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.

Reserve Land Assembly Area Contribution Structure

What’s currently in place: Reserve land may be dedicated as municipal reserve (MR), school reserve (SR) or municipal and school reserve (MSR) lands. The MGA authorizes a subdivision authority to take up to 10 per cent of the lands subject to subdivision as reserve land or money in lieu of reserve land through the subdivision approval process. In addition, municipalities may require up to an additional five per cent of “developable land” if a proposed subdivision would result in a density of 30 dwelling units or more per hectare.

What we heard: Municipalities expressed concern regarding the difficulty of assembling land for larger parks and school sites under the current reserve land process. Municipalities have asked for a process that could be used to support land dedication and development of parks and school sites, which would allow the impact on developers in the area to be distributed more evenly.

What’s changing: Municipalities will be provided with increased flexibility to use a reserve land assembly area contribution structure that would support land dedication and development parameters with respect to assembly of parks and school sites, including through a regulation.

What this means: This change allows municipalities to continue using the existing MR, SR, and MSR provisions of the MGA or, at the municipality’s discretion, use an alternative optional structure that allows half of the currently allocated 10 per cent reserve land to be taken in cash as part of a ‘reserve land assembly area contribution’ towards assembling larger school sites and/or parks. This change is different from the MGA’s money-in-place of reserve provisions in that it includes the costs required for the servicing of the reserve sites and promotes an equitable distribution of costs required to assemble and service the sites.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of An Act to Strengthen Municipal Government.

Joint Use and Planning Agreements

What’s currently in place: The MGA provides the flexibility for municipalities to enter into joint use agreements with school boards, but they are not mandatory. These agreements outline how MR, MSR, and SR lands will be allocated between the municipality and each school board within its boundary. In the absence of a joint use agreement, the subdivision authority determines the needs of the municipality and the school board(s).

What we heard: Stakeholders expressed concern that municipalities are not adequately setting aside municipal reserve or school reserve sites for school building sites.

What’s changing:  Mandatory joint use and planning agreements (JUPA) will be required between municipalities and school boards, through amendments to the MGA and the School Act.

What this means: This change will require all municipalities to have JUPAs with the school boards operating within their borders that consider:

  • establishing a process for discussing matters relating to:
    • the planning, development, and use of school sites on municipal reserves, school reserves, and municipal and school reserves in the municipality;
    • transfers of municipal reserves, school reserves, and municipal and school reserves in the municipality;
    • disposal of school sites;
    • the servicing of school sites on municipal reserves, school reserves, and municipal and school reserves in the municipality; and
    • the use of school facilities, municipal facilities, and playing fields on municipal reserves, school reserves, and municipal and school reserves in the municipality, including matters relating to the maintenance of the facilities and fields and the payment of fees and other liabilities associated with them;
  • how the municipality and the school board will work together collaboratively;
  • a process for resolving disputes;
  • a time frame for regular review of the agreement; and
  • any other provisions the parties consider necessary or advisable.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of An Act to Strengthen Municipal Government.

Off-Site Levies: Provincial Transportation Systems

What’s currently in place: Currently, the MGA authorizes councils, by bylaw, to impose levies on land that is to be developed or sub-divided and sets out parameters for the imposition and collection of offsite levies. The legislation does not clearly state municipal authority to levy for infrastructure connecting municipal roads to provincial highways, or improvements of those connections resulting from growth.

What’s the issue: In some cases, new developments have significant impact on traffic management and planning, and contribute to the need for new infrastructure, such as connections to highways or access roads. Alberta Transportation’s cost-sharing policy covers the requirements for connections between municipal roads and provincial highways as a result of new developments; however, clarity is needed to ensure the policy is consistent with the provisions for offsite levies.

What we heard: Municipalities expressed concerns about new developments having a significant impact on traffic management and planning, and needed clarity on the authority to levy new development to help pay for the costs in proportion to the benefit of the new infrastructure.

What’s changing: Enable off-site levies, by bylaw, to be charged for municipal road projects that connect to or improve the connection to provincial highways; and require municipal statutory plans within 1.6 km of a provincial highway to be referred to the Minister of Transportation for review.

What this means: This gives the authority to municipalities to charge off-site levies for road projects that connect to provincial highways. This tool will provide municipalities with an option to proportionally levy new development to help fund the cost of road connections to provincial highways consistent with existing Alberta Transportation policy. It will also help ensure municipal planning and development and provincial highway planning and development will be co-ordinated to create safer roads for everyone. The Government of Alberta will still be responsible for provincial highways.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of An Act to Strengthen Municipal Government.

