location of
protected archaeological sites. If the municipality
determines that your activities may disturb the
archaeological site, they will request that you hire a
professional consulting archaeologist to review your
particular situation and decide if further archaeological
studies are necessary.
9. When I applied to subdivide my property, the Ministry of
Transportation told me that I would need to complete an
archaeological impact assessment as a condition of
subdivision approval. What does this mean?
The Ministry of Transportation checks the Provincial inventory
of protected archaeological sites to establish if there is
likely to be a site on your property. If so, the Ministry will
request an impact assessment to find out exactly where
the site is located. Ministry policy is to place the site(s)
under a Restrictive Covenant if possible.
10. Does the Archaeology Branch charge a fee for obtaining a Heritage
Conservation Act Permit?
There are no fees for obtaining a Heritage Conservation Act permit.
The only costs to property owners or developers with respect to
archaeological work are the fees charged by the consulting archaeologists
they have hired.
11. Are there any permits or approvals, other than a Heritage
Conservation Act permit, required to carry out the site
alterations, heritage inspections or heritage investigations
described in permit applications?
No permits or approvals, other than Heritage Conservation Act
permits issued by the Archaeology Branch, are required to carry
out the site alterations, heritage inspections or heritage investigations
described in permit applications. However, licensees and property
owners or developers may also require other approvals such as
forestry cutting permits and municipal development permits unrelated
to the archaeological work.