Welcome to the AUMA Municipal Planning hub.
The hub has been developed to provide members with a basic understanding of land use planning in Alberta. The material is divided into four main parts:
- An overview of planning related amendments to the Municipal Government Act (MGA)
- A discussion of the purposes of planning and a brief overview of the history of planning.
- A review of legislation, the hierarchy of plans and roles and responsibilities.
- Information on planning issues, trends and best practices.
While the hub document can be downloaded and read as a whole, it is designed for quick access by clicking on key terms that will link directly to that segment of the hub. In this way members can use the hub to provide a quick refresh when planning issues are under consideration.
The hub is intended to be a continuously evolving project. New material will be added as issues arise and as new concepts and ideas are identified. For example, AUMA is in the process of updating the hub based on amendments to the MGA.
Key Municipal Government Act amendments affecting planning
Updated December 2017
A key initiative for AUMA is to provide input on amendments to the Municipal Government Act (MGA), as it provides the foundation for the way that municipalities plan, govern, and pay for services for their residents.
The amendments to the Municipal Government Act (MGA) are contained in the Municipal Government Amendment Act (MGAA 2015), the Modernized Municipal Government Act (MMGA 2016), and An Act to Strengthen Municipal Government Act (ASMG 2017). These amendments come into force on various dates between October 26, 2017 and April 1 2018. A few amendments have yet to be proclaimed as work continues to refine the regulations related to these amendments. Key changes are highlighted here under seven headings. Details will be incorporated in the hub over the next few months.
AUMA’s analysis of the proposed MGA amendments can be found on our dedicated Municipal Government Act Review Page.
An overarching theme of the amendments is an emphasis on intermunicipal collaboration. The tone is set in the preamble to the Modernized Municipal Government Act, which notes the importance of working together with Alberta’s municipalities to cooperatively and collaboratively advance the interests of Albertans. This intent is defined by adding to the purpose of a municipality the phrase, “to work collaboratively with neighbouring municipalities to plan, deliver and fund intermunicipal services” and by adding to the duties of a councillor the phrase, “to promote an integrated and strategic approach to intermunicipal land use planning and service delivery with neighbouring municipalities”.
Two specific mechanisms are proposed through which this intent will be carried out. Firstly, growth management boards are mandatory for the Edmonton and Calgary metropolitan regions. Growth management boards will be required to prepare a regional land use plan and address the delivery of regional services and infrastructure. The Capital Region Board is deemed to be a growth management board, but its membership is reduced to 13 municipalities from 24. The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board Regulation creates the new board with 9 municipal members. The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Regulation comes into force October 26, 2017 while the Calgary Metropolitan Region Regulation comes into force January 1, 2018.
Secondly, all municipalities not within a growth management board will be required to prepare an intermunicipal collaboration framework (ICF) with their neighbours. ICFs are an agreement between municipalities as to the services that are to be delivered by the municipalities and whether and how any of these are to be shared. An ICF will not be considered complete until every municipality that is party to the ICF has adopted an IDP that provides for the coordination of future land use. The ICF regulation provides details as to how the binding arbitration process will be carried out, as well as details as to what municipalities are to include in dispute resolution processes within their ICF.
Municipalities that are members of a growth management board will be required to prepare an ICF with any adjacent municipalities that are not a member of the growth management board and with other members of the same board to address any matters that are not covered in the growth management plan. These provisions, including the Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework Regulation, come into force on April 1 2018. Municipalities will have 2 years until April 1 2020 to adopt an ICF or a one-year mandatory arbitration process will be initiated. Once completed, municipalities will be required to review their ICF once every 5 years.
AUMA and AAMDC are in the process of developing a guide on developing ICFs, which will be released in the first quarter of 2018.
Every municipality will also now be required to adopt a municipal development plan (MDP). In the past, only municipalities with a population of 3,500 persons or more were required to adopt an MDP. Municipalities that are required to adopt an ICF will also be required to adopt an IDP. Municipalities will have until 3 years until April 1 2021 to adopt a municipal development plan. An IDP must be in place by April 1 2020.
