Share this page Print

Commercial-based businesses

Important terms

Tenancy change: required when business ownership changes, the business activities remain the same and no construction is being done to the space.

Change of use: a development permit application required when a business is moving to a new location and the proposed use is different than the most recent land use approval, or when a business is intensifying an approved land use.

Use: the function of land or a building. A use may be listed as permitted or discretionary, depending on the land use district.

Land use district: A designation or zoning term given to areas of land within the city. It describes permitted or discretionary uses and specific rules for these districts, as explained in the Land Use Bylaw.

Before you start

Before making a long-term commitment to a space for your business, it is important to know if The City will be able to approve you to operate at your desired location. All businesses require land use approval, regardless of whether a business licence is required. Businesses that require a licence need to obtain land use approval prior to a licence being issued.

The use of a space and the business licence are separate approvals. They each have their own set of requirements, definitions and bylaws (Land Use Bylaw and Business Licence Bylaw).

What is a land use approval?

A land use approval is The City’s authorization for a particular activity to occur at a given location. Each property within the city of Calgary has a land use district assigned to it, and this land use district controls the allowable uses.

To view the allowable uses within a particular land use district, refer to the Land Use Bylaw. To determine the land use district of a property, visit calgary.ca/myproperty.

Land use ap​proval types

Land use approval is achieved through one or more of the following permit types. You may require a combination of permits to obtain the appropriate approvals for your licence.

There are a number of variables that The City reviews to determine which application type you require for land use approval.

These factors include:

  • Whether the use is listed as permitted or discretionary within the land use district
  • If parking requirements are changing
  • If the activity change requires a building permit review.

To assist in determining which permit you will require, contact the Planning Services Centre. A planning services technician will take into consideration the land use district, proposed business activities and historical approvals for the address.

Development permit

A development permit for a change of use is required if a business is moving into a new space or operates in a different way than the last business that occupied that space. It is also required if a proposed business is intensifying or expanding operations from the previous approval (e.g. a child care service is taking more children, a restaurant is expanding public area). A change of use is required, regardless of whether there will be construction or not.

A development permit will fall under one of three categories. The category that an application will fall under depends on if the use is listed as permitted or discretionary as well as its parking requirements. Each use has specific parking rates listed in the Land Use Bylaw. Parking requirements are determined based on the parking rate of the use and any special rules of the land use district. Available parking is determined based on the number of approved stalls provided on a site, minus the number of stalls required for the proposed and existing uses on the site.

Change of use - permitted type 1

Description: required when the use changing within a space is listed as a permitted use in the land use district and parking requirements are decreasing or remaining the same.

Process: a full submission of the requirements described on the Change of use – permitted type 1 requirement list. This includes floor plans of the proposed space, a key plan showing where the space is located in the building and a Use Questionnaire, which details the business operations. After submission, The City reviews the application for compliance with the Land Use Bylaw. If the business activities comply, the use is approved by the file manager.

Timeline: this type of application typically requires five business days to process. If the bylaw check reveals that relaxations are required, it will prolong the timeline and require a re-submission as a Change of use – permitted with relaxation, along with applicable fees.

Note: At time of application, a safety codes officer will determine if a building permit will be required, once your development permit has been approved.

Change of use - permitted type 2

Description: required when the use changing within a space is listed as permitted and parking requirements are increasing.

Process: a full submission of the requirements described on the Change of use – permitted type 2 requirement list. This includes floor plans of the proposed space, a site plan of the entire property and a requirement list. This includes floor plans of the proposed space, a site plan of the entire property and a Use Questionnaire, which details the operations of the business. After submission, The City reviews the application for compliance with the Land Use Bylaw. If the business activities comply, the use is approved by the file manager.

Timeline: this type of application typically requires 10 business days to process. If the bylaw check reveals that relaxations are required, it will prolong the timeline and require a re-submission as a Change of use – permitted with relaxation, along with applicable fees.

Note: At time of application, a safety codes officer will determine if a building permit will be required, once your development permit has been approved.

