As we begin our 125th year, the MLA has decided to update
its mission descriptor as follows:
Accordingly, our Save Muskoka Campaign, launched in the fall of 2017,
will now carry a new related name and logo.
Increasingly, the MLA’s work is being focused on protecting Muskoka for generations to come.
We don’t see that letting up any time soon. We hope you like the change !
The MLA has been concerned about the new threat to Muskoka’s natural waterfront and the proposal by the District of Muskoka to allow resorts to build urban-style residential developments. We have been reporting on this issue to our MLA members since January 2017.
Such proposals contradict Muskoka’s long record of diverting high-density development away from the waterfront to preserve Muskoka’s unique scenery and water quality. We’re pleased to say this questionable District initiative has been stopped in its tracks. While no one knows how this issue will end, know that the MLA has been active in this fight and will continue to be.
See below for our bullet point summary starting in January of 2017.
Where do we stand today and how did we get here?
Update on the District’s new Official Plan (OPA 47)
The District Official Plan guides development on all lands within the District and establishes an upper tier policy framework that provides guidance to the local area municipal Official Plans. Policies within the Official Plan will apply until 2038 but can be reviewed again as early as 2023 if required. On July 19th, District Planning Committee unanimously approved the final draft of Official Plan Amendment 47, which is the culmination of the Official Plan Review including the Lake System Health policies but excluding the Resort and Resort Village of Minett policies. OPA 47 will now be presented at the August 13th District Council meeting for adoption. After Council has adopted OPA 47, it will be submitted for approval to the Province; as the Province is the final approval authority.
TML Mayor Don Furniss suggested that prior to council adoption, that District takes this opportunity to make the corrections to Resort Village of Minett policies as prescribed by the 2009 OMB hearing decision. Samantha Hastings, District Commissioner of Planning, replied that these policies are the responsibility of the lower municipality; i.e. Township of Muskoka Lakes. And further that the Resort Village of Minett policies will be reviewed by the new joint TML/District Minett Policy Review Steering Committee. Currently the District is unaware of any mistakes in the District Official Plan re Minett.
The PowerPoint Presentation re OPA 47, which outlines changes in this new OP, can be found here:
The MLA applauds the District for allowing the contentious Resort Village of Minett policies to be reviewed in depth by a special steering committee.
In our May issue of NewsBites, the MLA was pleased to report that TML council had voted 8 to 2 in favour of an Interim Control By-law (ICB) for the Resort Village of Minett. This by-law puts a pause on development for the entire area of Minett in order to take some time to review and update studies, upon which site specific policies will be based. However, at this month’s June 15th council meeting, Councillor Jean-Ann Baranik requested council to reconsider the Interim Control By-law. After several delegations in support of retention of the by-law were heard, and in front of a very well attended crowd, council voted 7 to 3 in favour of retaining the Interim Control By-law. Council reiterated that proceeding with the studies was also important. Only Mayor Don Furniss and councillors Jean-Ann Baranik and Terry Ledger were opposed. More about this meeting can be found under the TML section below; which includes a link to a local news story detailing this very turbulent meeting.
Once again the MLA, along with the Friends of Muskoka, wish to thank councillors Phil Harding, Allen Edwards, Sandy Currie, Ruth Nishikawa, Donelda Hayes, Gault McTaggart and Linda Barrick-Spearn for doing what is not only in the best interests of the public, but in the best interests of Muskoka’s environment. It was the right thing to do.
District Supports Proposed Work Plan regarding Minett Site Specific Policy Review
On June 21st District’s planning committee voted unanimously to endorse TML and District’s joint proposal to establish a Steering Committee. This committee will prepare a work plan (i.e. time lines and required studies) related to the review of the site specific policies for the Resort Village of Minett. Special Advisor to the District’s CAO, Scot Weeres has agreed to be Project Manager. More information on this project can be found under the TML section of NewsBites. The District staff report can be found here:
The MLA fully supports this proposal and hopes to be invited to sit on the Steering Committee.
Reconsideration to Repeal the Interim Control By-law for Minett Fails
Last month TML council voted 8 to 2 in favour of an Interim Control By-law (ICB) to allow a pause on development in Minett in order to review and update site specific policies for the Resort Village of Minett. At this month’s council meeting Councillor Jean-Ann Baranik requested that council reconsider the by-law with an eye to repealing the entire by-law. This request for reconsideration drew close to 200 hundred people to the June 15th council meeting. The meeting had to be relocated to the Port Carling Community Center in order to accommodate all those in attendance. Councillor Baranik requested more information on the effects of the by-law on property owners in Minett. Councillor Ruth Nishikawa noted that Councillor Baranik might have first spoken to staff about any questions or concerns she might have had, as opposed to a repeal of the entire by-law.
