Do I need a permit for my project?

Planning regulations apply to most construction or projects in our region. It is consequently best to assume that you will require a permit before beginning any work. The Urban Planning building inspectors are there to support you from start to end of your project to ensure that it meets current legal requirements.


What is a building permit?

A building permit is legal authorization to proceed with building construction, additions or renovations in keeping with the approved specifications. Permits are issued by the NWRSC, which is responsible for providing this legal authorization.


Who is responsible for getting a building permit?

As the owner, you are responsible for obtaining the necessary building permit for your project. In cases where the applicant is not the owner, applicants are responsible for ensuring that they are authorized to apply for a building permit.


Why do I need a building permit?

A building permit is the best way to protect your investment. Your permit gives you access to the professional assistance provided by the NWRSC staff – from design through on-site construction – to help avoid any potential problems.


The purpose of a building permit is to protect the health and safety of the general public, your neighbours and your family. The permit application allows NWRSC staff to review your project before you proceed in order to ensure that it complies with the National Building Code as well as planning and zoning provisions.


What types of projects require a building permit?

Generally, a permit is required for the construction of any new building or, in the case of an existing building, most repairs, modifications or additions.


A building permit is also required for work relating to structures such as storage sheds, garages, pools, fences, patios, pergolas, retaining walls, etc.


Certain exceptions exist that vary from one municipality to the next. Please contact your building inspector to confirm whether you need a permit.


A permit is also required for any changes to the use of a building signage, relocation, repairs or demolition. Any type of earthwork such as filling, excavating or riverbank stabilization is also subject to a building permit.


What would happen if I did work without a permit?

It is illegal to begin building without a permit. You may not proceed with any type of construction, modification, conversion or demolition before obtaining a permit.


Work carried out without a permit may not comply with National Building Code standards, resulting in faulty construction. A non-compliant building may be impossible to insure or finance. You could even face legal action to enforce your compliance with standards.


Are any other permits required?

Your project may require additional approvals. The building inspector can assist you with the application process for any other applicable permits.


Always consult Professionals… The Madawaska Planning Commission encourages you to always use the services of architects and technicians, even for small-scale projects. Their professional advice can help you avoid unpleasant surprises or budget overruns.


Before you start work

Almost any construction project requires sound planning to ensure that it meets your objectives, budget and deadline. One of the most important steps in planning is to meet with an planner, who can guide you through determining:

  • The type of construction (e.g., one or two dwellings) and applicable standards (zoning)
  • Any specific constraints (watercourses, soil constraints, easements, etc.)
  • Whether the lot is large enough (dimensions of setbacks, building, lot, other structures, parking lot, etc.)


This simple meeting will help you ensure that your project is headed in the right direction and plan future projects, thereby minimizing the risk of errors and long and costly proceedings.


Documents required for permit application

  • Owner’s identification
  • Site identification (property deed)
  • Description of work
  • Estimated cost
  • Anticipated start date
  • Time required for completion


What is the cost of a building permit?

Costs are determined based on the project type and may vary depending on the community and the applicable by-laws. Please refer to fact sheet “4- Rates – Permits and Services” for more information.


How long does it take to get a permit?

Permits are issued only after all requirements have been met. An application for a new residence takes 5 to 10 business days to process after we have received all the necessary information. Submitting all the proper documents, may accelerate the processing time. Please contact us at the Planning Commission at any time if you have any questions while your documents.


How long do I have to complete my project?

A building permit expires one (1) year after the date of issue. In some cases, a permit may be renewed for a modest fee. Keep in mind that any amendments made to by-laws during the course of your project could make it non-compliant.



Our team is here to serve you!


Please do not hesitate to call us at (506) 735-2126.


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Variance application


What is a variance?

Variances are exceptions made to current laws which can apply in certain cases if specific criteria are met. For example, a variance is required to obtain a building permit for construction, renovation or modification work that does not meet zoning requirements.


Types of variances

1- Proposed use of land that would not be permitted otherwise under the zoning by-law

No list of permitted uses can take into account every possible situation. The law consequently provides for the authority to recognize a use as comparable or compatible if it maintains the general intent of a particular designation. For example, a property owner might propose establishing a seniors’ home in an “Institutional 1” zone although this specific use was not provided for in the zoning by-law. This use could be allowed if it maintains the intent prescribed for the zone in question.


