SHIFTING GROUND: New Legal Changes in Planning and What You Need to Know


On October 26, 2017, the Province of Alberta enacted the most dramatic overhaul to the Municipal Government Act (MGA) and associated regulations since 1995. These long anticipated changes will impact all aspects of planning and development within Alberta. These amendments will impact the costs of development, the timeframes for development approvals, the type and location of developments that will likely be approved and the location of key infrastructure to support development.

Regional Planning:

For the Calgary region, the expected regional planning framework is now legally enshrined through the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board Regulation. The Regulation mandates the membership and geographic extent of the Calgary Metropolitan Region as well as the objectives, duties of the board and voting rights of members. It also requires the preparation of a Growth Plan within three years. B&A staff are analyzing the regulation and its implications for both municipalities and developers in the Calgary Region. Individual discussions with B&A staff on this topic are available upon request to help you best prepare for this new regional framework.

For the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, a regional planning framework and regional plan has already been in place for a few years. This has enabled Edmonton Region member municipalities to get a head start on aligning planning documents, policies and decisions with the regional plan. B&A’s public and private project experience in the Edmonton Region has allowed us to gain an inside look into what may be coming to the Calgary Region once a regional plan is adopted.

Mandatory Municipal Requirements:

The updated MGA now mandates municipalities to complete a number of new plans and policies, all with fairly strict timeframes. These plans and policies will have a direct impact on land developers and citizens. One of the straight forward requirements is that municipalities must now adopt a public participation policy as per the Public Participation Policy Regulation by July 23, 2018. The policy must identify categories of approaches to engage stakeholders and the types or categories of circumstances in which stakeholders will be engaged. As public engagement for land development has become increasingly common, municipalities may take this opportunity to clarify public consultation requirements for private land development projects that go beyond a Council public hearing.

Municipalities outside of the Calgary or Edmonton Region Growth Boards must now adopt both an intermunicipal collaboration framework (ICF) and an intermunicipal development plan (IDP) with all adjacent urban or rural municipalities. These ICFs and IDPs must be in place by April 1, 2020. This is a tight timeframe and may result in hesitation by municipalities to consider development applications within fringe areas of a municipality undergoing an ICF/IDP process.

Offsite Levies

The scope of off-site levies has been expanded to allow municipalities to charge levies for the construction of local and regional recreation facilities, fire halls, police stations, libraries, and new or upgraded roads where they connect to a provincial highway. Municipalities are required to pass bylaws before they begin charging developers for these new levies. The development industry would be prudent to stay on top of any off-site levy bylaws proposed and are encouraged to participate in the public process where possible.

TAKE AWAY

For Alberta’s planning and development sector the past may no longer be a predictor of the future. The ground is shifting and the best way to take advantage of these changes will be to educate yourself on how they will affect you, your business/company or your municipality.

B&A is now scheduling individual consultation sessions with our clients to discuss how these changes impact you. Please contact your B&A personnel or Liisa Tipman (ltipman@bapg.ca or 403.692.4544) to schedule an appointment.