Transparency and Clarity in Planning
Municipalities will now be required to maintain a list of any documents or policies that are intended to guide planning decisions. The list must include a summary of each document or policy and a statement explaining how they relate to one another and to any plans or bylaws adopted under the Planning Part of the MGA. The list must be completed and published by January 1 2019. Planning authorities and appeal boards may not consider documents or policies unless they are included in the list. Examples include such matters as outline or concept plans, design guidelines, and requirements for the type of documents to be included in a subdivision or development application.
A hierarchy of plans is also established in the amendments to the MGA. If there are any inconsistencies or contradictions between the plans, an IDP prevails over an MDP with respect to any lands included in the IDP and an MDP takes precedence over Area Structure Plans or Area Redevelopment Plans.
New/Expanded Planning Tools
The scope of offsite levies is expanded to include community recreation facilities, fire halls, police stations and libraries. Neighbouring municipalities will now be able to collaborate with one another on the sharing of intermunicipal off site levies to fund improvements that are of benefit to the municipalities. These provisions came into effect October 26, 2017. Affected persons will be able to appeal the specifics of the expanded levy to the Municipal Government Board. A further provision allowing municipalities to collect off site levies to pay for improvements to the provincial highway system has not been proclaimed but is expected to come into force April 1, 2018.
Provisions to allow municipalities to require developers to provide inclusionary housing have not been proclaimed. A regulation setting out details of when a claim for inclusionary housing may be made and the basis for offsets to compensate developers is currently under development.
Provision to allow municipalities to grant multi-year tax forgiveness on properties that have been identified as brownfield sites were proclaimed in effect January 1 2018.
A change in the rules for assessment of property will have implications for planning. Municipalities will now be able to add a sub class of property for small business to the non-residential property class. The draft regulation defines small business as one employing 50 full time employees or less. The tax rate for the small business sub class cannot be greater than the lesser rate for either of the other non residential property sub classes (vacant non-residential and improved non-residential). These provisions will be in effect January 1 2018. In addition, there is a maximum ratio of 5:1 for non residential to residential tax rates. This provision was effective as of May 31, 2016.
Subdivision and Development Approvals and Appeals
A number of changes are proposed to the process for receiving and deciding on subdivision and development permit applications and appeals. Principal changes include revision to the notice requirements to allow for an electronic means of giving notice (i.e. publishing on the municipal web site), allowing an additional 20 days to the period for deciding on subdivision and development permit applications within which the municipality must determine whether the application is complete, and related provisions allowing for deemed refusal where applications are determined to be not complete.
Flexibility to adopt alternative times for processing subdivision and development permit applications originally confined to cities and specialized municipalities has now been extended to all municipalities with a population of 15,000 people or more. Subdivision and development appeal boards will now be limited to having only one member of council, however the Minister will have the ability to order that these new restrictions do not apply to a municipality when there are challenges in recruiting panel members who are not councillors. These provisions are effective October 26, 2017.
The definition of Environmental Reserve (ER) has been modified to clarify that ER is taken where there is a significant risk of personal injury or property damage resulting from the development or use of the land. Municipalities may now also require developers to provide lands considered to be environmentally sensitive as Conservation Reserve (CR). Landowners, however, must be compensated for these lands based on fair market value of the land prior to subdivision. Statements concerning CR must be contained in an MDP before any lands can be taken as CR. These provisions are effective October 26, 2017.
Joint Use Agreements with School Boards
Provisions requiring municipalities to enter into joint use agreements with school boards to address reserves and other matters have not yet been proclaimed. Work continues to be done on the legislation and related regulations.
Information bulletins on the amendments have been released by Alberta Municipal Affairs and can be viewed on their website at https://open.alberta.ca/publications/mga-implementation-fact-sheets . AUMA continues to work with AAMDC, Municipal Affairs and other stakeholders on various issues including off site levies for provincial highway connectors and developing a handbook for Intermunicipal Cooperation Frameworks.