2- Any reasonable exemption to the provisions of the zoning by-law

A zoning by-law sets out the minimum standards in relation to building setback from property lines, building height, the percentage of a lot occupied by a building, the required number of parking spaces, etc.


For example, the minimum distance to be maintained between a property line and a building (minimum lateral setback) for a single-family dwelling might be 1.2 meters. If an applicant has only 0.5 meters due to a steep slope or the presence of trees, the Commission could consider granting a minor variance.


Steps in applying for a variance

1- Application

  1. Submit a written application to a Madawaska Planning Commission development officer.
  2. Present a scaled and detailed site plan of the project.
  3. Pay the required fee (see fact sheet “4- Rates – Permits and Services”).


2- Review of application

  1. The Commission staff study the application and makes a recommendation for the commissioners.
  2. The application is entered into the agenda of the Commission’s next meeting, the deadline for which is the last business day of the preceding month.


Variance applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis since every project is unique.


The commissioners meet once a month, usually on the third Wednesday. If, for example, an application is filed on the second Tuesday of a given month, it is then heard on the third Wednesday of the following month.


3- Notification

  1. Notice advising of the application’s content is sent out to all neighbouring property owners located within either 60 meters or 100 meters, depending on the nature of services (public or private).


 4- Hearing

  1. The applicant is invited to present his application and associated arguments before the commissioners.


5- Decision

  1. The commissioners are permitted to rule on the application only as presented to them. They may refuse the application, approve the application or approve the application subject to certain conditions.
  2. Written notice of the commissioners’ decision is forwarded to the applicant within five days following the meeting. The applicant may also telephone the day after the meeting to find out the results.
  3. Conditions may be imposed. For example, the commissioners may require that the applicant erect a vegetation screen (hedge) or fence along a lateral property line subject to the variance.
  4. Should the commissioners rule that more information is needed, they may also postpone their decision until a future meeting.
  5. Applicants who disagree with a decision of the Planning Commission may file an appeal with the New Brunswick Assessment and Planning Appeal Board.



Decisions concerning variance applications are based on section 35 of the Community Planning Act, along with subsections 77(2.4) applicable to rural plans and subsection 46(1) and paragraph 77(8)b) to subdivision. These provisions authorize the Commission to allow reasonable variances to the by-law requirements. Decisions may be subject to conditions.


Commissioners… The Madawaska Planning Commission has 16 members representing the region’s various municipalities and local service districts who oversee the Commission’s staff. The members meet at least once a month in the Commission boardroom located at 36 Court Street in Edmundston.



In making an informed decision, the staff and commissioners consider the following arguments as recognized in the Act:

  • The variance should be minor in nature (in terms of its description, effects or scope).
  • The variance must comply with the principles of the municipal or rural plan.
  • The land (property) must present special or different circumstances compared to nearby properties.
  • Measures must be taken to avoid and mitigate any adverse impact of the variance.
  • The variance granted should not jeopardize public health or safety or cause damage to adjacent land or property.
  • The anticipated use should not compromise the intent of permitted uses in the zone to the point of being deemed non-compliant.
  • The applicant must demonstrate suffering of serious harm due to enforcement of the zoning regulations.
  • The variance must not infringe on the enjoyment by neighbouring property owners of their property rights.


Duration of variance

There is no specific standard dictating the duration of a variance. This should not be interpreted as meaning that variances are granted permanently. Amendment of zoning by-laws or the municipal or rural plan could result in modification of land use standards, requiring reapplication.


The Planning Commission may also, under certain circumstances, impose a time limit for completing the applicable work.


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New residential construction


By its setting, shape, color, and exterior finish, every new house participates in defining the composition of our region’s landscape.


1- Choosing a lot

Choosing a lot is very important. This significant lifestyle decision must not only meet your current needs but also accommodate your future expectations. Find out about any applicable development constraints and the type of soils on your lot. It is your responsibility as future owner to verify whether your project can be done. You may also want to get information on siting limitations in your area  or other issues such as the position of the building in relation to public streets, property boundaries and if other structures are permitted on the lot.


Find out about other projects in the neighbourhood as well as easements, water supply and septic system requirements. Take note of your potential home’s exposure to the sun, access (road quality), proximity to public amenities (parks, biking trails, various services), natural risks (flooding, wetlands), soil type (landfill), topography  and the shape of the lot. Make sure the lot you choose can be serviced directly through public access.


Contacting the Madawaska Planning Commission for assistance will help you to determine any obligations towards the property on which you want to build on.