Intermunicipal Off-site Levies

What’s currently in place: Currently, municipalities may collect off-site levies from new developments within their municipal boundaries to pay for land and facilities related to water service, sanitary sewage, storm sewer drainage, municipal roads. The MMGA expanded this list of off-site infrastructure to include libraries, police stations, fire halls, and community recreation facilities.

The MMGA also implemented mandatory regional planning mechanisms for land-use planning, requiring municipalities to work together regarding service delivery and cost-sharing.

What we heard: Stakeholders indicated that, in some instances, off-site infrastructure or the benefit of additional off-site infrastructure may extend into developments in other municipalities. It was suggested that a tool be developed so that off-site levies could be charged in either municipality when new or expanded off-site infrastructure is located in one municipality, but the benefitting area extends to one or more other municipalities.

What’s changing: Enable municipalities to jointly create off-site levy bylaws for projects that benefit portions of two or more municipalities, including the expanded uses introduced in the MMGA and the ASMG (libraries, police stations, fire halls, community recreation facilities, connection of a municipal road to a provincial highway).

What this means: This change enables municipalities to define a benefiting area for off-site infrastructure that extends across two or more municipalities, and to charge off-site levies to developments in the municipalities benefiting from the infrastructure.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of An Act to Strengthen Municipal Government.

Off-site Levy Agreements

What’s currently in place: Municipalities may collect off-site levies from new developments within their municipal boundaries to pay for land and facilities related to water service, sanitary sewage, storm sewer drainage, municipal roads. The MMGA expanded this list of off-site infrastructure to include libraries, police stations, fire halls, and community recreation facilities.

What we heard: Some municipalities have existing off-site levy bylaws and agreements in place which were developed alongside and agreed to by the development community. Municipalities with these in place expressed concerns that these bylaws and agreements would no longer be valid once the changes proposed in the MMGA expanding the list of off-site infrastructure come into force.

What’s changing: Validate existing off-site levy bylaws and related fees and charges for the expanded facilities established under the MMGA.

What this means: In 2002, the MGA was amended to include off-site levies for roads and grandfathering provisions were put in place to recognize existing agreements. Similar to 2002, this change validates existing off-site levy development bylaws and related fees and charges that were imposed for the expanded facilities established under the MMGA and the ASMG ensuring bylaws and fees and charges that were imposed are honoured.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of An Act to Strengthen Municipal Government.

Off-site Levies on Schools

What’s currently in place: A school board may be required to pay off-site levies on private land holdings when constructing a school site. Municipalities may collect off-site levies from new developments within its municipal boundaries to pay for land and facilities related to water service, sanitary sewage, storm sewer drainage, municipal roads. The MMGA expanded this list of offsite infrastructure to include libraries, police stations, fire halls, and community recreation facilities.

What we heard: In some situations a school board may be required to pay off-site levies when constructing a school building project if a school board develops on privately owned land (e.g. for a large high school site). School boards have requested that they be exempted from the application of off-site levies for school building projects given that new schools provide a public benefit within communities.

What’s changing: The MGA is being amended to exempt school boards from paying off-site levies on public school site lands for school building projects.

What this means: School boards will be exempt from paying off-site levies on non-reserve lands when a public school site is developed for a school building project.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of An Act to Strengthen Municipal Government.

Conservation Reserve

What’s currently in place: The MMGA introduced Conservation Reserve (CR), a new type of land dedication collected during the subdivision application process, for lands that have an environmentally significant feature that municipalities wish to conserve. Municipalities must provide compensation to developers for lands dedicated as CR, and the CR designation cannot be removed from the title, nor can the land be sold.

What we heard: Municipalities and developers requested further clarity and predictability within the land designation process in order for municipalities and landowners to make more informed land-use planning decisions. Stakeholders were also interested in whether the conservation reserve land designation could be removed on lands that have lost their conservation significance, through a flood or fire for example.

What’s changing: Clarify that municipalities may include conservation goals and objectives in their municipal development plans and area structure plans. Allow for reimbursement of purchase costs incurred for CRs to be considered during annexation processes. Enable municipalities to dispose of conservation reserve lands, through a public process, when substantive changes occur that eliminate the land’s conservation value. Clarify that land designated as a conservation reserve is exempt from paying municipal property taxes.

What this means: Municipalities will be allowed to include policies addressing conservation reserve in municipal development plans and area structure plans. Municipalities will also be allowed to dispose of CR lands. The change ensures the public is involved in the disposal process and that any money received through disposal continues to support conservation. Lastly land designated as CR will, like other reserve land categories, retain its designation and reimbursement of purchase cost will be accounted for during the annexation processes.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of An Act to Strengthen Municipal Government.