Change of use - permitted with relaxation/discretionary

Description: required when the use changing within a space is listed as either permitted but requires a Land Use Bylaw relaxation, or listed as discretionary within that district. Approval of these applications is at the discretion of the development authority.

Process: A full submission of the requirements described on the Change of use – discretionary requirement list is made by the applicant. This includes a certificate of title, authorization letter, colour photographs, floor plans of the proposed space, a site plan of the property and a completed Use Questionnaire, which details the operations of the business. After submission, The City reviews the proposal, including any required relaxations, and circulates the application to any required stakeholders (e.g. community associations, ward councillor).  If the application is approved, advertising will take place, giving the community an opportunity to appeal.

Timeline: this type of application typically requires eight to 10 weeks to process, excluding time on hold, but may take longer depending on the complexity of the proposal and its impacts.

Note: At time of application, a safety code officer will determine if a building permit will be required, once your development permit has been approved.

Sample drawings

Building permit

Description: a building permit may be required for a new business or a business changing ownership, even if there is no construction planned as part of the development permit process. Upgrades may be necessary to comply with the Alberta Building Code and applicable health and safety standards.

Process: a full submission of the requirements described on the applicable building permit requirements list. The type of building permit application depends on the type of construction being done, whether the proposed changes are interior only or include exterior changes. A key plan showing where the suite is located within the building, floor plans of the proposed space, a Building permit information form and an Asbestos abatement form are always required.

Timeline: this type of application requires 21 calendar days to review for projects under $1 million in construction value, and can range up to 56 calendar days for projects over $1 million. This excludes time on hold.

When is a building perm​it required?

Building permits are evaluated by a safety codes officer on a case-by-case basis and are required where there are issues of health and safety.

A building permit is required when:

  • A tenant space has a new use (e.g. a retail store changes to a restaurant).
  • Any construction is being done, including structural or partition wall changes, mechanical, plumbing, gas or electrical work.
  • Your mechanical equipment needs to be upgraded to meet building code, due to a change in use (e.g. car detailing to engine repair affects ventilation rates; using a forklift in a warehouse may require additional ventilation).
  • You are the first tenant in a space.
  • A health review is required: restaurants, daycares, pools, personal services (such as hair salons, massage centers, tattoos, nail salons).
  • There is a change in kitchen or mechanical ventilation equipment or new equipment being installed.
  • There is a change to the occupant load.

A building permit is generally not required when:

  • The use and space remain unchanged (office to office or retail to retail).
  • If the scope is primarily cosmetic, such as painting or furniture.

Other permits that may be required with your building permit:

  • Opening a new business may also require trade permits for plumbing, gas, electrical or mechanical work, which must be applied for by a qualified trade contractor. The types of trade permits required will depend on the type of business, current conditions in the space, what you are proposing and what is required by applicable codes.​

Building code information guides

Tenancy change

Description: tenancy change applications are for businesses that are changing owners, with no change to the approved use within a space. If no construction is occurring and the use is not intensifying or changing, planning approvals may be completed through a tenancy change. A building permit may also be required if upgrades are necessary to comply with the Alberta Building Code.

Process: a full submission of the requirements described on the Tenancy change requirements list. This includes floor plans, a key plan showing where the space is located in the building and a Use Questionnaire, which details the operations of the business. After submission, The City reviews the application for Land Use Bylaw compliance. If the business activities are the same as the previous approved use, the use will be approved.

Timeline: this type of application requires five to 10 business days to complete, when review is required.

Note: At time of application, a safety codes officer will determine if a building permit will be required, once your development permit has been approved.

How to apply

Once you have determined which application(s) you require, you can start to prepare the application requirements as outlined below. Applications can be made in person at the Planning Services Centre.

The requirement lists below are a comprehensive overview of application requirements. Please print and have all applicable forms and drawings completed prior to applying.

Fees

*Tenancy change applications do not require application fees​​​​​​​​​​​​.​​

​​​​​​​​​​