Academic journal article McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law

Re-Zoning Alberta: Smart Regulation for Smart Growth

Academic journal article McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law

Re-Zoning Alberta: Smart Regulation for Smart Growth

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION  2. ALBERTA'S 2008 CLIMATE CHANGE STRATEGY  3. THE PLANNING FRAMEWORK IN ALBERTA  3.1 The Federal Level  3.2 The Provincial Level  3.3 The Municipal Level  3.4 Euclidean Zoning in Depth  4. ZONING ALTERNATIVES  4.1 Form-Based Code  4.2 Performance-Based Zoning  5. HYBRID ECO-PLANNING IN ALBERTA  6. CONCLUSION 

Smart growth needs smart regulation. Nevertheless, the dated tool of Euclidean zoning (1) still dominates the planning tool palettes of many Canadian municipalities, including those in the province of Alberta. As practiced, this type of zoning is failing its cities: both its processes and its focus display an insufficient ability to tackle the environmental effects of urban sprawl and industrial development. This trend is apparent throughout the province, though the experience of the Capital Region of Edmonton ("Capital Region") provides a particularly instructive example. (2) By segregating rather than mixing land uses, the Capital Region has rendered itself ripe for environmental degradation. Communities are removed from the negative impacts of industry, leaving residents unaware of the environmental consequences of industrial effluent. Strict Euclidean zoning also forces residents to travel longer distances for commercial purposes and work, consuming unnecessary energy and promoting urban sprawl. For Albertan society to achieve better sustainability, a viable marriage must be forged between the urban and the natural environments.

This article argues that Alberta's environment is harmed significantly by land use techniques as currently implemented. The focus will be on the City of Edmonton ("Edmonton") as a typical Albertan example, and in many respects, also a typical Canadian example. Its planning tools are theoretically and practically outdated because they undermine the environmental policies currently espoused by the Albertan government. The Alberta Legislature was the first to adopt legislation regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, under its Climate Change and Emissions Management Act, (3) and other provinces are poised to follow suit. The Canadian Federal Government is also in the process of implementing greenhouse gas reduction targets, with several other provinces coordinating similar measures. (4) Despite grand environmental objectives, the combination of weak and vaguely worded legislation with physical inaction has plagued Alberta, a province that nevertheless stubbornly proclaims its green-policy progressiveness. (5)

Alberta's 2008 Climate Change Strategy is based on three broad themes: (1) conserving and using energy efficiently; (2) implementing carbon capture and storage; and (3) greening energy production. (6) Under the first theme, "conserving and using energy efficiently", the province will "[p]rovide capacity building support to municipalities and other climate change partners to identify emission reduction strategies including land use planning and sustainable development initiatives for inclusion in appropriate municipal plans and bylaws." (7)

Yet throughout Alberta, municipal development plans and bylaws employ planning methods which are in near-direct contradiction with the 2008 Climate Change Strategy. (8) There is room for improvement in this area of the law, and changes are desperately needed to ensure the protection of the environment. The Province of Alberta has reconfigured its Land Use Framework and Edmonton is currently crafting and reconfiguring its development plans, both on an inter-municipal/regional and a municipal level. The Alberta Capital Region Integrated Growth Management Plan (9) and The Way We Grow: Municipal Development Plan (10) fail, however, to take effective measures to secure adherence to the policy directives set forth in the 2008 Climate Change Strategy (11)

By continuing the traditional failures of pure Euclidean zoning, Edmonton, the heart of Alberta's Capital Region, continues to neglect the environmental consequences. …

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