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Building permit services move out of Bighorn

With the cost of processing building permits coming in higher than the revenues they bring in, the MD of Bighorn has chosen to stop delivering the service altogether and landowners looking for building permits will now have to go through an accredited agency instead
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The new kiln under construction at the Lafarge cement plant in Exshaw contributed to higher than usual building permit revenues for the MD of Bighorn for a number of years. RMO FILE PHOTO

BIGHORN – Residents applying for building permit services in the MD of Bighorn will only have until Feb. 14 to do so locally before the program moves to the Alberta Safety Codes Authority.

The change in service delivery was approved by council at its November meeting. Administration told council after reviewing the building permit revenues and expenditures from 2002-19 it was determined expenditures were exceeding revenues for several years in addition to taking up significant staff time.

"The MD is transferring the responsibility for issuing building permits to the province. It will be more efficient for builders and landowners to apply for a building permit," Rob Ellis, Chief Administrative Officer for the MD of Bighorn said in an email.

"In the MD, builders and landowners are required to select an accredited agency for electrical, gas and plumbing permits for their projects ... the MD’s withdrawal from building accreditation provides those seeking building permits the option to choose the agency they want, using the same process already in place for the electrical, gas and plumbing permits."

The staff report provided to MD council stated since 2002 the building permit service has historically lost money, or made minimal revenues for the municipality. It was also noted if building permit revenues did not offset permit expenses, then tax dollars are used to subsidize the municipal service.

Diving into the building permit analysis of 2010-19, there were years with losses of up to $33,091 and revenues of up to $144,275. The report noted 2013-15 appeared to be anomalies due to the Lafarge expansion, the 2013 flood and development in Dead Man's Flats.

The 10-year average saw $16,893 in annual revenues, but if the anomaly years were removed, the building permit services operated at a loss for five of the seven years with an average annual loss of $12,712.

It was recommended the MD would be in a better financial position by discontinuing the building permit service altogether, and council agreed.

As a result, by March 1 the MD will no longer be an accredited municipality for building services and any resident needing a building permit will have to do so through an accredited agency assigned by the Alberta Safety Codes Authority including but not limited to inspections, building permits application review, issuances of valid building permits and issuance of occupancy approvals.

The MD of Bighorn will also not respond any national building code inquiries anymore.  

"We are working to make the transition as smooth possible," Ellis said. "All active building permits will be transferred to ASCA and they will coordinate the required inspections and closing the files through Davis Inspection Services. New building permit applications will be handled through the Accredited Agency chosen by the builder."

For a full list of accredited agencies go to