The amendments that fall under this question aim to improve municipal relationships, planning processes, and local decision-making.

After hearing from Albertans about how this is important, we developed these MGA amendments to support how municipalities work together and plan for growth.

Requiring Regional Decision-Making

Growth Management Boards

What’s currently in place: To date, the Capital Region Board in Edmonton is the only Growth Management Board with mandatory participation that has been established through the MGA. Municipalities that are members of a Growth Management Board are required to amend statutory plans and make decisions consistent with the growth plan for the entire region.

What’s the issue: The Calgary Regional Partnership is a voluntary organization of municipalities who have prepared and adopted the Calgary Metropolitan Plan for the participating members within the Calgary region. Although all rural municipalities surrounding Calgary initially participated in the regional planning process voluntarily, none have continued to participate in the regional partnership and none have adopted the metropolitan plan. That has hindered integrated planning and servicing across the region.

What we heard: Some municipalities in the Calgary region have expressed concern over the voluntary nature of the Calgary Regional Partnership, particularly as it relates to their ability to implement the Calgary Metropolitan Plan and to coordinate land-use decisions and servicing in the region.

What’s changing: Growth Management Boards and related plans for the City of Edmonton and City of Calgary regions will be mandatory to address land-use planning, servicing of growth, regional service delivery, cost sharing, and dispute resolution. This change is to foster good governance and to promote good land use and infrastructure planning.

What this means: A Growth Management Board will continue to be mandatory for the City of Edmonton region, and a Growth Management Board will be required in the City of Calgary region. Growth Management Boards will remain voluntary for all other areas of the province.

What’s next: Municipal Affairs will work with municipalities in the two metropolitan growth regions to further develop the regulations that define the mandate, membership and governance of their Growth Management Boards.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of the Modernized Municipal Government Act and the development of the related regulations by fall 2017.

Intermunicipal Collaboration

What’s currently in place: Currently, the MGA gives municipalities the option to engage in cooperative initiatives with neighbouring municipalities through mechanisms such as intermunicipal agreements or development plans, mutual aid agreements, regional services commissions and Growth Management Boards. These initiatives are typically done on an ad-hoc basis.

What’s the issue: The principle – that municipalities should focus on their own taxpayers and local interests, and that intermunicipal collaboration should be voluntary – has been successful on many fronts. But the voluntary nature of these discussions has meant that many services are duplicated where a regional approach may lead to greater efficiencies.

What we heard: Some municipalities have requested that regional or intermunicipal planning be mandatory to promote good land-use and infrastructure planning, and to foster good governance.

What’s changing: Implement mandatory regional planning mechanisms for land-use planning, and require municipalities to work together regarding service delivery and cost-sharing.

What this means: All municipalities outside of the growth management areas will be required to adopt an Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework. This framework will highlight and formalize existing collaborative work across the province, and provide a forum for neighboring municipalities to work more closely together to better manage growth, coordinate service delivery, and optimize resources for citizens. The frameworks will need to address intermunicipal land-use planning and how servicing will support development, as well as regional service delivery and funding.

What’s next: Municipal Affairs will work collaboratively with stakeholders to develop the regulations supporting the Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework. The regulations will include:

  • minimum requirements regarding intermunicipal land-use planning;
  • minimum list of services to be considered on a regional basis;
  • a dispute resolution process for when partnering municipalities cannot agree;
  • timelines for completion;
  • authority to exempt municipalities in certain cases; and
  • other matters as required.

When this takes effect: Within two years of proclamation of the Modernized Municipal Government Act. The Minister will have the authority to appoint a mediator or some other form of alternative dispute resolution to work with municipalities who are unable to create a framework within the required timelines.

Civic charters

What’s currently in place: There is no authority to create civic charters.

What we heard: In order to ensure cities like Edmonton and Calgary are able to become centres of excellence on the international stage, the legislation applicable to them must recognize their unique statuses and needs. This amendment will allow us to develop these charters. The specific content and details of the charters will come at a later time – following further conversations with cities and Albertans.

