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Planning and Development

About Planning and Development 

Planning and Development plays a central role in managing growth and change within our communities. This is delivered through the establishment and administration of the Municipal District of Opportunity No. 17’s land use planning framework. The aim of Planning & Development is to ensure orderly, economical and beneficial development within each of the hamlets, while at the same time maintaining and improving the quality of the physical environment to achieve a livable community, through the application of tools, principles and services provided for under the land use planning framework. The scope of Planning & Development services include: 

Long-Range and Strategic Planning 

Long-range and Strategic Planning involves the creation and adoption of strategic and long-term community vision plans, including statutory plans (such as Municipal Development Plan, Intermunicipal Development Plans and Area Structure Plans), non-statutory plans (such as the Land Use Bylaw), which together provide strategic direction and the regulatory mechanism for implementing the desired change.

Current Planning 

Current Planning focuses on implementing the vision and goals outlined in strategic and long-range planning documents by ensuring that everyday planning decisions and actions are guided by long-term community aspirations. These include ensuring effective coordination of land use plans; communicating relevant land use planning information, requirements, standards and procedures to prospective developers and the general public; and evaluating subdivision and development proposals against approved plans, the Land Use Bylaw, and other applicable municipal and provincial legislation. Current Planning services include direct, customer-focused planning services, which include responding to development and general land use planning enquiries; processing and issuing decisions on development permit and subdivision applications; and issuing statutory planning notices and decisions. Current Planning services also include Development Control, which involves the use of tools such as Development Agreements, inspections and Land Use Bylaw enforcement mechanisms to achieve desirable development outcomes. 

Other services

These are services provided to the public for a fee outside the core Planning & Development services (e.g., Compliance Certificate, Title Search, Private Land Transfer). 


Land Use Planning Framework

The MD of Opportunity No. 17 derives its authority to make decisions on land use planning matters from the Government of Alberta though provincial legislation and regulations, including the Municipal Government Act (MGA), the Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA) and the Subdivision and Development Regulation, which delegate certain powers and authority to municipalities. The MD of Opportunity No. 17’s land use planning framework can be illustrated as follows: 


Together with the Province’s MGA, ALSA, Land Use Policies and Subdivision and Development Regulation, and the Municipality’s statutory plans, Land Use Bylaw, Policies, and other documents, the land use planning framework serves as a guide for planning, development and subdivision within the MD of Opportunity No. 17. Following is a description of and link to these documents. Some of the Municipality’s documents represent Office Consolidations that incorporate the original documents and subsequent amendments approved by Council by bylaw. In case of uncertainty, the reader is advised to consult the original documents, available at the Main Office in Wabasca.

Municipal Government Act 

The Municipal Government Act is the key provincial legislation from which the MD of Opportunity No. 17 derives its authority to undertake planning and development. The MGA establishes the powers and responsibilities of Council and administration in creating policies, plans and bylaws to regulate land use and development within the municipality, to ensure orderly physical, environmental and economical beneficial development. Specifically, the MGA allows a municipality to create four (4) types of statutory plans—namely, Municipal Development Plan (MDP), Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP), Area Structure Plan (ASP) and Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP)—and the Land Use Bylaw. These provide a framework for coordinated land use planning and decision-making. The MGA also provides municipalities with enforcement mechanisms to ensure conformity between development and approved plans and bylaws. 

Alberta Land Stewardship Act

The Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA) is a 2009 provincial legislation that establishes a regional approach to land use planning through the implementation of the Alberta Land-use Framework (LUF). It aims to achieve Alberta’s long-term economic, social and environmental goals through the efficient management of public and private lands and natural resources. The ALSA divides the province into seven “land-use regions”, based on the LUF, which correspond to Alberta’s major watersheds, and contemplates a regional plan for each region. The MD of Opportunity No. 17 is located within the Lower Peace Region. Once adopted, the Lower Peace Regional Plan will provide high-level policy direction for land use planning and decision-making within the MD of Opportunity No. 17. 