2- Planning the use of your property

After deciding on a parcel of land, you need to determine how your property will be used and where to position your residence. The setting of the building will determine how it should be constructed.


Adapting to the environment

Your construction may vary depending on where you position your residence. It is important to carefully compare neighbouring properties in order to identify any similarities, the natural environment around them, the building materials used, lot sizes and natural features. It is up to you to determine how your home will blend into the neighbourhood and which elements of your design will integrate with the rest.


Where to build

The tradition of placing a house in the middle of a lot can make it difficult to use the leftover space around the structure effectively. Building your house closer to a property line opens up more space for an interior yard. Responsible owners would identify the greatest assets of their property (vegetation, topography, trees, views, etc.) and take steps to make the most of these. Don’t forget to take into account possible future additions (garage, bedrooms, patio, pool) in order to maximize your property’s potential.


Choose the right model…

Your future home’s immediate surroundings will guide you in considering possible models. The terrain, vegetation, neighbouring residences, sun exposure, prevailing winds and historical character of the neighbourhood will influence your budget in terms of architectural choices, size (height, width, depth), openings (doors and windows) and the location of living spaces.


A garage built on the north side serves as a barrier against the cold and wind, while south-facing glass windows bring extra heat and light into living spaces. In addition, incorporating construction elements resembling those of surrounding dwellings helps to maintain a sense of uniformity that enhances the neighbourhood in which you’ll be living.


… and the right materials.

To help your home fit naturally into its surroundings, it is recommended to incorporate materials that have been used on traditional homes in your area (typically wood siding or shingles) or to substitute similar materials closely resembling these traditional materials in style, colour and texture.


3- Developing your property

The environment that you create around your residence contributes as much to your home’s value as the structure itself.


Clear only the land that you need to build the house on in order to preserve as many trees and other plants as possible. Plant leafy trees to the south and conifers to the north. Choosing species that are native to the area increases your success rate and helps keep maintenance to a minimum.


Consider limited usage of waterproof surfaces (pavement or cement), keeping in mind that these types of materials are also the most expensive to install. Ensure that water runs off away from your home without causing harm to neighbouring properties.


4- How do I get a permit?

Consult fact sheet “1- Do I Need a Permit for My Project?”or contact a Madawaska Planning Commission building inspector for more information.


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New commercial use


Are you considering:

  • Opening a new place of business
  • Adding a use to an existing business
  • Changing  the use of an existing business
  • Converting part of your residence to run a business from your home?


Before you proceed, you need to make sure that your project complies with municipal regulations, the National Building Code and any other applicable legislation. A meeting with a Madawaska Planning Commission development officer will help steer your project in the right direction, identify development opportunities, avoid unpleasant surprises and speed up the processing of your application.


Choosing a location

When you are choosing a particular business, you are also choosing your clientele and market. It is important to ensure that your location has sufficient accessibility for your target clients. Lower rent very often also means lower potential sales, and you should aim for maximum visibility as a result. Keep your eyes open as there are many opportunities in our region.


Developing your site

Commercial uses must maintain National Building Code standards. You will learn more about these standards as you go through the permit application process. Aesthetics are also very important. The corporate image you project makes your customers either want to do business with you or move on to the next place. We are here to help. Consider also calling upon the services of professionals in corporate imaging, marketing and interior design.



Depending on the intended use, the by-laws establish ratios of the minimum number of parking spaces to the surface area used by the business. A development officer can advise you on this. Be sure to set aside enough space for landscaping. Greenery is a value-added feature that brings in business.



A permit is required for the installation of all commercial signs.


Bigger does not necessarily mean better when it comes to signage. Standards have been established by sector to promote effective commercial signage and help to avoid confusion created by signs that are too large, too “busy” or poorly designed.


The purpose of a sign is to encourage clients to enter your establishment, not list your entire inventory! Your sign should indicate the bare essentials: your logo, the name of your business and what you do.



Your sign should be simple, original and invite people to enter your establishment. Which of the signs above achieves this? Aim for readability. Avoid background images, which can make it difficult to see the text on your sign. Do not hesitate to call upon the services of professionals when developing your corporate image, especially signage.


To apply for a permit, you need to provide the following information:

  • name, address and telephone number of the proponent, that is, the owner or other authorized person
  • cadastral information or civic address of the building
  • current use of the building
  • proposed use of the building
  • description of anticipated work along with plans (if applicable)
  • drawing showing layout, quantity and size of parking spaces
  • corporate name
  • surface area to be occupied by proposed use
  • sketch of proposed signage (content and size).