What’s changing: Allow for the creation of civic charters, with accountabilities and powers unique to our largest municipalities. Require any new charter or amendments to a charter to be published to the Municipal Affairs website for at least 60 days before it is put into effect, to ensure that Albertans have an additional opportunity to review it. To further enhance transparency, any municipal bylaw under a charter would be required to be advertised and subject to a public hearing.

When this takes effect: While the authority to create civic charters took effect upon Royal Assent of the Municipal Government Amendment Act on March 30, 2015, the consultation and development for charters for Calgary and Edmonton will proceed according to the Framework Agreement signed by the two cities and the Government of Alberta.

More information about the development of civic charters

 

Addressing the Changing Needs of Communities

Inclusionary Housing

What’s currently in place: The MGA provides municipalities with tools to responsibly plan and develop land within their boundaries, including the development of affordable housing options for lower-income people and families.

Affordable housing is typically housing rented out at rates 10 to 20 per cent below the market price. Social housing is rented out based on maximum incomes, so people pay a maximum of 30 per cent of their gross income on rent. Such supportive housing can include secondary suites built in private homes or on private property. They can be a set of town houses or apartment buildings owned by municipalities, then managed and rented out by housing management bodies such as the Calgary Housing Company or Edmonton’s Capital Region Housing Corporation.

However, the MGA does not explicitly give municipalities the mandate or ability to require new developments to include affordable housing units in their developments.

What’s the issue: There are currently more than 15,000 households – or more than 30,000 Albertans – on wait lists for government-supported affordable housing units or programs.

While the Government of Alberta, through the Ministry of Seniors and Housing, is primarily responsible for affordable housing delivery in Alberta, municipalities can and often do play a key role in supporting the development of affordable housing.

Municipalities have indicated that the tools currently available to them are not sufficient. They want to be able to require affordable housing be built in new development projects, through what is known as “inclusionary housing.” Municipalities see this as a necessary step to address affordable housing needs.

What we heard: The cities of Edmonton and Calgary have expressed concerns over the increasing demand for affordable housing in Alberta and have specifically requested the ability to utilize inclusionary housing tools.

What’s changing: Municipalities will have the flexibility to include inclusionary housing as an option within their land-use bylaws.

What this means: Municipalities could implement inclusionary housing at either the subdivision or the development permit stage. Additionally, municipalities that choose to enact inclusionary housing would be required to offer offsets to developers – compensation or bonuses – to help reduce the financial burden that may get passed on to home buyers. Municipalities would have flexibility to set the appropriate compensation or offsets, such as allowing developers to increase density or reduce parking spaces.

What’s next: A regulation will be developed in collaboration with key stakeholders that will include:

  • the number of units in a development before inclusionary housing could be applied;
  • the minimum offsets (or compensation) for providing units;
  • the collection and use of cash-in-lieu if developers and municipalities determine affordable housing isn’t the best option for a project and funds are arranged instead;
  • the sale or reuse of units if they are sold for lower-than-market rates;
  • transparency and accountability; and
  • other matters as required.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of the Modernized Municipal Government Act and the development of the related regulation by fall 2017.

Environmental Reserve

What’s currently in place: The MGA identifies certain types of land that can be dedicated as environmental reserve. This type of land is not suitable for development and contains features, such as swamps, gullies, ravines, coulees, floodplains, and land adjacent to a body of water. Environmental reserves are used to prevent pollution or provide public access to water. The Alberta Land Stewardship Act focuses on environmental conservation and stewardship.

What we heard: Albertans have expressed concerns over the differing interpretations on the intention of an Environmental Reserve. Lack of clarity about the purpose and definition of such a reserve has led to an inconsistent application of the provisions.

