Landscaping and ponds

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Related info

Fire pits

Fences and retaining walls

Slope stability

Residential driveways

Xeriscaping your yard

Swimming pools and hot tubs

Preventing basement seepage

landscaping&pondsThe City of Medicine Hat promotes a healthy environment and encourages you to do your part by having attractive and well-maintained landscaping on your property. This page is to provide information to private homeowners regarding the landscaping of their own properties within the city. Land developers should refer to their contractual agreements for landscaping requirements. Commercial property owners should refer to the landscaping requirements for non-residential districts in the Land Use Bylaw.

Remember, we are here to help! If you have questions, contact us:
Planning & Development Services
Second floor, City Hall
580 1st Street SE
Medicine Hat, AB  T1A 8E6
Ph. 403.529.8374
pbe@medicinehat.ca
 

Important terms:

Boulevard means a strip of land between a property boundary and the street. It will typically include a developed area with or without a sidewalk.

Development Permit means a document authorizing a development issued under the provisions of the Land Use Bylaw.

Landscaping or Landscaped means the enhancement of a site by the addition of:

  • soft landscaping - trees, shrubs, turf, other vegetative plantings, or mulch; or
  • hard landscaping - decorative hardsurfacing elements such as pavers, landscaping rock, or stamped and coloured concrete,

but does not include monolithic concrete (ie: large slab), asphalt, gravel, or loose aggregate.

Pond means a water pond for decorative or landscaping purposes which has water depth of less than 600mm (24"). Ponds are considered landscaping elements. Swimming pools are defined as having 600mm or more of water depth, are considered recreational structures, and involve stricter regulations.

Utility right-of-way (UROW) means a registered easement on private land that allows the City and various utility companies the right to access the utilities or services that are commonly buried within the right of way. It is not permitted to build permanent structures, nor to plant trees or shrubs within a utility right of way.

Xeriscaping is a method of quality landscaping that conserves water and reduces maintenance by using site-appropriate plants. When xeriscaped, a site or garden does not need to rely on frequent irrigation and often can be sustained only with rainfall. Xeriscaping should not be confused with zeroscaping, which is ground cover with no vegetation; only rock, gravel and other hard surfaces.

 


Landscaping of a residential yard does not generally require a Development Permit  nor a Building Permit. If, however, the landscaping project will result in a change to the existing grade of the land and thereby a change to the natural surface drainage pattern, then a Development Permit is required.

icon_PDFDevelopment Permit Application

For more information, contact:

Planning & Development Services
2nd floor, Medicine Hat City Hall
580 1st Street SE
Phone 403.529.8374
pbe@medicinehat.ca

Permits are required for:

Decks, garages, sheds, fences, fire pits, retaining walls, swimming pools, hot tubs, driveways, parking pads and perhaps other related outdoor residential projects. These projects do not fall under the definition of landscaping (see landscaping definition above).
Learn more about specific projects at the Home improvement hub.

Know the rules:
Despite the fact that permits are not generally necessary for residential landscaping projects, there are rules that must be followed for reasons of safety and neighbourhood standards. See below: landscaping rules and pond rules.

 



Landscaping requirements

The Land Use Bylaw requires that in low-density residential areas (R-LD), yards which are visible from the road must be landscaped. This excludes portions covered by driveways.

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.

Residential landscaping must be maintained on an ongoing 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.

boulevardBoulevard 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 (see important terms above).

No existing trees located within a boulevard may be removed by a property owner to accommodate a new driveway or off-street parking. Also, clearance must be maintained in the boulevard for automobile doors and access to any fire hydrant must not be impeded by vegetation.

icon_PDFView Boulevard Development and Maintenance Policy

Be aware of utility right-of-ways

If there is a utility right-of-way (UROW) on your property, only soft landscaping is allowed within the UROW. You are not allowed to plant trees or shrubs within the UROW, and they should be planted at least one metre away. Tree roots will spread underground and may grow into and around the buried utility, causing damage. If the buried utility is excavated and replaced, it is unlikely a tree or shrub would survive.

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 Planning and Development Services at 403.529.8374.

Keep sight lines clear

Setback from sidewalks: Landscaping must not block sight lines for pedestrians and motor vehicles within 1.0 meter (3'-3") from the back of the sidewalk (or from the back of the curb if there is no sidewalk).

Corner Visibility Triangle: No fence, tree, landscaping element or other obstruction is allowed within a Corner Visibility Triangle which obstructs the sight line between 0.9 meters (2'-11") and 2.5 meters (8'-2") from ground level. See diagram below:

 corner_visibility_thmbicon_PDFCorner Visibility Triangle

Dial or click before you dig

Puncturing an underground service line will be at the very least cause an inconvenient delay, or at worst, be life-threatening. Make certain you check for the location of underground utilities before you start digging. See Free utility locates, below.

Moving service lines and meters is expensive

If you, as a property owner, 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, it is advisable to contact the appropriate service department or company to inquire about whether the relocate is possible, costs involved and timeline.

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. For more information, see below:
icon_PDFGuide to Survey Markers.

