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Places of worship

Before starting your project

A place of wors​hip is a space such as a church or mosque where people gather for religious or spiritual purposes. Municipal approvals are required to establish a new location or make changes to an existing place of worship facility. As your first step, we recommend contacting the Planning Services Centre, or booking a pre-application meeting.

Each project is unique and will have different requirements depending on the services offered at the facility, the physical size of the area and the site’s location within the city. Your project might require multiple City approvals including a business licence, planning and/or building approvals.

Here are some examples:

  • If your place of worship will contain Child Care Services, you will require a business license.
  • If your place of worship will contain a dwelling (residence), it cannot be built in an industrial area. For more information on dwelling units, see the Land Use Bylaw.
  • If the proposed location is within a landfill or wastewater setback area and will contain a kitchen or a dwelling unit, we encourage setting up a pre-application meeting prior to finalizing any decisions.

Planning Approvals

Whether you are building a new place of worship, converting an existing space, or taking over an existing building already being used as a place of worship, you will need planning approval prior to beginning construction or moving in. Approval depends on:

  • location in the city
  • if the building is new or existing
  • desired changes – or no changes - from the previous use, including changes to the:
    • building exterior
    • parking configuration
    • landscaping
  • whether your desired space was previously used as a place of worship
  • anticipated construction activity – or no construction activity
  • the number of dwelling units, if any at all
  • the assembly area

All applications for places of worship are discretionary, and approval is not guaranteed. In addition to the above examples, some additional criteria that we consider include:

  • existing policy
  • compatibility with the neighbourhood and impact to the area
  • site servicing requirements
  • site access and transportation requirements
  • planning industry best practices

Location

The facility size dictates where it can be located according to Land Use Bylaw​ rules (see part 4, division 2, sections 260 – 262). Based on these rules, there are three uses, which are categorized by the size of the assembly area.

Small assembly area is equal to or less than 300 square metres.
Medium assembly area is greater than 300 square metres and less than 500 square metres
Large assembly area is equal to or greater than 500 square metres

The following chart shows a breakdown of the uses as they relate to facility size. You can determine the land use district for your address by entering it in our property information tool.

Places of worship land use matrix

Please note the I-G and I-E land use districts cannot include dwelling units or be in a building within 250 metres from the property line of any parcel designated as Industrial – Heavy District.

 
 

Building approvals

Building approval in the form of a building permit and trade permits may be required prior to any construction or occupancy of a building or tenant space as a place of worship.

A building permit may be required in a variety of situations including:

  • new building construction - designed and built as a place of worship,
  • alteration of an existing building where the place of worship occupies:
    • the entire building, or
    • a new or existing tenant space, and
  • if no construction is planned, to ensure suitability of the building and/or tenant space in an existing or new building.

Contractor trade permits for plumbing, gas, electrical or mechanical (HVAC) work are required for construction or alteration of these systems. A qualified trade contractor must apply for these permits. The trade permits required will depend on the scope of work approved by the building permit.

Technical requirements for design, construction and changes in occupancy are set out in the Alberta Building Code. Additional provisions set out in the Alberta Fire Code may also influence your building, facility, and operations. Early involvement of industry professionals may be required to carry out your project.

Contact the Planning Services Centre for general inquiries about these permits and for technical inquiries about the Alberta Building Code.​​​