Planning & Development

Land Use Planning in Alberta and the County of Northern Lights

In Canada, the Constitution divides all legal authority between two orders of government, the federal and provincial. The respective roles of each level of government is outlined in the Constitution Act. The County derives its authority to make decisions on land use planning matters from the Government of Alberta through different pieces of legislation, such as the Municipal Government Act (MGA) and the Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA), that delegate certain powers and authority to municipalities. Based on the MGA and ALSA, the County’s land use planning framework is outlined in Figure 1.

Figure 1: County of Northern Lights Land Use Planning Framework

The planning framework ensures that each level is consistent with the level above and below it, and that the policies within each plan may be implemented by the plans below it, or the County’s Land Use Bylaw (LUB) during the subdivision and development approval processes.

Plans, Policies and Implementation Mechanisms

The province’s MGA, ALSA, and Subdivision and Development Regulation, and the County’s eight (8) plans, LUB and Inermunicipal Subdivision and Development Appeal Board Bylaw contain the policies and regulations that help guide planning, subdivision and development within the County of Northern Lights. A description of and link to these documents are provided below. The County’s documents represent Office Consolidations that incorporate the original document approved by Bylaw, as approved by County Council, and all subsequent amendments. These plans are provided for convenience only. In case of uncertainty, the reader is advised to consult the original Bylaws, available at the County Office.

Municipal Government Act (MGA)

The MGA provides a framework for the responsible use of land to achieve orderly, economical and beneficial development, and to maintain and improve the quality of the physical environment within the County. It also establishes the powers of Council and administration.

Through the MGA, Council may establish development policies and create statutory plans for all or part of the County. The MGA allows for four types of statutory plans, including Intermunicipal Development Plans, Municipal Development Plans, Area Structure Plans and Area Redevelopment Plans that identify where homes, businesses, schools, parks, roads and utilities will be built. A statutory plan will require three readings and a public hearing before it can be adopted as a legally binding planning document. Council, administration and the Peace Regional Subdivision and Development Board must have regard for any statutory plan when making decisions on plan approvals and amendments, LUB amendments, subdivisions and development permits.

To view the Municipal Government Act CLICK HERE.

Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA)

The ALSA guides the Alberta Land-use Framework (LUF), which establishes a regional planning approach to manage land and natural resources in the province. The Framework was released in December 2008 and sets out seven land-use regions. The County of Northern Lights is located within the Lower Peace Region, which also includes Mackenzie County, Northern Sunrise County and the Municipal District of Opportunity. The province will, in time, prepare a regional plan for the Lower Peace Region. The Framework establishes key provincial land-use objectives and responsibilities of the Stewardship Minister, Stewardship Commissioner, Land-use Secretariat and Regional Advisory Councils.

View the Alberta Land Stewardship Act.

Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP)

An Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) is a Statutory Plan outlined and under legislative authority prescribed in Section 631 of the Municipal Government Act. "Two or more councils of municipalities that have common boundaries that are not members of a growth region as defined in section 708.01 must, by each passing a bylaw in accordance with this Part or in accordance with sections 12 and 692, adopt an intermunicipal development plan to include those areas of land lying within the boundaries of the municipalities as they consider necessary".

An IDP's fundamental purpose is to provide opportunities for collaboration and communication between the municipalities and establish policy direction and processes to address intermunicipal issues.

The County of Northern Lights has Intermunicipal Development Plans with the following neighbouring municipalities:

Municipal Development Plan (MDP)

The County of Northern Lights MDP provides policy direction to coordinate future land use within the County’s municipal boundaries. The MDP is comprised of policies that address: agriculture, residential development, commerce and industry, natural areas, transportation and servicing, hamlets and rural settlements, inter-municipal relations, and crown land.

View the County of Northern Lights MDP. 


Area Structure Plan (ASP)

The MGA intends that lands within a municipality must be developed in an orderly and efficient manner. The maps and policies of ASPs identify where residential, commercial, institutional, industrial and/or parks will be located and how services such as water, stormwater, and sewer systems and roads, schools and parks, and fire protection will be provided. These plans also estimate the number of people that are expected to live in the new area and how development will be staged over time. It is through ASPs that the policies of the MDP are applied.

View the County’s Area Structure Plans:

Area Concept Plans (ACP) and Outline Plans (OP)

The Weberville Highway Corridor ACP is a non-statutory land use plan that provides a comprehensive planning policy framework and generalized future land use concept for a large area between Highway 986 and the Town of Peace River along Highway 743. Although the ACP is not a statutory planning document, this plan provides guidance for the development of future ASPs, and to Council and administration in reviewing future zoning, subdivision and development proposals. A non-statutory plan is passed by resolution of Council.

View the Weberville Highway Corridor ACP.

In addition to ACPs, the County of Northern Lights also uses other non-statutory plans, such as OPs when beginning to consider land use plans and detailed transportation and servicing concepts for future subdivision and development of land.

View the County’s Outline Plans:

Land Use Bylaw (LUB)

The purpose of the LUB is to control the use and development of land and buildings within the County on a site specific basis. The LUB divides the County into crown land, agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial land use districts, lists permitted and discretionary land uses, establishes site development provisions such as building height and yard setbacks, and provides a system to amend the bylaw and issue development approvals. The LUB implements the policies of the IDP, MDP, ASPs, ACPs and OPs.

View the County’s LUB.

