WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE NEW ZONING BYLAW?
This article is the first in a series on the new Zoning Bylaw. It provides an overview of the Zoning Bylaw Renewal project and the general direction of the draft Zoning Bylaw.
WHY DO WE NEED A NEW ZONING BYLAW?
Edmonton’s Zoning Bylaw 12800 has been getting longer and more complex for decades. The last significant update to the Zoning Bylaw happened in 2001, and the last complete overhaul of the Bylaw was done 60 years ago! Needless to say, a lot has changed in the past 60 years.
Over the years the Zoning Bylaw has been (sort of) maintained through a series of one-off amendments to respond to issues that have come up as development trends and patterns change. The Zoning Bylaw Renewal project kicked off in 2016 when the City of Edmonton realized that the system of one-off changes wasn’t sustainable.
As stated on the project webpage, the City’s four main goals for the new Zoning Bylaw are:
- to align with strategic policies and directions, including City Plan,
- to provide regulations that support better development outcomes,
- to be user-friendly for all audiences, with clear, purposeful and enforceable regulations, and
- to be efficient and effective in its regulations and to be adaptable over time.
For the last few years, the Zoning Bylaw Renewal team has been doing a ton of research and writing to create a new draft Bylaw that’s in pretty good shape; we think it comes fairly close to achieving the goals listed above.
WARNING: IT’S A DRAFT!
The City’s plan is to take the new Zoning Bylaw to City Council for approval in November of 2023, and to have the bylaw go into effect in January of 2024.
This means that there could still be significant changes to the draft Zoning Bylaw throughout 2023, before the bylaw goes into effect. In addition—depending on feedback from Council and the public—the approval timeline could be delayed. So, we recommend taking the target approval date of November 2023 with a grain of salt.
TRIMMING THE FAT
The draft Zoning Bylaw is proposing some really significant changes. First, the length of the Zoning Bylaw is going from a whopping 800 pages to about 350—this is being done by reducing the number of zones, land use classes, and the overall number of regulations. This purging of unnecessary regulation should have the effect of making infill and urban redevelopment easier, as well as improving the user-friendliness of the bylaw.
The number of standard zones in the new Zoning Bylaw is being cut in half, from 46 to 23, with zones that allow similar types of development being consolidated.
The number of standard residential zones is being reduced from sixteen to six! In addition, the number of commercial zones is going from seven to two, industrial zones are going from four to three, open space and civic services zones are going from sixteen to eight, agricultural zones are going from three to two, and there will be two new mixed use zones.
One of the really exciting things about this approach is that all the small scale infill zones (RF1, RF2, RF3, and RF4) are proposed to be consolidated, which would mean that multi-unit housing is allowed everywhere in Edmonton’s redeveloping neighbourhoods. We’ll get into the residential zones in detail in our upcoming articles!
FEWER USE CLASSES
The number of land use classes is also proposed to be majorly reduced. The Zoning Bylaw currently has 125 land uses, and this is planned to be cut by about 60%, to 51 land uses. Similar land uses will be consolidated into broader land use classes based on the types of activities they allow, and the impacts those activities produce. Some of these new use classes will include up to twenty of the Zoning Bylaw’s current uses. For example, the new Indoor Sales and Services land use combines twenty existing retail, personal service, and commercial school uses. Broader use classes mean that change of use permits won’t be needed as often.
In addition to reducing the length of the Zoning Bylaw by consolidating zones and uses, the number of regulations is proposed to be significantly reduced. The Zoning Bylaw Renewal team has gone through a process of assessing all the regulations in the current Zoning Bylaw to determine whether they’re actually important, and whether they’re compatible with the goals of City Plan.
It turns out that lots of them are neither important or compatible. So, a lot of things we’ve been regulating for years (like privacy and window placement, and restrictions on certain types of buildings like row houses in residential zones) are proposed to be removed from the Zoning Bylaw. Obviously, regulations around building sizes and shapes have been deemed to be important and will stay in the new Zoning Bylaw.
ARE WE FINALLY GETTING RID OF THE MNO?
We know something you all want to know is—what’s happening to the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay (MNO)? If you’ve read our previous articles about the RF1, RF3, and RF5 zones, you’ll know how much complexity the MNO adds to the development process for small scale infill. Well, we have good news for you—the MNO is proposed to be retired!
Some regulations from the MNO will be integrated into the new residential zones, but a lot of the really problematic “contextual” regulations—like the requirement for the front setback to be based on the front setbacks of the houses next door—are proposed to get the boot. In fact, all the minimum setbacks are proposed to be standardized, rather than being dependent on surrounding development or the dimensions of your lot.
In addition, the regulation that restricted maximum height to 8.9 metres under the MNO will no longer exist—maximum height is proposed to be 10 metres in the new small scale infill zone. Should it be higher? We’ll get into that question and more in our upcoming articles.
Some regulations from the MNO that are proposed to be integrated into the new small scale infill zone include the requirement for vehicle access to be from the alley, and still not allowing rear attached garages.
WHAT’S MY NEW ZONE?
So what does all this mean for you and your property? When the new Zoning Bylaw goes to City Council for approval, the entire city will also be rezoned (the exact timeline on that is still unclear). The approach that the City plans to take is to rezone each property from its current standard to the nearest equivalent new zone.You can see the proposed new zone for your property here.
Another question we hear pretty frequently is whether properties will be up-zoned in alignment with City Plan direction for nodes and corridors. This is not planned to happen as part of the initial implementation phase, but City Council made a motion to ask the City to look into the possibility of up-zoning properties in certain strategic growth areas in the future. Rezoning of properties under Direct Control zones and complex Special Area Zones is also out of scope for the initial implementation phase.
ONE LAST THING!
You may be wondering what’s happening with direct control and special area zones. For now, all existing direct control zones are going to stay in place but the distinction between DC1 (heritage) and DC2 (site specific) zones will be removed. For more information about direct control zones and how they’re used, read our article here. Most special area zones will also be staying in place, but a few residential special area zones, including the Heritage Valley Low Density, Ambleside, Griesbach, and Terwillegar Towne zones, will be retired.
In conclusion, Zoning Bylaw Renewal is a huge undertaking that has the potential to transform our City, and make it easier to create more walkable, dense, and sustainable communities. We hope this article helped you understand the overall direction of the project, and when you can expect to see the proposed changes take effect.
This article was written by Situate, Edmonton’s planning consulting firm specializing in rezoning, permit and subdivision coordination services for awesome infill projects.
Regulations giving you a headache? Want help navigating the zoning bylaw? We can help you figure out which zoning tool would work best for you. Contact us to find out how we can support your next project!
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