Municipal Planning Referrals

Municipal Planning The department shares common interests with municipalities related to land and resource management and planning and how this may be affected by land use zoning and the subdivision and development of land. Due to the large volume of municipal planning referrals received from across the province, the department is no longer able to provide a detailed review for each referral received involving a proposed subdivision.

The department understands that, as a municipality, you are obligated to send our offices a copy of a proposed subdivision that may affect a provincial water body. To ensure that municipalities continue receiving high-quality service, the department will be shifting its focus from the review of individual applications for proposed subdivisions, to the review of statutory and non-statutory higher-level municipal planning proposals at the initial stages in the planning cycle. Provincial interests will be identified at that time. Similarly, the department will be providing recommendations for Environmental Reserve dedications through a new guideline that will be applicable to all proposed subdivision referrals. It is anticipated that this will streamline our referral review processes, provide more timely responses to municipalities and enable more effective and integrated land use planning.

Effective October 1, 2007, the department will prioritize responses to municipal planning referrals according to the following:

  1. Referrals Involving High Level Municipal Plans
    • Higher level planning initiatives (e.g., Area Structure Plans, Municipal Development Plans, Concept Plans, Outline Plans).
    • Plans and initiatives identified as priorities by municipalities.
    • Multi-lot subdivision proposals that affect areas of high environmental significance or public interest (e.g., particularly those related to recreational lakes or significant permanent and naturally occurring slough/marsh wetlands; or rivers and streams that are directly bounded by or flow through the proposed area).
    Please be advised that the department will not be responding to referrals that do not fall within the general categories listed above.
  2. Subdivision Referrals and Waterbodies

    Pursuant to Section 664 of the Municipal Government Act, a subdivision authority may require Environmental Reserves to be dedicated when a parcel is adjacent to a water body, subject to flooding or includes a swamp, gully, ravine, coulee or natural drainage course. The department will begin providing Environmental Reserve recommendations to municipalities whether or not a water body has been identified by the proponent:

    The guidelines provide suggested minimum reserve widths to minimize impact to water bodies and maintain public access to Alberta’s valuable public land resources. These guidelines summarize recommendations that the department has previously provided to municipalities. It is recognized that some municipalities have demonstrated leadership by implementing policies that meet or exceed the minimum recommended widths.

    As administrators of the Public Lands Act, a non-response to a subdivision referral and waterbody is not equivalent to a waiver of the Crown’s claim of ownership to the bed and shore of a water body. As per Section 3 of the Public Lands Act, the title to beds and shores of all permanent and naturally occurring bodies of water and all naturally occurring rivers, streams, watercourses and lakes is vested in the Crown in right of Alberta.

    To prevent unnecessary delays in finalizing the subdivision process, the applicant is strongly encouraged to identify and delineate water bodies at the application stage. In preparation for registration of survey plans with the Land Titles Office, the applicant must retain a registered Alberta Land Surveyor to adequately identify and delineate Crown claimable bed and shore of any waterbodies in accordance with Section 17 of the Surveys Act.

    It is important to note that all water features are subject to provincial regulation under the Water Act, irrespective of Crown ownership. The landowner is also required to contact local department staff for approval if they plan to alter, disturb or fill in the bed and shore of a Crown-owned water body. Crown land converted for private use without the proper land conveyance may lead to future land planning and ownership issues.


For further questions, please contact the Land Management Office for your region.


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Updated: Nov 15, 2018