On September 10, 2012, after three years of work between Arts Habitat Edmonton, the City of Edmonton Sustainable Development, the Edmonton Arts Council and the arts community, the Zoning Bylaw Text Amendment Report was unanimously passed by City Council. Changes that will positively impact arts space and activities were immediately implemented into Zoning Bylaw 12800.

Background

In 2008 the Edmonton Arts Council published “The Art of Living” – a 10 Year Plan for Securing the Future of Arts and Heritage in the City of Edmonton". Arts Space is identified in the plan as being the most urgent need. Recommendation #2 proposed that redrawing zoning bylaws and other city practices will stimulate arts activities in Edmonton.

In 2009, Arts Habitat began working with the City to review issues and find solutions for a more sympathetic regulatory environment that could catalyze, improve and increase opportunities for a broad range of arts activities and space uses in the City.

A review of zoning bylaws, definitions, licenses, permits and other civic regulations formed the basis of the research into what regulatory inhibitors are impeding artists and arts organizations from thriving in Edmonton.

The complete scope of work included:

  • Investigations of current bylaws and regulations to identify gaps and opportunities;
  • Research of best practices of other municipalities;
  • Community stakeholder consultations and citywide survey hosted by Arts Habitat Association to understand actual impediments (2010/11);
  • Investigation into comparative information;
  • A summary of relevant findings (2011);
  • Team working meetings to respond to the information;
  • And a defined set of actions and solutions to be vetted through City hosted stakeholder consultation (May 2012)
  • Council Approval and implementation (September 2012)

Arts Habitat Review of Arts Spaces and Issues

Review of Art Space Issues in Edmonton, A Summary Report Prepared by Arts Habitat Edmonton is a summary of Arts Habitat’s research undertaken from the beginning of the project. The findings and recommendations made within will form part of the Bylaws Unit and the Licensing Departments internal review of civic regulations.

Many of the issues raised by the arts community do not fall under the portfolio of the Bylaw Unit or Licensing Department. The central issues of affordability and sustainability indicate an in-depth review of development incentives and initiatives is needed to retain and encourage more affordable and appropriate arts spaces. Arts Habitat endeavours that further action will be taken with the City to address and integrate those in plans moving forward. These issues and suggestions for improvement are referred to in the report as Other Issues and as Ideas for Planning and Development Incentives/Initiatives.

2012 Zoning Bylaw Text Amendments and Report:

The City report shows how arts-related use-class definitions will be modified to reflect the needs of the arts community. Definitions have also been reworded to be future-looking, anticipating as yet unknown disciplines, and replacing outmoded language. Definitions are generally more flexible and inclusive. More definitions will actually name the arts.

In addition, most uses have been added to multiple zones. This means that when you finally find your perfect location for a studio or performance space, your activity is more likely to be an “allowed”, or “discretionary” use, which in turn means fewer hoops for you to get your space up and running.

We are particularly proud of the new Creation and Production Establishment definition that unequivocally describes studio space for artistic disciplines across the board. Equally, the new Media Studio makes room for new modes of digital design and production. Both of these uses will now be discretionary uses in the coveted industrial zones.

We are no less proud of the changes made to Live/Work Unit. Not only will it now be allowed across all commercial zones, it has been simplified and thus stripped of existing obstacles to artist uses.

You can find them all now online in Zoning Bylaw 12800: http://www.edmonton.ca/bylaws_licences/bylaws/zoning-bylaw.aspx and here http://webdocs.edmonton.ca/InfraPlan/zoningbylaw/bylaw_12800.htm