Before opening, you must:

  • obtain the building permit
  • develop the required parking spaces
  • obtain a commercial signage permit.


Setting up an office or business in your residence

The by-laws set out a list of business activities that people are allowed to carry out from a residence. You also need to apply for a development permit and maintain certain standards, such as:

  • maximum area occupied by the activity
  • required number of parking spaces
  • number of employees
  • exterior signage.


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Accessory buildings (garage, shed, storage building)

documentA permit is required to build, enlarge, set up, renovate, demolish or move a garage, shed or storage building.



To be considered accessory, the building must be used solely as natural extension or incidental to the main use (see by-law). A garage must be built and used at all times for parking or storage of motor vehicles or other items complementary to the main use.


Surface area of accessory buildings

Surface area may not exceed the lowest of:

  • 90 square meters (up to 112 square metres in unserviced areas)
  • 8% of the lot’s total surface area
  • 75% of the net floor area of the main building.


In addition, the surface area of all detached accessory buildings may not exceed 10% of the lot’s total area (does not apply in Edmundston).


The maximum surface area of an accessory building must be in keeping with its intended use, that is, ancillary to the property’s primary use. The building must blend into the property and neighbourhood in which its construction is proposed. It should be in relation with the property (surface area, land use) and the main building (surface area, height, roof pitch and exterior).


Number of accessory buildings permitted

Depending of the zoning regulation, the number of accessory buildings permitted varies from one municipality to the next. For example, while there is no maximum number in Edmundston, the Village of Clair does not allow more than two such buildings per lot. Please check with the Planning Commission staff to confirm which regulation applies to your area.



An accessory building must be placed:

  • In a back or side yard
  • Outside of public utility easements (electricity, cable, telephone, pipes, etc.)
  • At least 1.2 meters (4 feet) from the rear and side property lines
  • At least 2 meters away from any other building.


An accessory building may not be erected in a front yard or within a regulated setback.


Maximum height

5 meters or 75% of the height of the main building.


Documents required for application

To install a detached garage, your application must include the following documents:

  • Plan showing the location of the building on the property in relation to other buildings
  • Sketch of the proposed building
  • List of materials
  • Wall sections
  • Sketch of the truss layout.


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Swimming pools


Outdoor pools that are left unenclosed and unsupervised pose a hazard to young children. In the interest of preventing senseless tragedy, it is therefore important to follow the regulatory requirements governing their installation.


Permit required

Installation of any reservoir used for bathing purposes and having a depth of at least 0.6 meters (2 feet) requires a permit. An application form may be completed online or in person with the assistance of a Madawaska Planning Commission development officer.



  • In the back or side yard or at a distance equivalent to the front setback of the existing main building
  • At least 2 meters away from the rear and side property lines, not necessarily including enclosures
  • It is prohibited to install a pool directly below overhead electrical power lines.


document-2Fence, enclosure and access

The owner of the outdoor pool must erect and maintain around it an enclosure, which may be formed in part by a building or other structural wall, according to the following dimensions:

  • minimum height of 1.5 meters (5 feet)
  • maximum height of 2.5 meters (8 feet 2 inches)
  • minimum distance of 1 meter from the water in the pool.


In the case of an above-ground or semi-in-ground pool, the enclosure may be erected either around it or directly on its edge as long as the prescribed heights are maintained.


Hot tubs (spas)

Installation of a hot tub does not require a permit. However, as an accessory structure, its installation must respect the regulated setbacks applicable in the zone where it is to be installed.


Surface area

Swimming pools are excluded from lot occupancy standards for the area of the lot and the percentage of the area occupied by accessory structures.


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Seasonal car shelters


documentIs a permit required?

It is not necessary to obtain a permit for erecting a seasonal car shelter.



Use of seasonal shelters is permitted between October 15 and May 15 of the following year.



  • At least 1.5 meters from all property lines
  • On a corner lot, must not obstruct the visibility triangle at the street intersection
  • May be erected only on properties containing a main building.


Number of shelters

There is no maximum number of permitted shelters.


Structure and covering

The covering must be of a solid colour.


Seasonal car shelters that maintain the installation standards for accessory buildings may be left in place permanently.


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documentWhat is subdivision?

Subdivision is the division of one parcel of land into two or more parcels.


