July 15th, 2024

Lethbridge city council eliminating Municipal Planning Commission

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on May 27, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge city council is eliminating the Municipal Planning Commission.
Council voted 7-2 in favour of a motion with Mayor Blaine Hyggen and councillor Ryan Parker voting against it.
Acting mayor Belinda Crowson told council eliminating the MPC is a streamlining process for applicants and the community.
She said virtually every decision made by the MPC was appealed to the Subdivision Development and Appeal board by either applicants or the community.
“For transparency we call this the elimination of the Municipal Planning Commission. If we were into spin, we would have called this a streamlining of processes to benefit applicants and the community because this is what this actually is,” Crowson said.
The acting mayor said the province asked every municipality to look at ways to cut red tape “to make it faster for developers, to make it better for the community. And I and others looked at ways that we could make the process better and this was one I brought forward to the last council and it’s continued onto this council.
“I recognize that this is a significant change but it benefits many groups…as a member of one of the past MPCs it was incredibly frustrating how many times we would get together as the MPC, we’d make a decision simply for it to go to SDAB and SDAB would almost always be the final say on everything done,” Crowson said.
SDAB is a group of five community members who get provincial training for their roles.
“It will speed up the process for applicants, it will make sure that there is no perceived bias or any possible bias for any different members of the community as well and this will be a much shorter process for everyone,” Crowson added.
Maureen Gaering, the general manager of Planning and Design, told council the MPC met four times last year and the majority were discuss daycares and secondary suites.
“We don’t see those items coming to MPC being overly complicated; they do tend to cause some consternation with immediate neighbours and sometimes neighbourhood associations but people would come down to the MPC meeting, take time off work, put in their letters, do all their research only to do it all over again at SDAB. So we feel that a more streamlined process for the public and for actually applicants, is simply to have the development officer render a decision and then have that decision appealed to SDAB,” Gaering said.
She also told council the province does not require municipalities to have an MPC, there being about an equal split in Alberta. Edmonton, for instance, doesn’t have one and nor does Lethbridge County.
A report presented to council Tuesday by planner Shelagh Graham said changes to the city’s land use bylaw over the last decade have been made to streamline the development process.
This has resulted in fewer applications to the Planning & Design department requiring a decision by the Municipal Planning Commission.
The report states that while section 623 of the Municipal Government Act requires “that both a subdivision authority and a development authority be established by bylaw Section 6256 of the MGA allows for, but does not require, a municipal planning commission to be established.”
The report said a council meeting on Sept. 7, last year, the previous city council voted to eliminate the MPC since it is being used on a limited basis and approvals delegated to that commission could be provided through other mechanisms that presently exist.
Acting mayor Belinda Crowson said the decision was made to streamline the process because “time is money” for applicants and they can wait a long time to get a response back. She also told council virtually every decision made by MPC was appealed to the Subdivision Appeal Board
In the Sept. 7 resolution, it was noted that development matters identified for consideration by the MPC could instead be addressed by administration, the Civic Works SPC or council.
According to the report, decisions that will be made by City administration as the development and subdivision authority include:
* Decisions on development permit applications.
“Currently, administration may choose to refer any application to MPC for decision. Decisions on all development permit will now be made by administration,” said the report.
“In some land use districts, amusement facilities, columbarium, entertainment establishments and sports and recreation facility, Mayor are uses that are currently referred directly to MPC for a decision. Decisions on development permit applications for these uses will be made by the development authority,” says the report.
Decisions on minimum parcel size for some uses in comprehensively planned residential districted will now be made by the subdivision authority, said the report.
All decisions will continue to be subject to an appeal by any member of the pubic to an appeal board such as the City’s Subdivision and Development Appeal Board or the province’s Land and Property Rights Tribunal, dependent on which has jurisdiction. These boards are independent from the City and are made up of a board chair and appointed citizens.
City council will now be able to approve comprehensive site plans in the Urban Innovation district, according to the report.

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Good decision.

Municipal planning in Lethbridge has improved dramatically these past few years. One appeal process is ample.