Commercial Zoning in Edmonton and Surrounding Areas

Katie Thompson
Last Updated: January 15, 2024

Start the car. You have found the perfect commercial property that checks all the boxes.  There is one problem though: it isn’t zoned for the business slated for that location.   Do you throw in the towel and start from scratch?  Not necessarily. Purchasing a commercial property, starting a business, or changing your business services usually involves rezoning a commercial property.  Edmonton council has updated its zoning bylaws as of January 1st, 2024 allowing for more flexibility, increase density and walkability. 

To streamline this process, you will first want to partner with a knowledgeable local commercial broker.  Secondly, join forces with a highly knowledgeable local civil engineer who understands the rezoning challenges you will encounter.   As civil engineers, we can also envision your future development.

While there are discretionary uses in Edmonton, the zoning rules regulate what business activities and types of buildings that likely can happen at that location (though not guaranteed). Developers still need municipal approval and permits.

Here are some common rezoning challenges commercial developers face:

Meeting Opposition from the Public 

Depending on the scope, local council will hold hearings for the community where you can express your opinion on the development and how it impacts your business, yourself and/or your community. Residents, business owners, environmental groups and other stakeholders can express their opinion during the consultation process. Council will take opinions into consideration on their final decision. Specific concerns often include increasing traffic, loss of green space, too much pressure on underlying infrastructure and changes to the community amenities. Developers will often have to address these issues at their own expense to gain support from the public and get their development permits.  

Infrastructure Improvements

The City of Edmonton has historically skimped on the number of fire hydrants in commercial zones.  Developers who are rezoning a property are often forced to install new fire hydrants and other infrastructure improvements to get city approval for their new development.

Other expensive improvements that the developer may incur are the following:

  • Road Upgrades. A new development will generate more traffic.  Road network improvements will be required to accommodate the increased traffic.
  • Upgrades to water and sewer systems to ensure sufficient capacity.
  • New developments may require new electrical, gas line, internet and phone.
  • Stormwater Management. New stormwater management  systems to mitigate the impact of the development on local waterways and wetlands.
  • Parking Facilities. Upgrades or construction of new parking lots to accommodate the increased demand.    In Edmonton, the minimum parking space requirements were removed in July 2020 and each business can decide for themselves the amount of parking required for their business.    However, parking maximums still exist for commercial buildings located in the Edmonton downtown core.   It is important to consider how clients and employees will interact with your business i.e. zoom meetings, phone, face-to-face meetings, e-mail, website, drop off and pick up, employee parking, temporary parking, alternate transportation accessibility, etc. now and in the future.

The City of Edmonton often offers incentives to encourage commercial property development.  Those incentives may include tax breaks, subsidies or expedited permitting processes to offset the prohibitive cost of infrastructure improvements.

Building Regulations and Compliance

In Edmonton, commercial property compliance is governed by the Alberta Building Code and the City of Edmonton’s building bylaws.  The requirements for building design, construction, maintenance ensures the safety and accessibility of the building for occupants and the public. Some common compliance issues include fire safety and energy efficiency.  Developers are required to get the necessary permits and approvals, and upgrade their buildings to ensure they continue to meet city standards.

Commercial developments located in the newest part of Acheson Industrial Park, for example are required to have a frontage that highly aesthetic and appealing to highway 16 traffic.  The building and site designs located in this zone are encouraged to have Low Impact Development design standards which include water conservation and xeriscaping.

Bolson Engineering and Environmental Services is passionate about development.  We have partnered with commercial property owners and commercial brokerages to streamline building inspections and Phase One ESAs.  It pays to know what you are signing up for. We also have had the opportunity to design, rezone and project manage some awesome commercial projects across Alberta.  Have a vision? Let us engineer your ideas. Contact us.

About the author

With more than 12 years in human resources, Katie brings important process management skills to the table. Her direct experience with senior management in the construction industry helps her understand your engineering project goals. Her creative forward-thinking propels Bolson toward exciting new business opportunities.

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