Public engagement is an important part of the planning and development process at the City of Edmonton. Planners are encouraged to think critically about how best to involve people in every planning process, which includes land development applications, development permit applications, and zoning bylaw text amendments.
Land Development Applications
Area plans, neighbourhood plans, rezonings, and road closures are types of planning applications that can only be approved by City Council. Provincial legislation requires Council to have a public hearing before approving them and any person affected by an application can speak at these hearings.
Since public hearings occur late in planning processes, which generally last for many months, Sustainable Development gives interested residents opportunities to receive information and provide input earlier in the process.
As soon as Sustainable Development receives an application, it mails notification letters to property owners close to the application property and to the affected Community League and Area Council. After getting more information about the application, the department may also hold a public event (open house, public meeting, etc.) and/or take other steps to engage the public.
The Public Involvement Plan for Land Development Applications explains the City’s public engagement approach for land development applications.
Development Permit Applications
The development permitting process is how the City ensures that any buildings or other use of a property conforms to the relevant zoning in place. Since zoning is approved by Council following an extensive public process (see above), public involvement at the subsequent development permit stage is limited. There are two typical situations:
- The application is for a land use that is "permitted" under the current zoning and conforms exactly to all of the zone's regulations. A City development planner is required to approve the application. No one is notified except the applicant.
- The application is for a "discretionary" land use. This is a use that can only be approved at the discretion of a development planner or requires the development planner to make a variance (exception) to one or more of the current zoning regulations. If the development planner approves such an application, notification letters go out to adjacent property owners and the affected Community League.
Anyone who feels affected by these approvals has the right to appeal the decision to the (SDAB). Also, if the development planner refuses a development permit application, the applicant has the right to appeal to the SDAB.
If an applicant files an appeal, SDAB notifies adjacent property owners and the affected Community League, so they can speak in favour or against the application if they wish.
In some cases applicants are required to consult with adjacent property owners prior to submitting a development permit application. Where the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay applies, this consultation is required when an application would require a variance to the overlay.
A development planner may also require consultation in other situations where the public's input would be helpful.
The Public Involvement Plan for Development Permits explains the City’s public engagement approach to development permit applications.
Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment
The Edmonton Zoning Bylaw is the "rule book" for all development that occurs within Edmonton. It identifies what land uses are allowed to occur, where they can occur, and what form they can take.
Part 17 of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) governs land use planning in Alberta and provides the City of Edmonton with the authority and responsibility to plan for land use within its boundaries. Under this provincial legislation, the City must pass a “Land Use Bylaw” (Section 639 of the MGA).
Therefore, Zoning Bylaw No. 12800 was adopted by City Council on February 22, 2001 and took effect on June 14, 2001.
Urban Planning is a dynamic process as cities grow, evolve and change. As a result, the rules and regulations within the Edmonton Zoning Bylaw are subject to a continuing process of review, refinement, and amendment. Amendments to the text of the bylaw must go through the same process as a land development application – i.e. they must be approved by Council after a public hearing.
Typically, amendments to the text of the Edmonton Zoning Bylaw involve significant research and consultation with stakeholders. Since public hearings occur very late in the process, Sustainable Development commits to giving interested residents an opportunity to receive information and provide input earlier in the process.
The Public Involvement Plan for Zoning Bylaw Text Amendments explains the City’s public engagement approach to Zoning Bylaw text amendments.
Public involvement is an important aspect of planning in the City of Edmonton. Guided by the City's public involvement initiative and the Council-approved public engagement policy, as well as professional codes of practice, planners involve people in decisions that may affect them.