At the December 16, 2022 Meeting of the County Council Committee of the Whole for Planning, Committee discussed the parameters of a refresh of the Land Use Bylaw (LUB, adopted in 2014) and Municipal Development Plan (MDP, adopted in 2012) Bylaw. The discussion can be summarized by the 'Five Small Big Ideas Guide' for the Project.
The topic of land use bylaws in Alberta has been a focus among some groups on social media in recent days. Many Alberta municipalities are reviewing (or have recently updated) their Land Use Bylaws to be consistent with provincial legislation and their statutory plans.
What is a Land Use Bylaw?
- All municipalities are required by the Municipal Government Act to adopt a Land Use Bylaw. Land Use Bylaws are sometimes referred to as Zoning Bylaws.
- Smoky Lake County's current Land Use Bylaw was adopted by Council in 2014. Since its adoption, there have been eleven (11) amendments approved by Council.
- A Land Use Bylaw establishes the rules and regulations for how land can be used, what types of developments are allowed or prohibited, and the decision-making processes for subdivision and development applications.
- A Land Use Bylaw divides a municipality into different districts (or zones) to help separate certain uses that are incompatible (e.g. heavy industrial uses near residential areas), and to direct certain types of uses to areas where they are most suitable (e.g. where servicing exists, highway access is available, etc.).
- It is important to note that Land Use Bylaws do not facilitate land expropriation.
Why Update a Land Use Bylaw?
- Municipalities regularly update their Land Use Bylaw to ensure the regulations are consistent with current provincial legislation, properly address current development trends, strategic planning priorities, and consider available environmental and demographic information. This is usually done every 5 to 10 years.
- Municipalities may undertake a focused review and update of their Land Use Bylaw (e.g. to address one or two issues, or to be consistent with new provincial legislation). They may also decide to undertake a full, comprehensive review of the entire document.
- Land Use Bylaw projects can take months or years to complete, depending on the complexity of the municipality, timing with other projects and priorities, and the scale of the review.
- As development trends change and new technologies emerge, Land Use Bylaws must be updated to ensure the regulations properly address the land uses being proposed. Examples of this include changing demands for rural residential (acreage) development, cannabis production facilities, home occupations, renewable energy production, tourist home/rental accommodations, agri-tourism and recreation, etc.
- Land Use Bylaw reviews for rural municipalities focus on improving economic development conditions so that the municipality can respond to shifting economic drivers and conditions and encourage rural economic development within their boundaries.
- Land Use Bylaw updates often review ways to encourage more people to live in rural municipalities. This can include:
- Encouraging or supporting new businesses and growth in hamlets to support rural populations and services such as health care and schools.
- Allowing additional dwellings (e.g., in-law suites or garage suites) on residential lots to enable multiple generations to live on the same property or to provide rental revenue.
- Supporting innovative and value-added agricultural operations to diversify farming opportunities in rural areas that support new and young farm families remaining on the farm or develop new farming operations at an affordable scale within the municipality.
Who is Responsible for Updating the Land Use Bylaw?
- A municipality may decide to undertake a Land Use Bylaw update using municipal staff, or they may choose to engage the services of a consultant, depending on the scale of the project, the workload of municipal staff, and the expertise required to complete the project. Smoky Lake County intends to do the bulk of its work on the LUB/MDP review in-house.
- Municipal administration and/or consultants are responsible for writing the draft content; the decision to adopt or reject proposed changes to the Land Use Bylaw is the decision of Council.
Does a Land Use Bylaw Update Include Public Engagement?
- The Municipal Government Act requires that (at minimum) a public hearing be held prior to the adoption of any amendment or changes to a Land Use Bylaw by Council.
- Anyone impacted by a proposed change to a Land Use Bylaw can speak at (or provide a written submission) the public hearing, where the Council must consider the input prior to their consideration of the bylaw for adoption.
- Municipalities must provide notice of the public hearing. The notice must be consistent with the requirements of the Municipal Government Act and the municipality’s public notification bylaw/policy (if one exists).
- Major Land Use Bylaw update projects typically include a public engagement program that includes in-person and/or virtual open houses, workshops, surveys, social media postings, and newsletters. These engagement tools will be used for the Smoky Lake County Land Use Bylaw update project.
What is a Fifteen-Minute City/Community/District?
- Several cities in North America are currently exploring opportunities to implement the general concept of ‘fifteen-minute communities’ in their planning documents (a local example of this is the City of Edmonton).
- The general intent of ‘fifteen-minute communities’ is to encourage a “community of communities,” or “small towns within a big city,” where people can meet many of their daily needs within a 15-minute walk, transit trip, or bike ride from where they live. The concept does not aim to reduce inter-city travel, whether by personal vehicle, transit, or other means; rather, it aims to provide residential areas with more of the services, shops, and amenities that their residents access daily - closer to their front door.
- Fifteen-minute communities recognize that not everyone (youth, seniors, people with mobility restrictions) can regularly drive long distances to meet their needs. The concept intends to make living easier for people choosing to live in cities and to support investments in public transportation and pedestrian infrastructure.
- The fifteen-minute community concept is not being considered for rural or small urban communities. Instead, it aims to bring some of the benefits of small-town life (shopping local, living close to services, etc.) to the city in areas where automobile dependence rates and travel times are high.
How Can I Stay Informed on This Land Use Bylaw Update?
- Smoky Lake County welcomes community members to stay in the loop on the Land Use Bylaw update project and encourages residents to familiarize themselves with their current Land Use Bylaw. Residents are invited to contribute to the project as it proceeds.
- Information about the project, including public engagement opportunities, will be posted (as it becomes available) online here.
- If you have questions, or would like additional information, contact Planning & Development Services at 780-656-3730.
- Jordan Ruegg, Planning & Development Manager
- Kyle Schole, Planning Technician