Planning & Development Bylaws and Land Use Bylaw Amendments (LUBA) - (not consolidated)


LUBA 20-61-452 (Christenson)

LUBA 20-61-451 text amendments

20-61-450 Establishment of a Development Authority and a Municipal Planning Commission

LUBA 20-61-445 (09-61-239) Direct Control

LUBA 20-61-446 (12-61-306) Direct Control

LUBA 20-61-447 (14-61-324) Direct Control

LUBA 20-61-443 A Revised map for 17-61-380

LUBA 20-61-442 A Revised Map for 16-61-356

LUBA Kulyna Flats Map 20-61-441

LUBA Electronic Advertising 20-61-440

LUBA Definitions and General Regulations 20-61-437

LUBA Cannabis Facility 20-61-436

LUBA Subdivision and Appeal Board (SDAB) Text & Forms 19-61-431

LUBA Direct Control, Kulyna Flats 19-61-427

LUBA (M1) District 19-61-425

LUBA Cannabis Text 19-61-418

LUBA Plan 1822544 18-61-412

LUBA NE 10-85-22 W5M 18-61-411


Development Permits

All development within the County requires a valid development permit unless the development is exempted in the LUB (and the MGA in some cases). The issuance of development permits is the responsibility of the Development Authority, which can be either Council or the County’s Development Officer. Before construction starts a builder must apply for a development permit. The permit ensures that the proposed building or structure or land use meets the regulations of the LUB for the site. Permits also ensure municipal bylaw compliance and protect property owners from future legal and/or transactional issues.

The Development Authority must make a decision on a development permit within 40 days of deeming the application complete, unless the applicant and Development Authority agree to extend the time, and notify affected persons of the decision. Builders are also required to acquire applicable provincial plumbing permits, gas inspection permits, a building permit, electrical permit, and meet the requirements of the Safety Codes Act.

Development Permits will not be issued without proof of New Home Warranty for new construction of residential development including modular and manufactured homes.

View the County’s Development Information Package and Development Permit Application Form:

New Home Warranty

As of February 1, 2014, every new home built in Alberta is protected under warranty, thanks to Alberta’s New Home Buyer Protection Act.

New homes (single detached family homes/duplexes/multi-family homes/condominiums/manufactured homes/recreational properties) include, at minimum, a warranty for:

  • One year labour and materials;
  • Two years for defects in labour and materials related to delivery and distribution systems;
  • Five years building envelope protection, with a requirement for the warranty provider to offer the consumer the option to purchase additional years of coverage; and,
  • 10 years coverage for major structural components.

Information about Alberta’s warranty standards can be found at


Subdivision is the process whereby a parcel of land is divided into two or more parcels in order to obtain separate legal titles for each parcel. Subdivision of land is an important and effective land use management and planning tool. Subdivision within the County is governed by the MGA, which designates Council as the approving authority, and the Subdivision and Development Regulation.  A person wishing to create two or more lots from a single parcel of land must obtain subdivision approval from the County.

View the Subdivision and Development Regulation.

View the County’s Subdivision Information Application Package and Subdivision Application Form.

Municipal Servicing Standards

The County’s Municipal Servicing Standards apply to all development projects. The objective is to ensure that all infrastructure work in the County is constructed to a consistent standard. The standards will be updated as necessary and any revisions will be posted on the website.

View the County’s Municipal Servicing Standards.

Peace Regional Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB)

The MGA gives municipalities the option of having their own SDAB or entering into an agreement to establish an intermunicipal SDAB. AS of August 1st, 2019, the County is part of an intermunicipal agreement that established the Peace Regional Subdivision and Development Appeal Board to deal with Subdivision and Development Permit Appeals. The other members of the Peace Regional SDAB are:

  • Birch Hills County
  • Clear Hills County
  • MD of Big Lakes
  • MD of Fairview No.136
  • MD of Peace No.135
  • MD of Smoky River No.130
  • MD of Spirit River No.133
  • Northern Sunrise County
  • Saddle Hills County
  • Town of Fairview
  • Town of Grimshaw
  • Town of Manning
  • Town of McLennan
  • Town of Peace River
  • Village of Berwyn
  • Village of Donnelly
  • Village of Girouxville
  • Village of Hines Creek
  • Village of Nampa

Peace Regional SDAB members must make decisions on appeals based on impartial and fair evidence presented to the Board during a hearing. The role of any SDAB member is to participate in the heearing process and to ensure decisions on applications are made in a timely manner. The Board is established by Bylaw of Council with members appointed by the Councils of all municipalities that are part of the agreement.

View the County’s Intermunicipal SDAB Bylaw.

Subdivision and Development Appeals

  1. Subdivisions may be appealed only by the applicant, the municipality, the school boards and the provincial government. Adjacent property owners are notified of applications when received and are invited to comment.
  2. Anyone who objects to the Development Authority either refusing a development permit to develop or approving an application by another individual to develop, may appeal that decision to the Peace Regional SDAB. The appeal must be in writing within 21 days after the date on which the Development Authority’s decision has been given. A fee is charged for lodging an appeal.

View the Peace Regional SDAB Notice of Appeal Form

For further information regarding filing a valid Notice of Appeal please visit:

Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer

The County of Northern Lights possesses groundwater resources of great importance, the most significant of which is the Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer, located in the south portion of the County. High standards of development are required to protect this resource. Accordingly, the County may prohibit developments which negatively impact groundwater quality or environmentally sensitive areas. Subdivision and development proposals located in the Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer area may be submitted to Alberta Environment and Parks for review, and shall be referred to the Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer Management Advisory Association for comment and advice.

View the Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer Management Advisory Association website.


Derek MacDonald
Tel: 1.833.260.7201