Subdividing Land in Alberta and Saskatchewan


If you're looking into the possibility of subdividing land, you need to know that the process isn't the same in every province.  To assist you in researching the issue, we've provided the following information.

If you have questions, please feel free to call us at 888-336-7536, or send an email!

Subdividing Land in AlbertaSubdividing Land in Saskatchewan


Subdividing Land: An Overview of the Basic Steps

This write-up is meant to summarize the steps involved in Subdividing Land to create new titled parcels. It is written from the perspective of the Land Surveyor advising a client on the steps involved.

The legal survey and subdivision process:

  1. What is a subdivision; a subdivision is the process of dividing a single parcel of land into two or more parcels, each to be given a separate title. A subdivision is also used for existing lot line adjustments.  Notwithstanding a few exceptional circumstances, subdivision approval and endorsement by the local municipality must always be received before the subdivision can be registered at the land Titles Office and titles issued (including bare land condominiums).

  2. Who can apply for a subdivision; only the landowner or an agent acting on behalf of the landowner may apply for the subdivision.  An agent may be any person acting on behalf of the owner.  Often landowners hire or contract an Alberta Land Surveyor or other professional – Planner, lawyer, or engineer – to act on their behalf when they do not wish to undertake the application on their own. The subdivision application must clearly indicate the name of the agent.

  3. How is a subdivision application evaluated; the first considerations by the Subdivision Authority include:
    1. Suitability of the proposed site for the intended use;
    2. Conformity of the proposal to local planning legislation, The Municipal Development Plan, and Area Structure Plan, and Land Use Bylaws;
    3. Conformity to the provisions of the Municipal Government Act and the Subdivision and Development Regulation.

  4. After the approval – the final conditions; the subdivision approval is valid for a period of one year.  During that time, all conditions must be met.  If they cannot, the applicant may contact the Subdivision Authority and request an extension prior to the one-year period lapsing – extensions are discretionary and may not always be granted.  Alberta Registries – Land Titles Office will determine the method of survey, which they will accept to register the subdivision of land.  There are two methods – Subdivision by Descriptive Plan or Subdivision by Plan of Survey.

  5. What is a Subdivision by Descriptive Plan; the process of using a Descriptive Plan replaced the use of metes and bound description.  The metes and bounds description used words to describe a parcel of land and often proved difficult to follow.  The Descriptive Plan proved a better method of showing a subdivision of land graphically, on a plan.  The subdivision of the parcel of land is described on a plan and only a minimal field survey is conducted.

  6. Advantages and Disadvantages of a Descriptive Plan; this minimal field survey involves approximate measurements to ensure buildings, fences, trees or other items are contained inside or outside a new property boundary.  A field survey would also be required when a new parcel of land has a natural watercourse (creek, river, lake, etc.) as one of the boundaries.  With minimal field surveying, the cost of a subdivision by Descriptive Plan is less than a subdivision by Plan of Survey.

    The disadvantage of a subdivision by Descriptive pan is no legal survey posts are placed to show the location of the property boundaries.  If the new parcel of land is to be fenced, an additional field survey may be required in order to construct the fence on the new property boundary.

  7. What is a Subdivision by Plan of Survey; a subdivision by Plan of Survey is required when a parcel of land is subdivided into several lots and land is dedicated to the Crown for roads and reserves.  A legal field survey is conducted to sufficiently establish the boundaries of the original parcel of land; and legal survey posts are placed in the ground to establish the new parcel boundaries.  A Plan of Survey is prepared showing the measurements and dimensions of existing and new parcel boundaries.

  8. Advantages of a Plan of Survey; the boundaries of the new parcel of land are identified by legal survey posts placed at the corners of the lots.  As long as these posts are protected and not disturbed or destroyed, the boundaries of the parcel of land can be identified at any time.

  9. Final Survey Plan; once the field survey has been completed, an Alberta Land Surveyor prepares a final survey plan.  The final survey plan is in digital format but hard copy prints are usually available to assist in review for the final steps of the subdivision process.

  10. Final endorsement by the Subdivision Authority; the applicant must meet all the conditions of the subdivision decision before the Subdivision Authority can endorse the final subdivision plan, prepared by an Alberta Land Surveyor.