Provincial Land Use Policies

The province’s Land Use Policies were created in 1996 under the MGA to guide municipalities in harmonizing provincial and municipal policy initiatives at the local land use planning level. These policies establish high-level principles, such as a collaborative approach to addressing planning issues, for better land use planning. The Provincial Land Use Policies will be replaced by regional plans once in effect. 

Subdivision and Development Regulation 

Enacted in 2002 and amended in 2017, the Subdivision and Development Regulation outlines a number of requirements, procedures and guidelines for the referral and decision-making process on subdivision applications in Alberta, in addition to the requirements of the MGA. The Subdivision and Development Regulation prescribes the following setback distances: 

  • 100 metres from gas and oil wells; 
  • 1.5 kilometres from sour gas wells and facilities (depending on the level of the sour gas facility and the intensity of the proposed use);
  • 300 metres from the working area of a wastewater treatment plant; 
  • 300 metres from the disposal area of an operating or non-operating landfill, or the working area of an operating storage site; and 
  • 450 metres from the working area of an operating landfill, the working or disposal area of a non-operating hazardous waste management facility or the working area or disposal area of an operating hazardous waste management facility. 

An applicant for subdivision or development permit (except when the proposed building is less than 47 square metres) is also required by the Subdivision and Development Regulation to supply information regarding abandoned oil and gas wells on the subject parcel. If an abandoned well is identified during the application process, Alberta Energy Regulator Directive 079 (Surface Development in Proximity to Abandoned Wells) prescribes minimum setbacks and may require the applicant to contact the licensee of record. 

Intermunicipal Development Plan 

An Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) is a statutory plan prepared collaboratively between two (or more) municipalities to provide direction for the future development of the lands of mutual importance. An IDP serves as a cooperative framework for efficient land use planning and development decision-making at the interface between municipal boundaries. IDPs are adopted by the municipality’s party to them through marching municipal bylaws, and contain policies that address land use, environmental matters, transportation, economic development, and intermunicipal infrastructure, services and programs, as well as procedures for administering and amending the plan. All IDPs will have to be consistent with the ALSA Regional Plans of the Provincial Land Use Framework, once those are completed. 

The MD of Opportunity No. 17 has received an exemption from completing IDP's from Municipal Affairs, along with its rural neighbors, Athabasca County, MD of Lesser Slave River, Northern Sunrise County, Mackenzie County, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, and Lac La Biche County due to the distance between municipal borders. However, Inter-Collaborative Framework plans were adopted in 2019 with these communities and they offer a cooperative framework for land use planning and development decision-making for lands around the boundaries of the adjacent municipalities. The ICF's main goal is to improve intermunicipal relations.

Municipal Development Plan (2020)

The Municipal Development Plan (MDP) is the primary planning policy document for the MD of Opportunity No. 17. The MDP was adopted in 2003 by Council to provide a cohesive framework to guide local decision making that is necessary to achieve the MD of Opportunity No. 17’s long-term vision. The MDP guides future land use, infrastructure, environmental, social and economic policy decisions in a manner that reflects the municipality’s vision. It outlines the anticipated form and character of neighbourhoods and more generally the entire Municipality. Furthermore, the MDP informs residents, developers, and investors with respect to what type of development is desired and identifies the preferred locations. The MDP provides a foundation for the preparation of more detailed land use plans; is intended to be used in conjunction with the Municipality’s Land Use Bylaw to implement the policies of this Plan; and to inform residents and developers of the Municipality’s future land use strategy. 

Area Structure Plan

An Area Structure Plan (ASPs) provides a framework for future subdivision and development of land, resulting in the creation of a new neighbourhood or commercial/industrial area. ASPs identify where residential, commercial, institutional, industrial and other land uses will be located and how services such as water, electricity, sewer systems, telecommunications, schools, fire protection and parks will be provided. ASPs are either prepared by the Municipality or required from a developer in advance of a subdivision proposal. Currently, Wabasca, Red Earth Creek, Sandy Lake and Calling Lake have approved ASPs, which specifically provides a land use, road and infrastructure framework for the efficient and orderly development of each Hamlet, while respecting other land uses, to meet growing market demands.    