What’s changing: The MGA will create a new type of reserve, called Conservation Reserve, to protect environmentally significant lands such as wildlife corridors, significant tree stands or other environmentally significant features municipalities may wish to conserve. Municipalities will have to provide appropriate compensation to developers for Conservation Reserve, since the land will be set aside and protected instead of developed. The new Act will also provide clearer definitions and purposes for lands deemed Environment Reserve, and tools to determine the reserve boundaries earlier in the planning process to help in development.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of the Modernized Municipal Government Act.

Off-site Levies

What’s currently in place: Currently, the MGA sets out the types of levies or fees that can be collected by municipalities from developers in accordance with a municipal off-site levy bylaw. The MGA says that off-site levies can only be used to build or expand roads, sanitary sewer systems, storm sewers, water systems and land connected to these types of infrastructure.

What we heard: As a result of growth in many communities, municipalities say a greater demand has been placed on them to build more community facilities and to provide additional services that are outside the scope of what can currently be collected through levies. Municipalities have requested amendments to the off-site levy provisions that would allow them to use the money to build fire halls, police stations, libraries and recreation facilities within the list of eligible infrastructure costs.

What’s changing: The scope of off-site levies will be expanded so municipalities can use the funds to build community recreation facilities, fire halls, police stations and libraries. Developers would contribute costs based on that proportional benefit, while municipalities will fund the rest through general revenue.

A dispute resolution mechanism will be created and available to deal with any disputes around off-site levies on the expanded infrastructure.

What’s next: The existing Principles and Criteria for Off-Site Levies Regulation will be amended in collaboration with key stakeholders and will include:

  • dispute resolution for off-site levies; and
  • increased transparency on how the levies are calculated and collected.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of the Modernized Municipal Government Act and the development of the related regulation by fall 2017

Administration of off-site levies

What’s currently in place: The MGA allows municipalities to charge an off-site levy for infrastructure costs only once during development.

What we heard: Give the authority to charge fees over time offers improved cash flow management better tied to the actual design and installation of the infrastructure.

What’s changing: Following a recent court challenge involving the City of Edmonton, the proposed change will empower municipalities to charge for each type of infrastructure separately and over time. This amendment will not impact the scope of off-site levies.

When this takes effect: Upon Royal Assent of the Municipal Government Amendment Act on fall 2017.

Annexation Requirements

What’s currently in place: Municipalities are enabled to make an annexation application for any reason at any time. Annexation procedures are outlined within the MGA.

What we heard: Albertans have observed that recent annexations have been highly controversial and received a great deal of media attention. Some municipalities have indicated that clear and consistent guidance on when annexations are appropriate may help in these situations.

What’s changing: Develop annexation principles and procedures to ensure annexations occur in an efficient, timely and orderly manner.

When this takes effect: Upon development of the related regulation by fall 2017.

Strengthening Local Land-Use Planning

Land-Use Policies

What’s currently in place: The current land-use policies in the MGA were established in 1996 to help municipalities coordinate municipal land-use decisions with provincial objectives. In 2009, the Alberta Land Stewardship Act came into force for seven provincial regions. The broad overarching regional plans made under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act supersede any MGA land-use policies in effect.

What we heard: Municipalities have expressed concerns there could be meaningful policy gaps between regional land-use plans among municipalities and provincial objectives, if future regional plans created under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act do not adequately address the matters currently within the MGA land-use policies.

What’s changing: The current MGA land-use policies will continue to be phased out of force as new regional plans under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act come into force. The MGA will provide the authority, through regulation, to create land-use policies for municipal planning matters that are not included in a regional plan under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of the Modernized Municipal Government Act.

Municipal Development Plan

What’s currently in place: Municipal development plans identify future development possibilities within municipal boundaries, and facilitate local planning and economic growth. These plans act as guides for future land-use expectations for both citizens and businesses. Under the current MGA, Municipal development plans are mandatory for municipalities with a population of 3,500 or greater.

What we heard: Municipalities have suggested that a municipal development plan can help municipalities with long-term planning, regardless of population size.

