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Alberta Land Use Planning (1-AB-a)

Information current as of 2018
In Alberta, elements of land use planning are delegated to local municipalities. Under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act, R.S.A. 2009, c. A-26.8 every statutory plan, land use bylaw, and action undertaken by a municipality must be consistent with the land use policies established under the Land-use Framework or any regional plans. R.S.A. 2000, c. M-26 s. 630.2. The purpose of the Land-use Framework is to manage growth, sustain a growing economy, and balance this with Albertan’s social and environmental goals. Land-use Framework p. 6. The Alberta Land Use Framework is authorized pursuant to the Alberta – Land Stewardship Act, R.S.A. 2009, c. A-26.8. The authority for municipal planning, subdivision, and development control is established in Part 17 of the Municipal Government Act.


Land Use Planning Process

1-AB-a.1 – Review Alberta Land-use Framework

A developer should review Alberta’s provincial land use planning interests, including the Land-use Framework to ensure the project complies. The Land-use Framework introduced seven strategies to improve land-use decision-making in the province. The seven strategies are:

  • Develop regional land-use plans based on seven new land-use regions;
  • Create a Land-use Secretariat and establish a Regional Advisory Council for each region;
  • Use cumulative effects management at the regional level to manage the impacts of development on land, water, and air;
  • Develop a strategy for conservation and stewardship on private and public lands;
  • Promote efficient use of land to reduce the footprint of human activities on Alberta’s landscape; and
  • Establish an information, monitoring, and knowledge system to contribute to continuous improvement of land-use planning and decision-making. Land-use Framework p. 3-4.

1-AB-a.2 – Review Regional Plans (If Applicable)

A developer should review each regional plan to ensure that the proposed development complies with applicable regional plans. Each regional plan reflects the vision, principles, and outcomes of the Land-use Framework. The seven regions created by the Land-use Framework are based on the major provincial watersheds, with boundaries aligned to best fit with existing municipal boundaries and natural regions. Land-use Framework p. 24. The Secretariat must review each regional plan at least once every 10 years. R.S.A. 2009, c. A-26.8, s. (6)(1). A regional plan must describe a vision for the planning region and state one or more objectives for the planning region. R.S.A. 2009, c. A-26.8, s. (8)(1). A regional plan may:

  • Include policies designated to achieve or maintain the objectives for the planning region;
  • Set or provide for one or more thresholds for the purpose of achieving or maintaining an objective for the planning region;
  • Name, describe or specify indicators to determine or to assist in determining whether an objective or policy in the regional plan has been, is being, or will be achieved or maintained and whether policies in the regional plan are working;
  • Describe or specify the monitoring required of thresholds, indicators, and policies, who will do the monitoring and when, and to whom the monitoring will be reported;
  • Describe or specify the items and means by which, and by whom, an assessment or analysis will be conducted to determine if the objectives and policies for the planning region have been, are being or will be achieved or maintained;
  • Describe or specify the actions or measures or the nature of the actions or measures to be taken to achieve or maintain the objectives and policies in the regional plan and by whom they are to be taken or coordinated;
  • Describe and convey to a person named in the regional plan authority to achieve or maintain an objective or policy, which may include delegating authority under any enactment or regulatory instrument to the person named;
  • Manage an activity, effect, cause of an effect or person outside a planning region until a regional plan comes into force with respect to the matter or person;
  • Specify that is applies for a state or described time period;
  • Provide for an exclusion from, exception to or exemption from its legal effect;
  • Specify whether it is specific or general in its application; and
  • Delegate and authorize sub-delegation of any authority under the regional plan.

R.S.A. 2009, c. A-26.8, s. (8)(2). To see the current status of the regional plans, see: Alberta Ministry of Environment and Parks – Regional Plans Webpage.

1-AB-a.3 to 1-AB-a.9 – Does the Project Require a Variance?

A title holder (developer) may apply to the Minister for a variance of any restriction, limitation, or requirement regarding a land area or land use under a regional plan as it affects the title holder. R.S.A. 2009, c. A-26.8, s. 15.1 (1). The Minister may grant a variance if the variance is consistent with the purposes of the act, is not likely to diminish the spirit and intent of the regional plan, and refusal to grant the variance would result in unreasonable hardship to the applicant without an offsetting benefit to the overall public interest. R.S.A. 2009, c. A-26.8, s. 15.1 (2). The Minister may impose any terms and conditions that are appropriate. R.S.A. 2009, c. A-26.8, s. 15.1 (4).

1-AB-a.10 – Review Municipal Land Use Bylaws

A developer should review the municipal planning policies in the municipalities where the proposed development will be located to ensure compliance. Municipalities in Alberta establish planning policy by adopting statutory plans and land use bylaws. Legislative Framework for Regional and Municipal Planning p. 1. Statutory plans and bylaws are implemented by municipally appointed subdivision and development authorities (municipal authorities). Legislative Framework for Regional and Municipal Planning p. 1. These statutory plans and bylaws create regulatory instruments, such as the requirement for a development permit, that a municipal authority uses to regulate land use development. These regulatory instruments, such as development permits, must comply with the regional plan. R.S.A. 2009, c. A-26.8, s. (20)(1). The appointed municipal authority is responsible for receiving and deciding on development permit applications. Legislative Framework for Regional and Municipal Planning p. 1. Typically, a developer would apply to the municipal authority for a development permit, however transmission lines are exempt from Part 17 of the Municipal Government Act and do not require a development permit from the municipal authority. A. Reg. 223/2000 s. (3)(a).


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