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.

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.

 

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.