May 11, 2021

Valued Okotoks Business Owner,

It isn't even halfway through 2021, but this past year has certainly presented challenges to you. In fact, it’s been over a year and a half since your business started getting impacted – in one way or another by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Town has had many conversations with businesses in Okotoks to get insight on how the pandemic is affecting businesses, and it's a marvel to witness how you have adapted, stepped up and in many cases, persevered through these unprecedented times. The most recent announcement of restrictions has no doubt presented an additional set of challenges. But we are confident that the end is very near. In the interim you are encouraged to reach out to the Town's Okotoks Economic Development team to help you navigate the hard times. The Town is poised to be nimble and adapt to the changing situations and provide you with much needed support where necessary.

Connect with us!

Q & A with the Planning Team

In this month’s feature article for Business Beat, we are taking a bit of a different direction. We interviewed some of the members of our planning office to ask the questions that come up quite frequently with our business community. Big thanks to Colton (CN), Michelle (MG) and Colin (CG) for providing some insight into the world of planning.


Question: Explain planning in a nutshell

CN: "Planning is a very generalist profession. We aren’t generally experts in a particular field, but typically, the majority of planners in municipalities have to touch on a wide swath of disciplines on a daily basis, including landscaping, urban design, sustainability planning, transportation and so on. We rely on various other experts depending on the inquiry (and scope)."

MG: "A really important piece to convey, as planners, is that we strive to consider all perspectives when processing applications. For example, we may go to a development permit (DP) meeting that includes members from Waste Services, Engineering and Economic Development – all with differing interests – so we try to balance these interests with those of the applicant, while considering Council objectives and abiding by applicable regulations and policies. Sometimes, this is why it can take much longer to process. We have to engage more than just one department in order to find that balance. This is especially so with large projects."

CN: "To build on Michelle’s point – there is always the struggle between political elements in the desires of the free market vs. balancing public interest. There is always a relationship with other projects, but the fact is, each project is different. Different locations, different history, and different development objectives – the reality is there are so many factors at play."

Question: What is the most common issue that arises when working with businesses?

CN: "It isn’t so much an issue, as more of the question why? We get a lot of questions around the reasoning behind our process."

MG: "Agreed, and it can be hard to explain the process in an easy way. In part, it’s about having some level of regulation and some level of review, but it is very much dependent on the project. A certain level of regulation allows for consistency in how areas develop, but each project is unique. There are some projects that are very cut and dry, and can get a quick answer, but more often than not there are areas that need a development process review to understand the impacts to surrounding businesses and the community."

CG: "There are a lot of process considerations. Part of the challenge is that everything flows from other legislative requirements that apply. Municipalities are bound by legislative requirements that impact how bylaws and plans are developed. We are also required to balance those considerations with what businesses want to do, such as the approaches they want to take, and how that impacts businesses and landowners.
We are often asked: Can’t you just change this rule or bylaw? But it depends on a lot of things, including mandatory requirements and provisions, different legislation, bylaws and policies, and things such as safety codes or the Water Act and Migratory Bird Act. There is always a lot to consider."

MG: "Once again, and to that end, it’s about balancing individual land owner interests with the greater good. It’s not just about the specific applicant – we want to provide that flexibility – but we have to consider the broader impacts to the community."

Question: Ok, so why does it always seem take so long to get an answer?

CN: "Compared to other municipalities, we are quite quick. But there are also regulations that we have to abide by, such as:

  • When we get an application we have 40 days, once it is deemed complete (everything submitted correctly) to review and make a decision on the application,
    • This time period can be extended for more complex applications if both parties agree;
  • There is a 3 week mandatory provincially legislated appeal period.
    • During this appeal period, affected parties (typically stakeholders that are adjacent to the proposed development) can appeal the decision of the Development Authority;
  • Providing the opportunity for impacted people to appeal, can provide lengthy delays as well.

Question: What can I do as an applicant to make this process as smooth and fast as possible?

CG: "Ideally what speeds up the process the most is coming in with a proposal that meets all the Land Use Bylaw (LUB), statutory plan requirements and then submit all the materials that are required in the application. If it conforms to the provisions in place, then the approval process is relatively straightforward. However, it’s where variances from the standards occur, or there is much more of a discretionary proposal, this is where there will be some back and forth discussions. If the applicant is willing to work with the municipality, and discuss the development, then things can move much quicker; notwithstanding there are set standards and processes for fairness to the applicant and anyone who has concerns (legislated). The understanding is that everyone is given a fair standing in the process."

MG: "As staff members we are a delegated authority to implement Council's adopted plans and policies, including and not limited to the Municipal Development Plan (MDP), Land Use Bylaw (LUB), etc. There is some latitude built into these that allow us some discretion, but we have to ensure that we are meeting the intent of each document – so if we are pushing back on a proposal that doesn’t meet these requirements, it’s because we are trying to work within the confines of these plans, and we don’t have the authority to completely go against them. So, we can often find a solution, as long as there isn’t too much deviation from these plans."

CG: "To take that one step further – planners in general, and any of those bound by our framework and regulation, are always balancing public good vs. private interest. We cannot in good conscience just move forward with something that is benefitting a private developer if it conflicts with a matter of public interest. With the understanding that one or two adjacent landowners being upset about a development doesn’t necessarily equate to the public interest."

CN: "Engage with the Town as early as possible in the process. In larger markets, it is quite common for large developers to have planning consultants – who can help guide the developer through the myriad of rules and regulations that need to be navigated. This isn’t the reality in Okotoks yet, as we are quite small and nimble, but engaging the Town as early as possible and working to understand the planning and regulatory framework will assist you in moving your project forward."

CG: "All of this is project dependent. Every project is different, and that is why we are here – to help! If you have questions or concerns, then get in contact with us early. We are here to help guide you through this process. We start to have major challenges and delays when applicants are unwilling to work with Town staff in helping to move your project along within the guidelines and framework that guides the growth of the Town. We aren’t here to make everyone’s life difficult. Really, we are here to scrutinize and ensure that development happens in accordance with the Town’s planning framework.”

Question: Alright, so final question: what’s with all of the acronyms?

CN: "ASP, MDP, LUB, DP, BP… it’s because the full names are such mouthfuls! The terms tend to have too many words, so we just shorten them. It’s so common in planning that we call it plain language – It’s our attempt to make explaining planning items as easy as possible for the public.


About Okotoks Planners

Colin Gainer (Senior Planner), Colton Nickel (Development Planner) and Michelle Grenwich (Planner) are part of the Community Investment, Growth and Sustainability (CIGS) team at the Town of Okotoks. As part of the CIGS teams, they work collaboratively with other business centres, including Economic Development, to help grow the Town and bring development to fruition.

Did you find this article helpful?

Are there other questions you would like the planners to answer?

The Town would love to hear from you! Send us your question!


Temporary Patio Program expands to all businesses in Okotoks

OKOTOKS, AB – Okotoks Town Council approved an amendment to the Temporary Patio Program at the regular meeting held on April 26 expanding the potential for businesses throughout Okotoks to create temporary outdoor patios.

“This amendment offers businesses outside central business and mixed-use districts the opportunity to use their parking and outdoor public areas for temporary patios, ensuring all businesses now have the opportunity to apply for the patio program,” says Mayor Bill Robertson.

Note: The province requires all patios to close for the next three weeks, but we are still accepting applications so that when the lockdown is lifted, Okotoks patios can hit the ground running!

Also, businesses offering fitness and retail services can also apply for the program.

Learn more and apply

Water portal contest - to play, sign up to the Okotoks water portal!

Did you know: a toilet that leaks non-stop for just three days can add an extra $60 to your utility bill? Did you know you have a tool at your finger tips to help avoid sneaky and expensive water leaks like this at home?

Okotoks homes and businesses, you can access your online water meter portal anytime to monitor your water consumption.

Sign up for your online water meter portal by June 14th for a chance to win a $100 gift card to any Okotoks business of your choice!

Please help share this news to your contacts.

We will take a draw from the list of new sign-ups and announce one winner every week for the next six weeks. Draw dates are: May 10; May 17; May 24; May 31; June 7; June 14

Learn more and sign up

Upcoming Events

Intellectual property 101 - how to protect your business ideas (May 25, 11am)

Join Lawson Lundell LLP in discussing and learning what small businesses and entrepreneurs need to know about Intellectual Property (IP) - trademarks, copyrights and patents. We'll discuss:

  • Your business strategy and IP
  • When should you be thinking about your IP?
  • Who has the rights to IP?
  • Where should you protect your IP?
  • What is a trademark, copyright and patent?
  • What are common mistakes that entrepreneurs and small business owners make?

Register for the event

Canadian buying trends & the marketing opportunities they bring (May 11, 12pm)

Join Kathy Levinski, our subject matter expert, as she walks us through finding and keeping more of your ideal customers in this free online webinar.

With Kathy we will:

  • Confirm who your customers currently are and what they are doing right now
  • Dive into the four steps of finding and keeping your ideal customers - Analysis, Acquisition, Remarketing and Retention
  • Take a deeper dive into the programmatic

Register for the event

Business Advocacy Committee Meeting (May 16, 9:30am)

Join the Okotoks Chamber of Commerce on the third Tuesday of every month as we discuss municipal, provincial and federal issues that are impacting business.

The Okotoks Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to bringing businesses together in our community.

Register for the event

Business Foundation Series: Business Model Canvas (May 18, 10:30am)

Ever wondered what it takes to get a business off the ground?

Learn how to utilize the Business Model Canvas to develop your idea or transform an existing one. In this workshop, you will learn how to use this visual chart to describe, design, challenge and pivot your business model.

Event details

Are you organizing an event or webinar that you want to share with the public?

If your business is in Okotoks, we can help you spread the word. Submit your event through our website and we will make it visible to our website visitors.

Submit an Event

New Business Listings

The Town of Okotoks is thrilled to welcome the following new businesses to Town:


  • Hear Right Canada Okotoks - Hearing aids retail
  • Helix Piercing - Body piercing, jewelry & aftercare sales - located in Prairie Tattoo
  • The Shoe Company - Retail store footwear & accessories


  • 22 Clover Exteriors Ltd - Supply and install siding, decks, doors
  • Atmostsphere Developments Inc - Residential & commercial general contractor
  • Lavallee Hardwood Floors - Hardwood floor services, installation, refinishing & repairs
  • Liz Andrews Photography - Photographer
  • Matco Contractors - General contractor - decks & fences
  • Mj Safety Support Service - Health and safety work place training, dealing with worksite safety
  • Mountain Ash Wellness - Massage therapy
  • Pronghorn Expedition Vehicles Inc. - Assembly of camper kits for slide in trucks
  • Pure Beauty By Peggy - Spa services - cool sculpting & botox
  • Renae's Food For Thought - Nutrition wellness consulting, meal planning, nutrition coaching

You can find more information on these new businesses as well as many others at our online business directory.

Online business directory

Business support programs

Apply to receive the Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit

Funding for small- and medium-sized businesses, co-ops and non-profits impacted by COVID-19 to offset a portion of their costs.

Application intake for the Small and Medium Enterprise has launched for Spring 2021. Payment opened April 23.

  • Organizations that did not apply under the previous run of SMERG will not be able to apply for the prior payments – only the new $10,000 payment.
  • Applications received before the previous program closure on March 31 will continue to be processed.

Learn more and apply

HeadStrong supports mental health - take the survey

As we navigate through this unchartered water of the pandemic, HeadStrong is continuously looking for ways to improve and connect with the community.

HeadStrong now has expanded offerings to include company teams. This could be a team of two or a team of 100. The goal is to ensure our local companies are well equipped in supporting mental health and wellness throughout the company.

Please help complete this anonymous survey about mental health to help HeadStrong better serve the Alberta community at large. Link to survey

About HeadStrong

Save money on water bills. Xeriscape your yard and apply for a rebate

Xeriscaping involves landscaping a large area with plants that are appropriate to dry climates and providing healthy growing conditions. Xeriscaping creates an environmentally friendly and beautiful landscape that can be maintained with little or no supplementary watering.

The Town offers rebates for businesses that choose xeriscaping. Besides the advantage of having to pay less on water bills, businesses can can receive a 50 percent rebate to a maximum of $200, on a selection of 65 drought-tolerant perennials, shrubs and trees, and receive up to $3,000 towards the cost of xeriscape landscaping projects.

Learn more and apply

Check out the more comprehensive listing of support resources available to Okotoks businesses.

COVID-19 Business Resources

Monthly Polling

Do you believe there is enough public and private parking in downtown Okotoks?

Previous poll results

We asked: “Have you accessed support from the provincial/federal government to help your business during COVID?”

Answers: 13

Yes: 3 (23%)

No: 10 (77%)

Kindness Currency

Say hello to Kindness Currency recipient, The Johnston family!

Nominated for their efforts to help strengthen their connections with their neighbours and building community spirit, the children enjoy creating and delivering thoughtful surprises to those around them such as boxes filled with treats, photos and kind letters. Lyla found a new way to keep in touch with other neighborhood children by becoming pen pals and exchanging hand written letters. Abigail loves to create cards for others.

Thank you for your ongoing support for your community and helping to make #OkotoksStrongerTogether! Read about The Johnston family and nominate someone you know for Kindness Currency.

Learn more about Kindness Currency

Town Information

Council meetings
COVID-19 updates
Business Events

Connect with Us!

Enjoy the Economic Development Newsletter? Have ideas or suggestions for improvement? Have an event or information you would like to have included?

The Town would love to hear from you! Connect with us!