Who applies for this?

The property owner or an authorized agent (lawyer, land surveyor, etc.) are the only parties who can file a subdivision application.


Application procedures

To make a subdivision within the  Madawaska Planning District, you must obtain approval from the development officer and, in some cases, a municipal council or the Minister of Transportation. The development officer determines whether the proposed subdivision complies with the Community Planning Act, a rural or municipal plan, zoning and subdivision by-laws. These regulatory documents ensure that the proposed manner of subdividing will not cause prejudice to the possibility of further subdividing the land and insures the convenient subdividing of adjoining properties.


Before submitting a subdivision application, it is recommended to discuss the proposed subdivision with a development officer of the Commission to determine if there are other plans, policies or requirements currently in place, that may affect the approval process.


Two types of subdivision applications may be filed:


Type 1 subdivision

A type 1 subdivision consists mainly of subdividing one or more parcels not involving the subdivision of public-utilities, a private access or land designated for future and/or public streets. This application requires approval from a development officer.


Type 2 subdivision

A type 2 subdivision involves the subdivision of public utilities  a private access or land designated for future and/or public streets. This application requires approval from a development officer, a recommendation from the Planning Commission and approval from the appropriate municipal council or the Minister of Transportation.



Anyone seeking to propose a subdivision must submit an application along with the tentative plan to the Planning Commission office. Please consult fact sheet “4- Rates – Permits and Services” for more information on the various fees.



After compiling all required information including the tentative subdivision plan, you may file an application with the Planning Commission. The tentative plan must indicate the following elements on the property on which the subdivision will be located as well as the adjacent properties:

  • name of the proposed subdivision
  • layout of the proposed lots and their surface areas
  • subdivision boundaries
  • setbacks in relation to existing buildings
  • proposed use of the lots
  • natural and artificial features (watercourses, marshes, railways, roads, etc.)



Subdivision plan

Review of application

Tentative subdivision applications are reviewed by the development officer and any other entities involved in the subdivision approval process to determine whether the proposed subdivision conforms to the rural or municipal plan, zoning and subdivision by-laws, provincial policies and the provincial legislation. Other aspects are also studied; such as slopes, soil quality, safety to a public access, lot servicing and the use of neighbouring properties.


In the event that the application complies with all applicable standards, the development officer advises the proponent to proceed with drawing up a final subdivision plan. If an application does not meet current standards or requires an approval from a municipal council (section 56 of the Community Planning Act), then the application is brought before the Planning Commission for review and recommandation.


The Planning Commission studies the application along with the accompanying staff recommendation and any neighbourhood feedback. The owner or agent may also make a presentation to the meeting to explain the application. At this meeting, the Commission must either approve the application, approve subject to conditions or refuse it.


If the subdivision application is refused, the proponent has the right to appeal the decision to the New Brunswick Assessment and Planning Appeal Board. The appeal must be filed within 60 days of the decision.



If the application is approved, the proponent must meet all the conditions if any were required. The final subdivision plan must be stamped by the development officer before being flied at the registry office.


Assent from municipal council / Minister of Transportation

If the subdivision involves transferring land to a municipality or the Department of Transportation, whether for construction of streets (or part of a street) or land for public use (green space), the plans must receive assent from the municipal council or, for local service districts, the Minister of Transportation. After the tentative plan has been approved and the municipal council/Minister of Transportation has given assent, the development officer may stamp the final plans so that they can be registered.



After a development officer has stamped the plans, the proponent must register the plans with the registry office within one year.


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Residential additions



All additions must comply with regulatory standards governing distances to be maintained from property lines. These standards may vary from one municipality to the next or from one type of zoning to the other. It is recommended that you consult a development officer for more information.


The by-laws also provide for encroachments (or projections) associated with certain construction projects, such as window sills, chimneys, cornices, awnings and escape ladders.


Other structures may be constructed within regulated setbacks as long as they remain unenclosed. These include stairs, porches, patios, terraces and access ramps.



The National Building Code distinguishes between the various rooms in a residence depending on their primary function. In other words, the standards governing construction of a bedroom are different from those applicable to a living room. This is based on safety concerns.


Be sure to meet with a building inspector before proceeding with any project in order to avoid unpleasant surprises.


Required documents

If you are planning an addition to your residence, you must present the following documents when applying for your permit:

  • Site plan
  • plan of proposed addition
  • Details on wall composition
  • Any other relevant construction details


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