  11. Consent Forms relating to the Subdivision; consent forms are required from all the landowners registered on the original Certificate of Title and from the Subdivision Authority.  If land is being dedicated for public use by way of a road dedication of land dedicated for reserves or public utility lots, Consent Forms are usually required from those with a registered interest on the title.

  12. Cost; the Cost of subdividing a parcel of land varies according to the complexity of the proposal.  Each Subdivision Authority determines its own application fees and endorsement fees.  The Land Titles Office levies a registration fee and cadastral mapping.  Professional consultants will determine their own fees based on the complexity and extent of their work.  The cost of the entire process may vary from a thousand dollars to several thousands of dollars.

Contributed by Lee Andersen
Branch Manager
Meridian Surveys (A
lta) Ltd.

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Subdividing Land
An Overview of the Basic Steps

This write-up is meant to summarize the steps involved in Subdividing Land to create new titled parcels. It is written from the perspective of the Land Surveyor advising a client on the steps involved.

The legal survey and subdivision process is summarized by the following tasks:

  1. Conduct a preliminary survey of the land in subject to illustrate the key features that may be required by the approving agency to review the application. These key  features may include:
    1. site buildings and general improvements
    2. utilities on the site
    3. topography and general site features (well, septic system, natural boundaries, etc)
  2. Prepare a Plan of Proposed Subdivision illustrating the site features and the proposed parcel(s) size/shape. The proposed parcel will be designed to conform to certain size, shape and proximity regulations. The Plan of Proposed Subdivision will be reviewed by the Owner/Developer for their input and authorization, after which it is submitted to the approving agency with an Application to Subdivide.
  3. Make Application to Subdivide to Community Planning Branch of Saskatchewan Government Relations.
  4. Community Planning will initiate a review of the Application to assure conformity with “The Planning and Development Act & Regulations”.  This review and approval process is occasionally completed in as little as 3 months, or can take several months, depending on the complexity of the proposed subdivision. The review includes such things as:
    1. Seeking comments from various stakeholders (i.e. municipality, utility companies, health department, environment department, etc).
    2. Reviewing the size/shape of the parcels, access to the site, topography of the land and general suitability of the land for the intended use with respect to the Regulations.
    3. Specific municipal zoning requirements.
  5. Upon the satisfactory completion of the review of the application, a Certificate of Approval is issued.
  6. The Legal Survey is then scheduled. Once conducted, the legal survey will provide final measurements and monuments on each corner of the new parcels of land with respect to the provisions of the Land Surveys Act. The Final Plan of Survey is then prepared, the plan examined, edited and approved by the responsible Land Surveyor. This plan is then submitted for processing at Information Services Corporation (ISC).
  7. Once the Final Plan of Survey is approved and on file with ISC, the ‘Transform Approval Certificate’ (TAC) is issued. The TAC designates the appropriate unique parcel ID numbers necessary to create new titles for the newly created parcel(s).  This task of ‘raising titles’ is undertaken by the client’s solicitor or the land surveyor and is a separate process in itself.

Matters often come up in the subdivision process in which specific concerns may need to be addressed by the owner/developer. These items are often a function of the complexity, size and location of the subdivision. The items of concern may include setting aside land for public use, conducting geotechnical studies for soil type or slope stability, addressing servicing agreements or easement agreements, etc.  Simple, one parcel subdivisions often have very few of these items of concern.

The length of time to complete a subdivision of land is often a surprise to a first time land owner/developer. Recently, the time frames have been increased by a record number of subdivision applications being processed by Community Planning, ISC and Land Survey firms. We suggest thoroughly discussing the time aspects with the Land Surveyor and allocating appropriate time prior to locking into agreements for sale or proposed construction activities. It is further recommended that any items needing to be addressed by the owner/developer be attended to expeditiously to lessen overall times to completion.

Though the process will occasionally become quite involved, the large majority of proposed subdivisions reach an ‘approved’ status. This document will hopefully aid those not familiar with subdividing land with a general  understanding of the steps. More detailed information can be obtained through the Community Planning Branch and/or ISC.

Contributed by Lee Andersen
Branch Manager
Meridian Surveys (A
lta) Ltd.

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