Land Use Bylaw 2013-14 

The Land Use Bylaw can be described as the “rule book” for development within the Municipal District of Opportunity No. 17. It regulates the development of land and buildings on a site-specific basis, based on the policy directions set by statutory plans. The LUB defines what constitutes development (or land use); divides the municipality into land use districts and lists the land uses allowed in each district. It also separates all the land uses enabled in each district into permitted and discretionary uses; and sets the development standards (e.g., size of land and buildings, building heights, setbacks and site coverage) for each land use district. The LUB also outlines the requirements for a development permit application and timelines for decision; the process for appealing a development permit decision; and the process for amending the Land Use Bylaw. 

Amending the Land Use Bylaw

A person may apply to amend the Land Use Bylaw, in writing, to the Development Officer by completing the Land Use Bylaw Amendment Application Form and submitting an application fee as established by Council. All applications to amend the Bylaw shall include the following:

  • A certificate of title for the subject property;
  • An indication of the applicant’s interest in the subject property;
  • A statement of the proposed land use change(s);
  • Reasons in support of the amendment; and
  • Any supporting drawings subject to the satisfaction of the Development Officer

All amendments to the Land Use Bylaw shall be made in conformity with the provisions of the MGA and any applicable statutory plans. The MD of Opportunity No. 17 may, at any time, also initiate an amendment to the Land Use Bylaw. 

Policies, Standards and Other Documents   

In addition to the provincial legislation, statutory plans and the Land Use Bylaw, the M.D. of Opportunity No. 17 has policies, studies and other documents that may be used when considering applications for development permit and subdivision. They include:  

Municipal Engineering Standards 

The M.D. of Opportunity No. 17’s Municipal Engineering Standards contains the engineering minimum standards for the provision of municipal improvement by private developers. The document addresses the submission requirements, as well as detailed design and construction/service standards for roads, sanitary water system, water distribution system, storm drainage system, park development, and gas, power and telephone services for new subdivisions within the hamlets. The Engineering Standards also contain safety program guidelines that must be adhered to by developers, consultants, or contractors during construction or activities at the development site.     

Relationship between Planning Documents 

The hierarchy of documents within the M.D. of Opportunity No. 17’s land use planning framework is established by the MGA. The MGA requires that each level is consistent with the level above and below it, and that the policies or regulations within planning document(s) at each level may be implemented by those below them in the decision-making process. The MGA provides the legislative authority for municipal land use planning and decision-making, while the ALSA regional plan (or Land Use Policies in their absence) provides broad-based policy directions and principles for municipal land use planning, which are effected through statutory plans and bylaws. The statutory plans provide future direction for the development and use of lands at the fringe areas of the Municipality’s boundaries (IDP) or within the whole municipality (MDP) or smaller areas of the Hamlets in detail (ASP). The LUB regulates the use and development of land based on the policy directions of statutory plans, while the Subdivision and Development Regulation regulates subdivision planning in conjunction with the MGA, applicable statutory plans, and the Land Use Bylaw. The polices, standards and other documents contain additional information or specific requirements outside statutory plans and the LUB documents that are considered for certain types of development permit and subdivision applications. Where there is a conflict or inconsistency between a higher-level planning document and a lower-level planning document, the higher-level planning document prevails to the extent of the conflict or inconsistency.  

Development and Subdivision Application Process 

Applying for a Development Permit

Unless exempted by the Land Use Bylaw or other legislation, all developments within the M.D. of Opportunity No. 17 require a development permit. Developments that require a development permit include but are not limited to the following:

  • Any new building or structure; 
  • Any structural addition or interior alteration to an existing building; 
  • Changes to the use and intensity of the use of an existing building; 
  • Changes to the use of vacant land for development; and
  • Signage, except as exempted under the Land Use Bylaw. 

A development permit provides legal authorization for a development; having it protects the property owner or renter/leasee against future legal or transactional issues. Development permits must be obtained prior to undertaking a development. The process of applying for a development permit, including all the documents required, is detailed in the Guide to Applying for a Development Permit. Applicants interested in applying for a development permit are advised to read the guidelines prior to completing an application. 

