Municipal planning referrals

Environment and Protected Areas streamlined the review process at initial planning stages of high-level municipal statutory and non-statutory plans.


Prior to October 1, 2007, the department provided detailed reviews of all municipal planning referrals, including individual applications for proposed subdivisions. This will no longer occur.

The department will only continue reviewing high level statutory municipal plans at the initial stages of the planning cycle. For all individual subdivision referrals, reference the Guidelines document below. Using this guidance document to create your subdivision proposal ensures recommended standards have been met and may eliminate the need for detailed, case-by-case reviews.

This will result in more timely responses to municipalities, making land-use planning approvals in Alberta more efficient.

High-level municipal plans

We respond to municipal planning referrals in specific categories. If your project is not in one of the following categories, we do not require a referral.

  • intermunicipal development plan (IDP)
  • municipal development plans (MDP)
  • area structure plans (ASP)
  • area redevelopment plan (ARP)

Multi-lot subdivision proposals

We will handle a multi-lot subdivision proposal if it affects environmentally significant areas, such as:

  • recreational lakes
  • permanent, naturally occurring slough/marsh wetlands
  • rivers or streams that are bounded by or flow through the area

Subdivision referrals and water bodies

Before you apply

To avoid processing delays, ensure all water bodies are identified and delineated on your land parcel before submitting your proposal.  Refer to Section 17 of the Surveys Act for surveying a natural boundary that is a water body.

Environmental reserves

Section 664 of the Municipal Government Act states subdivision proposals require the creation of an Environmental Reserve. Reference our recommended Guidelines document, which includes minimum widths for environmental reserves, when developing proposals.

Water bodies

Environmental reserves protect sensitive land features, maintain public access to these land and water resources. Environmental reserves are required if your proposed subdivision is:

  • a swamp, gully, ravine, coulee or natural drainage course
  • subject to flooding, or considered unstable
  • a strip of land, not less than 6 metres, abutting the bed and shore of any water body

Crown-owned water bodies

Section 3(1) of the Public Lands Act states that the Crown owns title to the bed and shores of all naturally occurring water bodies. If you do not receive a response on your subdivision referral that does not mean the Crown’s ownership has been waived.

Other water bodies

The Water Act regulates all water features, (wetlands, ponds, creeks, coulees, etc.) on the land regardless of ownership. Landowners must contact local department staff for approval if they plan to alter, disturb or fill in the bed and shore of a Crown-owned water body.


For further questions, contact the local Land Management Office for your region.