Municipal Land Use Planning
Municipal land use planning services allow locally-elected governments to direct how the land within their boundaries is shaped and used, in view of the impacts of past decisions and their vision for the future.
Who is responsible for land use and development decisions?
Municipal land use planning is in place for approximately 10 per cent of Prince Edward Island’s land base, through 29 of PEI’s 59 municipalities. These 29 municipalities decide if a request for the use or development of land in a specific location within their boundaries can be permitted or not, based on policies and processes they create within the framework provided by the Planning Act. Each of these municipalities has adopted an official plan and one or more land use bylaws to implement their vision for protecting and improving the quality of life within the boundaries of the municipality.
The provincial government is the planning authority for the remaining 90 percent of land area on the Island: these include the municipalities that currently do not provide land use planning services, as well as locations that are not represented by a municipal government.
The Municipal Boundaries Map marks the boundaries of all municipalities across Prince Edward Island, and identifies which municipalities were or were not responsible for providing land use planning services in 2017. By 2025, as required under the Municipal Government Act, all municipalities are required to provide land use planning services.
Information about land use planning within a municipality can be accessed through the municipality itself. Contact information for each municipality is available through the Municipal Directory.
Information about land use planning in a location without an Official Plan and land use bylaws can be accessed through Inspection Services (902-368-5280). See more information about Building and Development on PEI.
What are official plans and land use bylaws?
The Planning Act contains the overall framework, authority, powers and processes according to which a municipality provides land use planning services. Under the Planning Act, and before a municipality takes on responsibility for land use planning, it develops an official plan and land use bylaw that are approved by the provincial government.
The official plan creates the vision for the use of the land in the municipality. It directs the use of land in the future based on considerations such as the physical, social, environmental and economic effects of past, existing and projected land use and development trends. Through policies, maps and tools for its implementation, an official plan addresses matters such as:
- the protection of resource land and natural areas;
- the location of housing, community facilities, commercial offices and industrial activities; and
- the need for essential services such as water supply, sewage disposal, roads, and parks.
The land use bylaws provide for the day-to-day implementation of the official plan. They contain the requirements that must be met for land use and development to occur in the municipality as well as the processes that the municipality follows to decide whether or not proposed land use or development will allow it to meet the priorities in its official plan. For instance, a land use bylaw addresses matters such as:
- the types of land uses and development permitted or restricted in a certain location;
- the standards that apply to each type of land use and development permitted;
- the criteria to consider different types of applications for land use or development; and
- the processes and requirements according to which applications are assessed.
How are official plans and land use bylaws developed and managed?
Official plans and land use bylaws are developed according to the requirements of the Planning Act, which was last updated in December 2017. The Planning Act allows municipalities to establish a vision for up to 15 years into the future, with updates required every five years so that changing needs and trends are recognized.
Municipalities develop their planning documents under the direction of Council, in consultation with community members, and with the assistance of technical experts, staff and a council committee called the Planning Board. The development of official plans and land use bylaws includes analysis about matters such as:
- the priorities of residents, businesses and community organizations;
- the effect of past land use and development on the quantity and quality of the land;
- the suitability of land in different locations for different purposes; and
- the most effective processes to achieve the vision for land use and development.
Overall, the official plan and land use bylaws are the formalized rules that commit a municipality to achieving both the immediate and longer-term priorities identified through the process of their development. Provincial regulations and policies established under the Planning Act, and updated from time to time, include more direction about matters such as:
- the content of municipal planning documents (view the Planning Act Minimum Requirements for Municipal Official Plans)
- the minimum standards for development across PEI (view the Planning Act Province-Wide Minimum Development Standards Regulations); and
- the additional standards for development in specific locations on PEI (these regulations apply only in the locations where the province is the planning authority, except in the case of the Special Planning Areas) (view the Planning Act Subdivision and Development Regulations).
What information is available for municipalities who provide land use planning services?
Handbooks and checklists to guide municipal procedures about land use planning are available. The Municipal Affairs Branch also provides ongoing advice to municipalities about procedures and best practices related to land use planning.
- Official Plan Reviews - Process Background, Sample Resolutions & Amendments
- Plan and Bylaw Amendments
- Adopting a New Plan and Bylaw
- Checklist for New Bylaws, Bylaw Amendments (including Rezoning) and Concurrent Official Plan Amendments
- Checklist for New Official Plans and Official Plan Amendments Not Accompanied by a Bylaw Amendment
- Development Decisions Process Guide
In June, 2018, Municipal Affairs held planning workshops across Prince Edward Island, providing information on land use planning in general and on municipal planning and changes to the Planning Act in particular.
Note: This page is prepared for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialized legal or professional advice.
August 31, 2022