Welcome to Foothills County

Setbacks and Building Locations


A setback is the minimum distance from the property line (or a major roadway, hazard or an environmentally sensitive area) to where a building or amenity may be located. An amenity is any feature that makes a property more attractive or valuable. This includes, but is not limited to: outbuildings, fencing, garden structures, decks, fire-pits, ponds, pools or hot-tubs. The setbacks listed in the County of Foothills Land Use Bylaw under each individual use apply to buildings. The current Land Use Bylaw also addresses setbacks for landscaping and fencing from Municipal Roads and Highways.

Each land-use in the Land Use Bylaw has its own development setbacks. It is important to consult the land use by-law when planning improvements to any property in the County. In addition to these setbacks there may be site specific limitations such as environmentally sensitive areas, sloped areas, pipeline rights of way, or proximity to major highways or utilities. When designing a subdivision it is important to ensure that each lot created has an adequate developable area to accommodate its use. The provision of a plan indicating the developable area of each parcel may be a requirement for the application to proceed.

The residential development section of MDP2010 contains a policy that describes a "developable area" of land on a site. This is an area within the setback limitations which is intended for the construction of a residence and/or other structures appropriate under the designated land use which is not encumbered by other setbacks or limitations. The Land Use Bylaw specifies the minimum developable area for all land uses.

The residential policy in the MDP 2010 reads as follows:

All residential parcels shall have a developable area of land which:

  • Is not subject to the development restrictions such as those created by sour gas or other natural resource extraction, flooding, hazardous lands, landfills, transfer stations, sewage lagoons or other restrictions as indicated by the MGA and the Provincial Planning Regulation.
  • Contains a water table and soils suitable for the construction of a residence and the wastewater disposal system to be utilized.
  • Does not exceed 15% in slope unless a report has been submitted to the satisfaction of the County, prepared by a qualified Professional which indicates that the developable area is suitable for residential construction.
  • Meets the setback requirements of the Land Use Bylaw.

Setbacks from Hazards

Hazard Lands are defined in MDP2010 as:

Lands which may be prone to flooding, shoreline erosion or slope instability hazards or any hazard that may result in life loss or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation.
Hazards may include surface and subsurface features such as active and abandoned gas/oil wells, mines, unstable slopes, areas exhibiting subsidence and other natural or man-made features.

The Foothills County Land Use Bylaw establishes development setbacks from certain hazards such as waste disposal facilities as follows:

A dwelling, whether temporary or permanent, shall not be located:

a. Within 450 metres of the working area of an operating sanitary landfill, modified sanitary landfill, hazardous waste management facility or dry waste site,

b. Within 300 metres of the disposal area of an operating or non-operating sanitary landfill, modified sanitary landfill or dry waste site,

c. Within 450 metres of the disposal area of a non-operating hazardous waste management facility, or

d. Within 300 metres of the working area of an operating waste processing site, waste storage site, waste sorting station or waste transfer station.

Setbacks from Slopes:

Foothills County Land Use Bylaw specifies a setback for slopes of 15% or more for some land uses. This is the greater of 30m or the distance determined by a geotechnical report, but in any case not less than the applicable front, side or rear yard setbacks.

Setbacks from Energy Facilities:

In Alberta, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) determines required setbacks from energy facilities in particular sour gas wells and pipelines. A detailed explanation of these setbacks and how they are determined can be found at the ERCB's website in EnerFAQ #5 - Explaining ERCB Setbacks.

Setbacks from Wind turbines:

Fire Hazard Lands:

From Mendocino California - All new development shall be sited taking into consideration the fire hazard severity of the site, the type of development and the risk added by the development to the fire hazard risk. Where feasible, areas of extreme high risk should be avoided for development except agricultural and open space uses.

Flood Prone Lands:

No new development, except flood control projects to protect existing structures, nonstructural agricultural uses and seasonal uses shall be permitted in the one hundred (100) year floodway unless mitigation measures are provided in accordance with an engineering study by a qualified professional.

Setbacks from Wastewater systems:

Standards and Guidelines For Municipal Waterworks, Wastewater and Storm Drainage System, from Alberta Environment dictates that the setback from a waste water treatment lagoon to the nearest occupied building should be 300m.

Intensive Livestock Operations:

Environmental Hazard Lands

The following policies relating to confined feeding operations are contained in the new MDP2010:

  • Ensure that each confined feeding operation (CFO) meets the minimum distance separation (MDS).
  • Encourage each CFO to own the land included within the MDS.
  • Ensure that the CFO and the MDS does not fall within a minimum of:
    • 3.2 km (2 miles) of any urban municipality or hamlet and does not encroach into any intermunicipal development plan boundaries
    • 0.8 km (1/2 mile) of a neighbouring dwelling
  • CFOs should be located in an area where there will be minimal conflict with existing land uses and must take into consideration future expansion areas when looking at surrounding land uses.
  • Other uses and subdivisions shall be discouraged within the MDS of an existing CFO.
  • Encourage CFOs on parcels of 160 acres or more.

Special Setback Requirements

  • The Foothills County Land Use Bylaw contains a section on Special Setback Requirements:
  • For setback purposes, corner lots shall be treated as having a front yard on each side of the lot that abutts a road or highway.
  • The minimum distances required for yards do not apply to unenclosed patios, driveways, sidewalks, and steps wholly within the lot.
  • Balconies, eaves, fireplaces, sills, canopies, and cornices may project into the minimum front or side yard to a maximum of 600mm (1.97 ft.) or into the minimum rear yard to a maximum of 1.5m (4.92 ft.).