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Managing the Cost of Municipal Planning

When obtaining planning services for your community, it is important to account for the costs of professional services.


1. Recouping municipal planning service costs

A municipality may reduce or fully recoup the costs associated with community planning by considering the following four items:

A. Planning and development administration fees

Municipalities that have a zoning bylaw may establish fees for the application, review, advertising and issuance of:

  • official community plan (OCP) or district OCP amendments;
  • zoning bylaw amendments;
  • minor variance approvals;
  • discretionary use permits; and
  • permitted use permits.

These fees are based on the municipal costs to process and advertise the application and administer and regulate the development.

Fees may be contained in the zoning bylaw or in a separate fees bylaw.

A district planning authority may establish fees for services they provide on behalf of its municipal members.

B. Development levies and servicing fees

Development levies and servicing fees allow municipalities to recoup capital costs related to:

  • sewage, water or drainage works;
  • roadways and related infrastructure;
  • parks; and
  • recreational facilities.

Capital costs include the planning, engineering, construction and legal costs related to providing these services.

C. Sharing professional planning services

Some smaller communities do not require the services of a planner every day, but find it difficult to employ a registered professional planner part-time. Natural person powers allow municipalities to enter into an agreement to provide or share various services. Some common approaches include:

  • contracting your municipal planning services out to other municipalities on a fee for service basis;
  • jointly hiring a planner to manage planning and development for a group of municipalities; or
  • employing a planner to work for a planning district and its members.

D. Creating a District Planning Authority

The Planning and Development Act, 2007 (PDA) allows municipalities to create advisory planning districts; these may serve as a platform for joint planning, services and staff. At the request of the municipal planning district members, the advisory planning district's commission may be replaced with a district planning authority.

A district planning authority has all the powers of the previous district planning commission, but may also make planning decisions on behalf of the member councils and set fees for those services.


2. Determining appropriate fees

Municipalities may establish fees in the zoning bylaw to recoup planning and development costs under section 51 of the PDA. Municipalities are authorized to collect fees on any application for:

  • OCP or district OCP amendments;
  • zoning bylaw amendments;
  • minor variance approvals;
  • discretionary use permits; and
  • permitted use development permits.

These fees represent the cost to the municipality for processing, reviewing, advertising and issuing the appropriate approval.

The fees may not exceed the cost of processing, advertising, administering and regulating those types of applications or developments.

Municipal costs to consider when determining fees include, but are not limited to:

  • Cost of advertising in your local weekly paper;
  • Cost of materials, postage and special equipment or software; and
  • Wages of development officer/planner or other staff with regards to:
    • time to accept and review initial application;
    • time to prepare, send and review referrals;
    • time to advise applicant on additional requirements or necessary amendments;
    • time to prepare a report for council;
    • time to present item to council;
    • time to prepare and send letter regarding council's decision;
    • time to prepare development or servicing agreements;
    • time to follow up on any conditions of approval or terms of agreements;
    • time to prepare and forward an approved permit to the applicant or send a bylaw to Community Planning for approval;
    • time to prepare, set up and present at Development Appeals Board (*) average (#) appeals/year (÷) average number of permits/year; and
    • time spent on average zoning bylaw enforcement (*) average (#) of enforcement/year (÷) average number of permits/year.

It is important to evaluate the costs associated with each type of application to ensure they are appropriate. For example, there would be no advertising or council report costs for a permitted use, but there would be for a zoning bylaw amendment.

Example to determine costs Admin Time Meeting Costs Council Report Advertising Costs Materials / Mailing Total
Permitted Uses * * $
Discretionary Uses * * * * * $
Minor Variances * * * * $
Bylaw Amendments * * * * *

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