Landscaping and Ponds

The information on this page relates to common landscaping questions for residential properties. Before beginning your project, check the rules below in order to avoid incurring extra cost to fix deficiencies.

Most landscaping projects do not typically require a permit.

However, if the project will result in a change to the existing grade of the land and the natural surface drainage, then a development permit is required. See below: Do I need a permit?

Medicine Hat is in plant hardiness zone 4bWhen selecting plant species for your landscaping, consider hardiness levels. To learn about planting zones in Canada, visit Natural Resources Canada.

Landscaping rules

What is Landscaping?

"Landscaping" means the enhancement of a site by the addition of:

  • Soft landscaping - Trees, shrubs, turf, other vegetative plantings, or mulch.
  • Hard landscaping - Decorative hardsurfacing elements such as paving stones, landscaping rock, or stamped colored concrete.
  • Xeriscaping - A method of landscaping that conserves water and reduces maintenance by using site-appropriate plants which do not rely on frequent irrigation.

"Landscaping" does not include asphalt, gravel, loose aggregate, or monolithic concrete (large slabs).

General upkeep

The Land Use Bylaw requires that in low-density residential areas, yards which are visible from the road must be landscaped. For new homes, all landscaping must be completed within two years of occupancy of the home.

A minimum of one tree per dwelling must be planted within the front yard, exterior side yard, or adjacent boulevard. At the discretion of the Development Authority, several shrubs may be planted in lieu of a tree.

Landscaping must be maintained on a regular basis. Dead trees or shrubs must be removed by the property owner within one year of discovery, or within one year of notification by the City.

Boulevard maintenance

Boulevard land is owned by the City, but it is the responsibility of adjacent property owners to maintain it. If there is a boulevard adjacent to your property, keep grass and shrubs trimmed, keep weeds to a minimum and keep it tidy. Boulevards must consist of only soft landscaping.

No trees located on a boulevard may be removed to accommodate a new driveway or off-street parking. Also, clearance must be maintained in the boulevard for automobile doors and around fire hydrants.

Boulevard Development and Maintenance Policy

To learn about permit requirements before constructing a driveway, visit:

Driveways and Sidewalks

Be aware of UROWs

Only soft landscaping is allowed around a utility right-of-way (UROW). Trees or shrubs must be planted at least one metre away. No structures are allowed within a UROW. This includes concrete driveways or patios, buildings of any kind, fences, retaining walls, decks, pools, hot tubs, ponds, fire pits, affixed play structures, etc.

If you are uncertain whether or not there is a UROW on your property, you can check the site plan for your property, you may purchase a Real Property Report or you can contact us.

Keep sight lines clear

Landscaping must not block sight lines for pedestrians and vehicles within 1 metre (3'-3") from the back of the sidewalk (or from the back of the curb if there is no sidewalk). No fence, tree, landscaping element or other obstruction is allowed within 0.9 meters (2'-11") and 2.5 meters (8'-2") from ground level.

View diagram:

Corner Visibility Triangle

Watch out for underground lines

Puncturing an underground service line could cause an inconvenient delay, or be life threatening. Check for the location of underground utilities before you start digging. Locates are free of charge but require three days notice.

To obtain line locates, visit:

Line locates

Moving infrastructure is costly

If you wish to relocate a service line or meter to allow for the development of a structure, you are responsible for the cost. Before applying for a Development Permit, contact the appropriate service department to ask whether the relocate is possible, what costs are involved and timeline.

To submit a request to relocate a piece of City electric infrastructure, visit:

Electric Applications

Do not remove survey markers

Boundary markers are one-meter long metal pins inserted in the ground at the intersection of property lines. It is illegal to remove or tamper with these markers.

Learn more by visiting Alberta Land Surveyors' Association site:

Boundary markers

Do not infringe on adjacent properties

It is not allowed to cross any property line with development activities or landscaping. This applies regardless of whether the neighbouring property is privately-owned land or public land. 

City trees

The City's Tree Preservation Bylaw (#4218) states that you must not disturb, prune or remove any public tree. A request may be submitted for the removal of a tree on City property; such requests are reviewed individually. 

Trees and Gardens

Pond rules

Allowable pond depth

A pond for decorative or landscaping purposes must be less than 600mm (24") deep. For safety reasons, a pond should be distanced somewhat from a public sidewalk.

Be aware of UROWs

No ponds are allowed within a utility right-of-way (UROW). If you are not sure whether or not there is a UROW on your property, you can check the site plan for your property, purchase a Real Property Report or contact us.

Beware of underground lines

Check for the location of underground utilities before you start digging to create a pond. Locates are free of charge but require several days notice.

To obtain line locates, visit:

Line locates

Draining a pond

When draining your pond, do not let the water out to any street, lane, sidewalk, drainage ditch or neighbouring property. The best way is to slowly let it out on your own property away from any building foundations, allowing the water to evaporate or soak into the ground.

Preventing cross-contamination

When filling your pond, keep the hose end above the water surface to prevent cross-contamination of the drinking water supply.

To learn about avoiding water contamination, visit:

Cross Connection Control Program

Do I need a permit?

Generally, the only landscaping projects which require a development permit are projects which will result in a change to the existing grade of the land, thereby changing the natural drainage pattern. No building permits are required for landscaping projects.

Contact us

If your landscaping project will result in a change in the site's drainage pattern, please contact us. We will review your situation to determine if a Development Permit is required and/or if there are geotechnical considerations with the site.

  • Have details about your planned landscaping project.
  • Have a site plan drawing and photos of the area if possible.


Planning & Development Services
2nd floor, City Hall
580 1st Street SE
Medicine Hat, AB

Ph. (403) 529-8374

Email us


Related topics