Skip to content

Westlock County introduces new penalties for unauthorized development

If a stop work order is issued, developers will face penalties of $1,000 to $5,000

WESTLOCK — Unauthorized development in Westlock County will now come with a much heavier cost following an amendment to the municipality’s fees, rates and charges bylaw that introduced new penalties for development occurring prior to a permit being issued or after a stop work order is sent out.

Westlock County councillors passed all three readings May 28 on a change to a bylaw that would alter the penalties for those breaking the development rules. 

In her report to council, senior planning and development officer Kathleen Deshoux said council had originally directed county staff to review the unauthorized development enforcement fees in the bylaw. 

Deshoux said the idea was to potentially remove the charges for first and second offences and replace them with one larger penalty.

She said they did some research on how other municipalities deter unauthorized development and determined the most common approach is a ‘double fee’ approach,

“A double fee is only meant to act as a deterrent. It does not serve to recoup municipal costs to investigate and pursue enforcement of unauthorized development,” she said.

Deshoux noted there were also some limited examples of municipalities assigning steeper escalating penalties if and when enforcement is initiated.

She noted that at the Feb. 13 committee of the whole meeting, councillors expressed interest in aligning with Red Deer County, which charges double the permit fees if development starts without a permit and before a stop work order is issued.

Red Deer County also imposes an additional charge of $2,500 for residential development and $10,000 for non-residential development if a stop work order is issued.

With all this in mind, administration’s recommendation was to set the development permit fee for unauthorized development at the sum of the permit fee plus $500, and to double the applicable safety code construction permit fees.

Administration also recommended introducing a $1,000 penalty for residential development and a $5,000 penalty for non-residential development if it occurs after a stop work order is issued.

County staff also recommended a couple of other changes, such as re-introducing the permitted use with a variation application fee of $300 and an area structure plan (ASP) application fee of $2,500.

Regarding the ASP fee, Deshoux noted that a regular land use bylaw amendment has a fee of $675, but an area structure plan requires professional involvement in the form of a planning and engineering review, which can add significant cost to the county.

Reeve Christine Wiese expressed her support for the amendments to the fees, rates and charges bylaw.

“I think this is necessary. I really like the work that administration has put into this,” she said.

Wiese said unauthorized development ends up being a cost that all county residents absorb, and it was “getting to be a bit much.”

However, she also acknowledged that administration had reined in what council had sought back in February. “I like that it’s not triggering until we issue a stop work order,” she added.

Wiese said they just want residential and commercial developers to follow the proper permitting process, which is both good for them and future owners of any development.

[email protected]

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks