The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal recently confirmed in Hope v. Parkdale (Rural Municipality #498), 2016 SKCA 19, that pursuant to The Planning and Development Act, 2007, ss 2007, c P-13.2 (“the P&D Act“), appeals of certain matters must be brought before the Saskatchewan Municipal Board and not the courts.  This determination by the Court of Appeal will provide comfort to municipalities because it ensures a level of certainty and efficiency for appeals of decisions made by municipalities.

The facts in the case relate to a claim initiated by Kevin and Fay Hope (the “Hopes“) over $5,040 in service fees imposed by the R.M. of Parkdale (the “RM“) in connection with property the Hopes were sub-dividing and developing at Turtle Lake. The Hopes disagreed with the fees imposed by the R.M. under a service agreement and launched a claim for unjust enrichment in small claims court. They were unsuccessful as small claims court found it had no jurisdiction to deal with the matter. The Hopes then appealed the matter to the Court of Queen’s Bench, where they were also unsuccessful.  Finally, the Hopes appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal looked at the particulars of ss.172 and 176 of the P&D Act. Those sections give authority to municipalities to require a subdivision applicant to enter a servicing agreement to provide services and facilities that directly or indirectly serve the subdivision and they also set out the scheme for an applicant or landowner to appeal the decision made by a municipality. S. 176 further provides the appeal period is 30 days after the date of the council’s written request and states that appeals are to be made to the Saskatchewan Municipal Board.

In reviewing these provisions, the Court of Appeal succinctly determined that applicants and owners could onlyseek relief in front of the Saskatchewan Municipal Board. The Court found that the legislation was clear and any other result would substantially undercut the P&D Act‘s objectives.

The Court of Appeal then went on to elaborate what it viewed as the intent of the Legislature, at paragraph 25 of its decision, and in so doing set out exactly what this case means for municipalities on a go forward basis:

It seems apparent that the Legislature was intent on investing a single tribunal, the Municipal Board, with the authority to hear and determine disputes specified aspects of disagreements arising from the servicing agreements. …Presumably the Legislature also contemplated that routing service fees to the Municipal Board would result in a faster and less expensive decision-making process than if such matters were handled by the way of regular litigation in the courts. Further, by requiring that appeals concerning service fees be commenced within 30 days of a municipality’s request for payment as per s. 176(1), it also seems clear that the Legislature was attempting to both ensure disputes involving such fees did not linger unresolved and to prevent municipalities from being plagued by long-discovered potential liabilities on this front.

Municipalities, including R.M.s, should find comfort in this decision by the Court of Appeal. It brings a level of certainty to the role of the Municipal Board. Furthermore, municipalities will not be forced to incur the significant legal costs that result from defending multiple appeals in the courts.