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.

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