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Expect surprises in the new Alberta Government Municipal Government Act


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Sep 22, 2015
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Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Will Sherwood Park share its industrial taxes? Do suburban developers have to set aside land for affordable housing or wildlife? Can they be forced to pay for new fire stations?

Those answers are expected Tuesday as the provincial government introduces amendments to the Municipal Government Act which hasn’t been reviewed since 1995. It’s the second longest bill on the books, creating the rules that govern what cities in Alberta can and can’t do.

Mayor Don Iveson talked Monday about five topics he’ll be watching. He expects amendments to be introduced Tuesday and go back to the public for comment before being approved this fall.

Full Story (Edmonton Journal)
Alberta Municipal Government Act gives cities new power to cover costs of sprawl
The Alberta government is hoping to hand municipalities broad new powers to reduce the costs of growth and to boost affordable housing.

Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee introduced the new Municipal Government Act Tuesday, which if passed would for the first time allow Alberta municipalities to charge land developers a portion of costs they spend building new fire halls, recreation centres, libraries and police stations.

“Right now, growth is not being funded by growth; it is being funded by the whole municipality,” said Larivee. “This approach will make sure that the fire halls, swimming pools and services people need are there when they move in."

The new bill would also allow cities like Edmonton to mandate inclusionary zoning, which can force developers to include a percentage of affordable housing in new developments.

Full Story (Metro Edmonton)

Alberta forces cities and counties to share costs for major roads and services
The provincial government is giving cities, towns and counties three years to figure out how to plan and share costs for regional services, everything from roads to swimming pools to policing.

It means industry taxes from Strathcona County could be used to upgrade the Beverly Bridge in Edmonton, but the details of such an agreement will be determined by local political leaders.

Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee introduced this and a sweeping set of amendments to the house Tuesday that could fundamentally change the way cities and regions work together across Alberta. The changes will be debated at 20 open houses across the province this summer and finalized early next year.

Full Story (Edmonton Journal)
Double-posting because it's also relevant here:

Review use of restrictive covenants in Alberta, urges planning prof
Albertans make greater use of a powerful legal device to limit the future use of private land than other provinces do, and may be harming their own communities the process, says the head of the University of Alberta's planning program.

Sandeep Agrawal says restrictive covenants registered against a property's land title, are most often used by developers to enforce architectural and design guidelines in neighbourhoods, but have also been used by companies to restrict competition and are now being used as a weapon by residents to fight City Hall.

Full Story (CBC Edmonton)
Edmonton council not happy with Municipal Government Review
Edmonton wants the power to tax derelict property owners into cleaning up their act.

That’s just one of the increased powers it’s requesting from the province as it reviews what amounts to Edmonton’s constitutional documents. Alberta’s Municipal Government Act spells out everything Edmonton can and can’t do, and councillors were not impressed at the province’s first take.

Full Story (Edmonton Journal)
Paula Simons: Edmonton mayor asks province for tax tools to penalize owners of vacant lots
Vacant lots. Gravel parking lots. Contaminated sites of former gas stations or dry cleaners or industrial developments.

Our city continues to be plagued by such nuisance properties. They are the bane of our hopes for downtown redevelopment, whether they’re behind the arena, in the Quarters or along Jasper Avenue. But they pockmark other parts of our city, too, pulling down the value of their neighbours.

Sometimes, such properties are held by owners who lack the investment capital or the business skill to develop them. Other times, owners squat on such properties as long-term speculative investments, waiting and waiting and waiting for the “right” moment to sell.

City councillors have bemoaned their inability to deal with “under-utilized” commercial properties for years. When the province announced plans for a new Municipal Government Act, there were hopes the legislation might include powers for the city that would enable it to tax empty and contaminated commercial properties at a higher, somewhat punitive rate.

The owner of an eyesore vacant parcel or contaminated brownfield pays far less in taxes than his neighbour with a commercial building. The city wants to turn that model on its head, to discourage property owners from squatting on land, and to discourage them from tearing down buildings just to lower their taxes.

Full Story (Edmonton Journal)
Province fails to move on city's ideas for changes to Municipal Government Act
Edmonton city council heard Tuesday that the province is not considering 80 per cent of the city's suggestions for changes to the Municipal Government Act — some of which could save the city a lot of money.

That number came from city staff who presented a report to council on changes to the act, which is due to be finalized this fall.

One of the changes that didn't make the cut was allowing the city to send its tax notices out electronically instead of through mail.

Mayor Don Iveson said the city has been asking for this change for a long time.

"Being able to move away from certain mailing processes could conceivably save us hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions of dollars over time," he said.

Edmonton ‘disappointed’ province said no to taxation changes
City staff are "disappointed" the province turned down 80 per cent of their requests to change the Modernized Municipal Government Act, tweaks they say would have saved taxpayers a lot of money.

The city's largest concern was changing rules that would allow Edmonton to email assessment and taxation notices. It's a small thing with large potential savings, staff told council Tuesday.

The city's dissapointment comes at a time when officials have been actively trying to reduce tax increases — and tweaks in provincial legislation would allow for that.

But provincial law says such notices must be printed and physically mailed, and the Alberta government turned down the city's request to change that.
New provincial charter 'fundamentally changes' Edmonton's relationship with the province: Iveson
Edmonton, Calgary and the province have agreed to a draft city charter that will provide the cities new tools and greater flexibility to address matters such as affordable housing, land development and traffic safety.

The new partnership will bolster the ability of the cities to control their own destinies by allowing them to delegate decisions on new developments or lay more serious fines for bylaw offences, for example. There are no new taxation powers.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson at the announcement of a new city charter Thursday.

"The framework will respect taxpayers and public dollars," said Finance Minister Joe Ceci. He addressed concerns that these new provisions would allow cities to have new taxation powers. "There are no new taxes or additional taxation powers for the city."

The changes will not become part of the Municipal Government Act until after a 60-day public consultation period.

"This agreement fundamentally changes the dynamic between our governments and establishes a more mature working relationship. Edmonton and Calgary are being trusted with more flexibility," Mayor Don Iveson told reporters Thursday.

The charter is split into three elements: a collaboration agreement between the three parties to advance mutual interests, the new regulations, and an updated fiscal framework which includes a new infrastructure funding formula that will replace the existing grants system.

5 ways the new city charter will change how Edmonton does business

City Charter: 5 things Edmonton and Calgary could change with new legislative powers

City Charters: Calgary and Edmonton not getting new tax powers
'Putting aside rivalries': New Municipal Government Act to get municipalities working together


Edmonton Mayor, Don Iveson

The new Municipal Government Act is now law, a group of officials announced Thursday, meaning big changes in things like parental leave for councillors and collaboration among towns and cities around Edmonton.

This is the first time in more than 20 years that politicians have made changes to the law, which is basically the rulebook for what municipalities are able to do.

It took five years of consultation and engagement with municipalities, people and businesses to get to this point.

Minister of Municipal Affairs Shaye Anderson said the new MGA will offer new frameworks for municipalities to work together, as well as regional planning.

“We need a modern MGA that reflects where we are and where we are going,” Anderson said. “It ensures municipalities to govern in an open manner and promotes accountability to all Albertans.”

In practice, this means towns and cities will be able to collaborate on things like waste management, rec centres and land-use planning.

Mayor Don Iveson praised the new legislation, adding it will help municipalities "put aside rivalries."