Do not encroach on neighbours

Know where your property lines are. It is not allowed to encroach on neighbouring property with any development or landscaping. This applies regardless of the ownership of the neighbouring property (private, City, government, etc). For more info, visit Building and property information.

Tree preservation

The City's "Tree Preservation Bylaw" (4218) was enacted in 2014 to protect public trees and to prevent the spread of tree-related diseases such as Dutch Elm Disease. The bylaw states that it is not allowed to disturb, prune or remove any public tree. It also outlines methods of care for elm trees, which owners must abide by.

For more information about the Tree Preservation Bylaw, or to submit a request for the removal of a public tree, visit:  Tree preservation bylaw.



A water pond for decorative or landscaping purposes must have water depth of less than 600mm (24"). Typically, it is not required to obtain a Development Permit or a Building Permit to install or build a pond in a residential yard.

NOTE: No structures, including ponds, are allowed within a utility right-of-way (UROW). If you are uncertain 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 Planning and Development Services at 403.529.8374.

•  Draining:  When draining your pond, do not discharge the water to any street, lane, sidewalk, drainage ditch or neighbouring property. The best way is to slowly discharge it onto 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. For more information, see below:
icon_PDFProtect Your Drinking Water from Potential Cross Contamination (PDF).

  For safety reasons, it is not advisable to position a pond any closer than 1.0 meter (3'-3") from the back of a sidewalk (or from the back of the curb if there is no sidewalk).

  Keep your pond clean to prevent odour, algae build-up and mosquito breeding.

  Never leave children unsupervised near any pool, pond or any water feature.

  Obtain utility locates before installing a decorative pond (see Free utility locates below).



When planning your landscaping, it is important to learn where and what underground and overhead utilities are located on your property. Locates are done free of charge but require a couple of days notice to obtain.

To obtain utility locates, contact:

  Alberta One-Call (Electric, Gas, Water, Sewer, Telus) 1.800.242.3447

  Shaw 1-866-344-7429

For more information on gas line safety and planning yard projects, see these guidelines:
icon_PDFLandscaping/Yard Development and Gas Mains



The City of Medicine Hat recognizes the importance that landscape development has on the environment and the visual attractiveness of our city. Effective landscaping:

  Promotes the development of an attractive and safe urban environment;
  Promotes environmental conservation;
  Improves the compatibility of adjacent land uses;
  Protects and enhances the urban forest;
  Protects and improves property values; and
  Promotes economic development through the provision of an aesthetically pleasing community.

Landscaping tips:

Choose the right plants and trees - Consider hardiness for our geographic location. Also think about what you want the plants and trees to provide, whether it is shade, privacy or simply aesthetics. Garden centre staff can help you with your selections.

Find the right location - Keep your property boundary in mind when planting so that you do not encroach on a neighbour's land. Also consider your future plans for an addition or deck.

Leave space for plants and trees to grow - Measure, sketch or take photos of the space you would like to landscape and show it to garden centre staff. They can help you find the right plants and trees and ensure they have room to grow.

Picture the tree at its full size - When the tree is fully grown, will it pose a problem with a fence, structure, or power line?

Check soil type and drainage - Soil and water drainage are factors in the types of plants and trees you select.

Consider the required level of sunshine - Some plants thrive in plenty of sunshine, whereas others require shady locations. Take note of the light levels in your yard areas before choosing.

Economical watering - For tips to reduce the amount of water used in your landscaping, visit Outdoor water conservation.

Rain barrels - Rain barrels can help minimize residential flooding during heavy rains and provide water for gardening. Learn how to make an inexpensive rain barrel from a garbage can:
icon_PDFMake a Rain Barrel

Weed wise in Medicine Hat - Invasive plants can cause significant environmental and ecological damage. Learn how to deal with weeds on your property by visiting Weeds.

Animal and insect pests - What to do about coyotes, caterpillars, boxelder bugs and more. Visit Animal/Insect pest management. 

Wildlife, insects, dogs & cats - What to do about stray pets, badgers, porcupines, rattlesnakes and more. Visit Animal and pest control.

Xeriscaping - For tips on having colorful and beautiful landscaping with less mowing while also conserving water, visit Water efficient landscaping.

Composting - Composting is nature's way of recycling organic materials back into the soil. Learn how it benefits your yard and saves money:
icon_PDFBackyard Composting - it's only natural

Mulching - Mulching is a process which mimics what happens on the forest floor. Learn about the benefits of mulching for your landscaping:
icon_PDFMulching

Cutting a tree near a power line - This can cause a very dangerous situation. For safety information, see the City Electric Utility webpage about Tree safety.

Padmount transformers in yard - If you have a transformer on your property and need information about landscaping or fencing around it, contact the City Electric Utility at electric_dept@medicinehat.ca or phone 403.529.8262.

Yard waste - A guide to the City's household and yard waste collection, as well as information on grasscycling, mulching and composting, is available below:
icon_PDFGuide to household & yard waste collection

Get a voucher for a free tree - Available for residential properties in certain new subdivisions. For more information, visit Tree vouchers.