Landscaping isn’t all about beautifying your home—it’s also the law. The City of Edmonton, like all other major cities, enforces bylaws to ensure all residential buildings meet a standard of appearance, safety, and sustainability.
Do I Need to Know Landscaping Bylaws as a Homeowner?
If you have any plans to change the appearance of your landscape, or if you’ll soon be moving into a new build, getting to know the bylaws in Edmonton is definitely a good idea for a few reasons:
- You’ll want to know whether the changes you want in your yard are permitted before you make any serious investments.
- If you’re doing any landscaping projects yourself, familiarizing yourself with the bylaws will help you figure out at what point you’ll need a permit.
- Particularly in the case of infill or new development landscaping, knowing the City’s bylaws may help you understand the choices your landscaper is making, and help you understand your responsibilities to the City.
Edmonton Landscaping Bylaws: When Do I Need a Permit?
Most landscaping projects, like building a retaining wall, don’t require a permit. You’ll only need a permit if you decide to build a deck, shed, gazebo, hot tub, water feature, or high fence. We’ll define a “high fence” when we talk about restrictions, later in this article.
Edmonton Landscaping Bylaws: Requirements
Edmonton’s Zoning Bylaw says that all developments must be landscaped within 18 months of occupancy. This bylaw doesn’t mean that you need to re-do the landscaping when you buy a home from its previous owner. The bylaw is referring to new developments, and basically means you can’t have a house sitting around surrounded only by bare dirt and gravel. There’s a specific process that the builder, landscaper, and City have to follow to make sure the home meets this requirement.
Rough Grade Approval
When a builder purchases and starts developing a lot, they’ll build the foundation walls and backfill the house first. Once the foundation has been built, the builder must get a permit called a Rough Grade Approval. This involves an inspector from the City coming to make sure the unfinished, unlandscaped house looks like it’s on track to meet the City’s drainage requirements. Landscaping can’t begin on the lot until the Rough Grade Approval is granted.
Before the landscaping is completed, the property owner must pay a deposit to the City of Edmonton. The person who pays the deposit should be the person who will be responsible for obtaining the Final Grade Approval. This deposit is essentially insurance for the City that the lot will be landscaped within the 18-month timeframe. The deposit will not be returned until the lot has a Final Grade Approval, and the landscaping—including lawn, hardsurfacing, tree and shrub planting—is completed.
Landscaped properties must have seed or sod on every yard that is visible from a public street. The seed or sod doesn’t have to cover the property, but there must be some partial coverage. If any area of the property isn’t covered with seed or sod, it should be covered with something else like washed gravel or garden beds.
Trust us, you don’t want to dig a hole straight into a utility line! Before digging any holes on your property, call Alberta One-Call at 1-800-242-3447. They can help you locate buried utilities before you break ground.
Final Grade Approval
As far as the law is concerned, landscaping is all about the height (or grade) of your property. “Grade” refers to how the ground on the property sits, which determines where rainwater will flow. Since water can cause major problems if it isn’t properly managed, the law requires homeowners to prove that the grading of their property is safe. Once the landscaping is completed to the point that it meets the City’s standards, the property owner can get a Final Grade Approval. It’s important to discuss with your builder early on whether they will be responsible for getting the Final Grade or if you are. The homeowner is usually responsible for Final Grades, but not always.
Tree and Shrub Requirements
Trees and shrubs can be planted in any yard on the property. Residential developments are required to plant a specific number of trees and shrubs according to their zone and the type of building. You can find a chart that explains the planting guidelines here. On that same page is the sample document that you’d need to submit to apply for a development permit for major renovations to your home or landscape.
All trees and shrubs planted on the property need to be in good health according to the guidelines of the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association. They also need to be considered hardy to the Edmonton area, so don’t start planting palm trees!
Speaking of trees, mature trees are considered a valuable asset by the City. City trees have a monetary value. If your landscaping project damages a City tree, you’ll likely need to pay for it.
Bylaws don’t just tell you what you have to do—they also tell you what you can’t do. City bylaws enforce the following landscaping restrictions:
Hardsurfacing refers to paved areas, like walkways and driveways—which, coincidentally, are the only places you can pave according to the City of Edmonton bylaws. Driveways can be no wider than 3.1 metres per parking stall. In other words, if your driveway leads to a double garage, your driveway can be up to 6.2 metres wide. If you want to re-pave these areas, you need to seek approval from the Edmonton Service Centre.
As we mentioned before, high fences do need a permit. A high fence is any fence above 1.2 metres high in front yards or side yards (if you have a corner lot). Backyard fences can be up to 1.85 metres high; anything above that height requires a permit.
The City does dictate the specific materials that can be used for landscaping. This has a lot to do with keeping a standard of appearance—you can’t just throw a bunch of rotten bananas in your front yard and call it a garden! Permitted materials include:
- Grass seed or sod
- Washed gravel or shale
- Flower beds or cultivated gardens
- Trees, shrubs or other plants
- Outdoor furniture or sculptures
- Fences or walls
- Decorative bricks, pavers or stones
By now, you can likely see how much more there is to professional landscaping than meets the eye. With so much to consider at every point in a landscaping project, it’s crucial to hire a company that takes these bylaws seriously. While we can’t speak for every Edmonton landscaping company, our team at Salisbury Landscaping receives ongoing training to make sure our work meets these bylaws to the letter. Contact our team today to learn why our approach always makes the grade.