Medicine Hat News
City expects compatibility with UCP’s red tape reduction plans
The City of Medicine Hat should have “minimal” problems aligning its development guidelines with new “Red Tape Reduction” legislation from the province, local officials said Wednesday.
Many of the measures in the updated Municipal Government act regarding development timelines are already in compliance with city practice, said planning general manager Kent Snyder.
But, the city will have to publish an annual report on how it has determined development fees and scheduled projects that are paid in part by developers that pay off-site levies on their projects.
Those charges have also been the source of vigorous debate over the last eight years, after the city revamped the system administrators say costs taxpayers $30 million more than expected over the previous decade.
More recently, developers have also speculated or argued against rate increases, stating a lack of transparency doesn’t give them opportunity to argue.
In the fall, the UCP government passed legislation requiring municipalities to publish its assumptions on the timelines and budgets of growth projects. Those factors, as well as inflation projections and population models, greatly determine the rates.
“It’s a very high level but when we do make a change and recalculate our financials about growth projects, we have to be deliberate about it,” Snyder told council’s development committee.
Since 2013, the city has employed a differentiated rate for different areas, based on localized benefit on projects. Background to the agenda item states complex computer models are employed, which may require explanation with stakeholder groups, the development community and the public.
Changes in the MGA include adjusting how inter municipal off-site levies are calculated, a system the city does not use, though could explore in a new tri-area agreement with Redcliff and Cypress County.
Reserve land required by the city would be capped at 10 per cent of a development, which is current local practise. City planning would also have to meet provincially to set timelines for approving subdivision plans, a standard it already uses.
New fast-track permit
A new program to “fast track” new home permits that could reduce turnaround approval times by 75 per cent on relatively straightforward proposals, was officially announced this week.
The initiative aims to have standard home permit applications completed in one to two days, rather than several weeks at present.
Administrators say the processing times have been among the best in the province over the last 10 years, since the department began concentrating on speeding up approval times.
The new initiative applies only to permits for new single family residential projects that do no require zoning changes or variances in local land-use bylaw or national building code. They must involve new builds on previously undeveloped lots.
That process involved a builder applying for both a development permit and a building permit. Now, once a development permit on a qualifying project is issued, foundation work could commence while other building permits are being finalized.
Since that occurs fairly quickly — that is, before complex or final work is started — administrators say no oversight is being lost.
The program is being offered now and will be reviewed throughout 2021, said officials.