What’s changing: Require all municipalities, no matter their population, to create a municipal development plan. Municipalities that previously did not have a municipal development plan will be given appropriate assistance to aid in the completion of their municipal development plan.

When this takes effect: Municipalities who do not currently have a municipal development plan will be required to develop their municipal development plans within three years after the proclamation of the Modernized Municipal Government Act.

Transparency of Planning Policy Documents

What’s currently in place: The MGA has no requirement that municipalities publish or identify how their planning policy documents on land use relate to one another. Currently, some municipalities may choose to adopt additional planning policy documents that are not statutorily required under the MGA, to complement the policies within their statutory plans.

What we heard: Developers have expressed concerns that when these types planning policy documents are adopted, they may have different names, contents and purposes among municipalities. This can make it difficult for applicants (especially developers or builders who may deal with multiple municipalities) to understand how a municipality’s plans relate to statutory plans.

What’s changing: Municipalities will have to be more transparent around their planning documentation. They will have to list and publish all planning policy documents, and describe how they relate to each other and to the municipality’s statutory plans.

When this takes effect: All planning policy documents must be listed or published by January 1, 2019.

Decision-Making Timelines

What’s currently in place: The current MGA sets out the processes and the timelines for reviewing and issuing decisions on subdivision applications and development permit applications. These timelines apply the same to all municipalities, regardless of size.

What we heard: Municipalities have raised concerns that the current subdivision and development processes do not provide them enough time to make an informed decision on a given application, especially since some applications are very complex. Subdivision and development applicants have raised concerns that the current process is unclear and doesn’t provide them enough predictability.

What’s changing: The existing timelines for applications and decisions on subdivision and development permits will be amended to provide more flexibility. A new provision will be added to give time to municipalities to review an application to ensure all the necessary documentation has been submitted and for applicants to provide supplemental documents to complete an application. All cities and other municipalities with a population of 15, 000 or more will be able to create bylaws to set their own timelines for when an application must be complete, and when an application decision must be made.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of the Modernized Municipal Government Act.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of the Modernized Municipal Government Act.

Brownfields

What’s currently in place: Municipalities make annual decisions through a property tax bylaw to cancel, defer or reduce the municipal taxes on a brownfield. A brownfield is a piece of property that has been abandoned, vacant, derelict or unused because of actual or perceived contamination. Some examples of brownfields include the former location of a gas station or facility contaminated by asbestos.

What we heard: Municipalities and developers have asked for property tax incentives to help them remediate and redevelop potentially contaminated sites. They say one-year tax reductions or deferrals don’t provide the certainty developers require to assume the financial risk of redevelopment.

What’s changing: The amended MGA will allow municipalities to grant multi-year tax exemptions, deferrals or reductions as a means of incentivising cleanup and redevelopment.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of the Modernized Municipal Government Act.

Hierarchy of Plans

What’s currently in place: The MGA contains no explicit hierarchy amongst statutory plans. Statutory plans must be consistent with one another.

What we heard: Albertans, developers, and municipalities have indicated that it is challenging to determine when one statutory plan takes precedence over another statutory plan as land use policies are complex, and are established at both the Provincial and local levels in Alberta. Municipalities have expressed that they want clarity in how various plans for regions and municipalities relate to one another in order to assist them in their decision making processes.

What’s changing: Identify within the MGA the hierarchy and relationship of statutory plans, so that each plan will be consistent with the plans above it.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of the Municipal Government Amendment Act.

Appeal Board Training

What’s currently in place: Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) members can voluntarily access training, but are not required to do so.

What we heard: Albertans emphasized the importance for SDAB members to have knowledge and understanding of their role and responsibilities. Some municipalities have the capacity to deliver training themselves, while others may prefer to work together or access Provincial resources to do so.

What’s changing: Require SDAB members and clerks to undergo mandatory training based on a standard curriculum. Training may be delivered locally, regionally or by the Province.

When this takes effect: Upon development of the related regulation by fall 2017.