Understanding the Parkland Dedication Bylaw (Questions and answers)

What is Parkland Dedication?

The Planning Act allows municipalities to require land for park or other public recreational purpose be given to the City as part of the approval of a development application.

This is done in one of two ways:

  1. Developers may transfer land for parks and public recreation, or
  2. Developers may provide money for future parks, park equipment or recreational buildings.

Parkland Dedication policies are one tool cities can use to acquire more land or funds for new parks as those cities grow. Sections 51.1, 42 and 53(13) of the Planning Act provide the full definition.

Different revenue sources pay for parks in the city. The Subdivision rate and the Parkland Dedication rate make up most of this revenue, with subdivision making up the highest portion. The subdivision rates collected to pay for parks, are applied when someone is subdividing or creating lots from a plot of land. The Parkland Dedication Bylaw rate is applied when someone is applying for a building permit to build a structure. Developments pay either the Parkland Dedication Bylaw rate or the Subdivision rate; the City does not charge twice for the same property.

What is the Parkland Dedication Bylaw?

Section 42 of the Planning Act requires the City to have a Parkland Dedication Bylaw in order to require parkland dedication as a condition for some types of development or redevelopment in our community. This bylaw is applied when an applicant submits a building permit and the proposed form of development is applicable under the bylaw. The City reviews building permit applications to determine if the bylaw should be applied.

What is the Parkland Dedication Bylaw used for?

The bylaw is just one tool the City uses to create new parks or purchase land to be used for a park or recreation purpose. The funds can also be used to help build, improve or pay for buildings and acquire machinery, although the City rarely uses these funds for this purpose.

What benefit does it have for our community, the City and future growth?

Parkland dedication policies and the supporting bylaw help ensure that as Guelph grows, the park system grows with it.

On larger development sites, parkland dedication policies help ensure that parks will be included in the design of new communities and that new residents will have access to parkland. On smaller development sites, the City may elect to receive cash in lieu of land. The City uses these funds to purchase land for new parks to meet service levels outlined in the Official Plan.

The Official Plan and other City policies, like the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, identify broad goals for the park system. Parkland dedication policies and the Parkland Dedication Bylaw are one set of tools the City uses to meet those objectives.

How does the parkland dedication bylaw work as a tool? How is it collected?

Staff review development and building permit applications to determine if a specific development application is subject to the requirements of the Parkland Dedication Bylaw. If the application triggers the bylaw, and there is no history of prior payment, land conveyance, or applicable exemptions, the City notifies the applicant that their development is subject to the bylaw and must dedicate parkland or pay cash in lieu, this is based on the following:

Low density residence is charged five per cent of the land value.
High-density residence is charged an alternative rate based on whether they are giving land to be used for parks, or cash-in-lieu of land.

  • For land, 1 hectare of land is given for every 300 units or every 500 units for downtown.
  • For cash in lieu, developers pay the equivalent of 1 hectare of land value for every 500 units.

Commercial or industrial is charged two per cent of the land value

For each residential development, both the 5 per cent typically used for low density and the alternate rate typically used for high density are calculated. The City will charge the higher of the two calculations for Parkland Dedication.

How does the City decide to take cash in lieu or land?

The decision to seek land or cash in lieu of land is determined based on City policies and the City’s Official Plan to determine park needs within the area and to gauge whether the site can sufficiently meet the City’s park policies while still meeting the applicant’s development objectives.

This decision is also influenced by the size of the development. In most cases, sites that are applicable to the parkland dedication bylaw are seeking a building permit and in general are not large enough to support both the development being proposed and a park that meets the Official Plan criteria for acceptable parkland.

In most cases, land conveyances are dedicated as part of a subdivision approval through a different process and cash in lieu dedicated when individual lots or smaller sites seek building permits through the parkland dedication bylaw.

Collected land or payments to meet Parkland Dedication requirements must be collected before building permits can be issued.

How does Parkland Dedication work with the City’s Official Plan?

The Official Plan, required by the Planning Act, describes what the City’s Open Space System is and provides guidance on parkland targets for the entire city based on the population of Guelph.

The following parkland targets were incorporated into the City’s Official Plan:

  • Neighbourhood Parks – 0.7 hectares per thousand people
  • Community Parks – 1.3 hectares per thousand people
  • Regional Parks – 1.3 hectares per thousand people (encouraged rather than required)

Section 7.3.5 of the Official Plan sets out the Parkland Dedication policies for the City.

What are some examples of when parkland dedication is applied?

The Parkland Dedication Bylaw is typically applied when:

  • new residential units are being added to a site,
  • significant renovation is occurring,
  • new commercial and/or industrial buildings are being built, or
  • there is a conversion of use from one format to another, for example from an industrial use to a commercial use.

Why is the bylaw being updated?

Recent legislative changes to provincial bills 108, 138, 197 and 213 require municipalities to update their Parkland Dedication Bylaws by September 2022.

How often is the bylaw normally updated?

The bylaw is updated once every four years to align with a new term of council. The bylaw also contains standard valuations for single and semi-detached units that is updated every 2 years to ensure that standard land values are updated to keep pace with changing real estate prices.

What changes are being made to the existing Parkland Dedication Bylaw in 2022?

Changes to the bylaw relate to new legislated requirements that improve transparency of information and operations of the Parkland Dedication Bylaw. These minor changes include:

  • Improving bylaw transparency and clarity, such as updating definitions
  • Making operational improvements, for example specifying the bylaw only applies to the portion of the property impacted by proposed development for commercial or industrial redevelopment, making it easier to apply the bylaw and calculation the fee

A full review of the bylaw happened in 2018 resulting in an updated bylaw coming into effect in 2019, which is why City is not considering changes to rates and caps or limits to how high fees can rise as a part of this update. The City plans to do a fulsome review of the Parkland Dedication Bylaw, including a review of rates and caps, in the future.

Is Parkland Dedication the only way the City can acquire new parkland?

Parkland Dedication is just one method the City uses to get new parkland. Relying only on parkland dedication through the approval of development applications is not enough to achieve the parkland targets outlined in the City’s Official Plan because of the maximum limit for dedication set by the Planning Act.

How does the City’s 3.3 hectares (ha) per 1,000 people target work for parkland dedication?

The 3.3 ha/1,000 people target is made up of three components based on the type of park, as follows:

  • Encourage 1.3 hectares per 1,000 people for regional parks
  • Maintain 1.3 hectares per 1,000 people for community parks
  • Maintain 0.7 hectares per 1,000 people for neighborhood parks

It does not mean that for every park type we get 3.3 hectares per 1,000 people.

What is a “cap” and how is calculated for parkland?

The cap is calculated based on land value, which is set at 20 per cent of land value for Downtown developments and 30 per cent of land value for the rest of Guelph. The City calculates both the parkland dedication alternate rate and the cap. The development pays either the alternate rate or the cap, whichever amount is lower.