To apply for a development permit, please download and complete the Development Permit Application Form and submit it to the Main Office, or one of the sub-offices along with the appropriate fee, as established by Council. If the proposed development is not enabled in the district where your site is located, you must first apply for an amendment to the Land Use Bylaw, to enable the type of development you want and, if successful, apply for a development permit. To apply for a Land Use Bylaw Amendment, use the Land Use Bylaw Amendment Application Form.

Unless extended by a written agreement between the Development Authority and the applicant, the Development Authority has 40 days to make a decision on a development permit application from the date the applicant is issued a Notice of Decision. To ensure timely processing of applications, it is important for applicants to submit a complete application and to provide any additional information, if required by the Development Authority during the review process. Please contact the Development Officer at the main administration office located in Wabasca prior to submitting an application, or if you have any questions about completing the application form.     

A development permit may include conditions, such as a requirement to obtain additional permits/licenses from the Municipality and/or external organizations before commencing or operating their development. Permits from external agencies may include building, electrical, plumbing and gas permits from Superior Safety Codes and/or license from a federal or provincial agency. 

In addition to permits/licenses, inspections may also be conducted by provincial authorities or external agencies to verify that the completed development complies with applicable legislation, standards or conditions of the approved permit or license. These inspections may include safety codes and health inspections.   

Applying for a Subdivision 

Subdivision is the process of dividing a single parcel of land into two or more parcels, each with a separate Certificate of Title. A registered land or property owner (or their authorized agent) wishing to create two or more lots from a single parcel of land must obtain a subdivision approval prior to subdividing the land. Municipal Planning Services (MPS) is the Subdivision Authority for the MD of Opportunity No. 17. Applicants for subdivision can download the application package, which include the Subdivision Application Guidelines and application form, which are available on the MPS website.   

The MGA, the Subdivision Authority Bylaw (which designates MPS as the subdivision authority for the MD of Opportunity No. 17), the Subdivision and Development Regulation, the Land Use Bylaw, any applicable statutory plans, policies, other bylaws, standards and regulations, guide subdivision planning within the Municipal District of Opportunity No. 17.  

Subdivision and Development Appeal 

Decisions of the Development Authority and Subdivision Authority may be appealed to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board or the Municipal Government Board (MGB). The Subdivision and Development Appeal Board deals with appeals regarding development permit decisions, stop orders issued by the Development Authority, and subdivision appeals that are outside the jurisdiction of the MGB, as per section 687(2) of the MGA. The MGB only hears subdivision appeals where the land that is the subject of the appeal is:  

  • within Alberta’s Green Area; 
  • 'adjacent' to or contains a Body of Water; ('Adjacent' means contiguous or would be contiguous if not for a railway, road, utility right of way or reserve land).
  • adjacent to or contains (either partially or wholly) land identified on the Listing of Historic Resources or public land set aside for use as historic resources.
  • within the following distances:
  • 1600 metres of a Provincial Highway;
  • 450 metres of a Hazardous Waste Management Facility;
  • 450 metres of the working area of an operating Landfill;
  • 300 metres of the disposal area of any Landfill;
  • 300 metres of a Waste water Treatment Plant; or
  • 300 metres of the working area of a Non-Hazardous Waste Storage Site.

The Subdivision and Development Appeal Board and the Municipal Government Board are impartial, quasi-judicial bodies that make independent decisions on appeal cases before them, strictly based on the evidence presented to them at a hearing, and in accordance with the MGA, other provincial legislation, municipal appeal bylaw and any other applicable municipal legislation. The process for appealing a decision of the Development or Subdivision Authority, including the timelines for filing an appeal, are outlined in the Development Permit Applications Guidelines  and the Subdivision Application Guidelines, respectively. Anyone wishing to appeal development permit decisions and stop orders must complete the Development Appeal Form  and submit it with the appropriate fees to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board Clerk at the Main Office within 21 days from the date of the decision or order of the Development Authority. The subdivision appeal information is included in the Subdivision Authority’s decision letter.