Municipal Powers, Land Use Planning and the Environment

The Environmental Law Centre published a report on this topic in 2005.

The document may also be downloaded from the ELC website. This link should be used in reference lists:

Text from the Introduction is reproduced here:

Municipalities exercise a broad range of powers that have significant direct and indirect impacts on the environment. Alberta’s cities, towns, and rural municipalities are already key players in waste management, water and wastewater treatment, and land use planning and development. They have the authority to assume a greater role in the regulation and management of natural areas including wetlands, air and water quality, toxic substances, redevelopment of contaminated lands, water conservation, wildlife, and other aspects of the environment within the municipality.Although in recent years many municipalities have become more active in these less traditional areas, others have done so minimally or erratically, due to factors such as low public awareness, lack of financial and technical resources, and a general unfamiliarity with local environmental issues.However, municipalities are under increasing public pressure to address these issues, and to incorporate environmental priorities into land use planning and development. 

Section 1 of this paper examines the power of Alberta municipalities to regulate aspects of the environment through the general bylaw power. The sources and scope of municipal authority over the environment are explained, as are opportunities for public involvement.

Section 2A examines the significant power of municipalities to affect the environment through the land use planning and development process. After an examination of the major players in the development process, this section describes municipal planning powers, the key planning policies and the land use bylaw, the subdivision and development process, tools and process for regional planning, and the provincial role in municipal land use planning and development.

Section 2B examines formal opportunities for public involvement in the land use planning process. In section 2C, this paper sets out further, informal opportunities to influence municipal planning and development policy. The need for provincial leadership and opportunities for public input into regional planning are reviewed next. This section concludes with guidance on speaking out for or against a particular development.

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