Legal counsel for Legacy Cottages in Minett delegated, requesting council to pass another by-law essentially removing the Legacy lands from the ICB, which would then allow the additional building permits to be issued for Legacy. Delegations from the MLA, Friends of Muskoka, ratepayer Frank Jaglowitz and Royal Muskoka Island Association all requested that the ICB remain in place. It was clear those in attendance were supportive of keeping the ICB as witnessed by their clapping and cheers of those delegates in favour of the ICB. After all the delegations were heard, councillor Terry Ledger asked the Friends of Muskoka what they wanted; i.e. what their vision for the Resort Village of Minett was. President Laurie Thomson stated that they couldn’t answer that until there was an understanding of the environmental impacts of development on Minett. When councillor Ledger pressed the issue, Frank Jaglowitz replied “I’d like to see a vibrant commercial resort that operates as a commercial resort – not a residential development!”
Councillor Phil Harding stated his support for the ICB: “We got it right 30 days ago. It’s just a 12 month process to understand and update studies; studies to fully understand if what is planned is appropriate versus what was thought to be appropriate 12 years ago. TML needs to respect, maintain and enhance our environment – those are our words.” Mayor Furniss, on the other hand, stated “I’m the odd one out on this. You are asking for something that impacts the ‘small’ people. An ICB is redundant and unnecessary.”
The resolution that the ICB for the Resort Village of Minett be reconsidered failed on a recorded vote of 7 to 3, with only Mayor Furniss and councillors Jean-Ann Baranik and Terry Ledger opposed.
The MLA’s delegation /submission can be found here.
A local news article can be found here:
The MLA was extremely pleased that the majority of council did not waiver on their support of the Interim Control By-law. It’s important to get the right policies in place for the Resort Village of Minett as these policies could be precedent setting for future resort commercial properties throughout Muskoka.
Work Plan proposed by TML Director of Planning re Minett Joint Review of OP Policies
Two resolutions were passed by TML Council in January and April of 2018 to conduct an in-depth review of the policies in the District of Muskoka and Township Official Plans related to the Resort Village of Minett, as part of a joint project with the District. The resolution related to the Interim Control By-law directs Township staff to work with District staff to determine how the studies would integrate with the previously requested review of the Minett policies.
David Pink, TML’s Director of Planning, worked closely with District’s planning staff and together they recommended that a Steering Committee be established. This committee, comprised of various stakeholders, will prepare a work plan (i.e. time lines and required studies) related to the review of the site specific policies for the Resort Village of Minett. Scot Weeres, Special Advisor to the District CAO, has agreed to be the Project Manager. The costs for the Project Manager and the Steering Committee Facilitator for the remaining 6 months in 2018 are estimated to be no greater than $85,000. Costs are to be divided equally between TML and the District. This proposal was presented to TML Council on June 15th and council voted unanimously in favour of it.
The full staff report can be found here:
The MLA was pleased that TML council unanimously supported the idea of a Steering Committee.
Recently, a vocal Muskoka group criticized the MLA and the Friends of Muskoka (FOM) for our important work in facilitating the passing of an interim control by-law in the Township of Muskoka Lakes (TML). On Friday June 8th, we released jointly with the FOM, a rebuttal to the misinformation that the group circulated. Our rebuttal was in the form of a letter to TML Council and key staffers, supported by a comfort letter for our position prepared by Goodman’s (retained legal counsel). Continue reading to gain a better understanding of this important issue and the legal underpinnings on our position.
June 8, 2018
The Clerk of the Township of Muskoka P.O. Box 129 1 Bailey St. Port Carling, Ontario Canada P0B 1J0
Attention: Mayor and Councillors of the Township of Muskoka Lakes
Re: Interim Control By-law
Friends of Muskoka and the Muskoka Lakes Association wish to thank you for recognizing the issues requiring immediate attention in the Resort Village of Minett and taking the initiative to pause consideration of development while those issues are addressed. Despite this responsible decision that allows time to conduct the study necessary to make an informed decision on what development is appropriate for this area, we’ve become aware that the Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association (“MRA”) has written you a letter dated June 1, 2018, asking you to reconsider your decision.
When we received a copy of the MRA’s letter, we noted that a number of legal concerns were identified. As a result, we asked our lawyer to review and comment on the letter. A memorandum from our lawyer is attached. You will note that there is no substance to any of the legal concerns raised by the MRA. Our lawyer has concluded that:
1. Notice: Prior notice of an Interim Control By-law resolution is not required under applicable laws to be given and, in fact, is seldom given.
2. Those who already have Building Permits: The ICBL does not prevent those with building permits issued before the passing of the ICBL from constructing or occupying their buildings.
3. Alleged “Disrespect for Process, Acting in an Unethical Manner, a Draconian Bylaw”: ICBLs have been a well-accepted part of the planning regime in Ontario for 35 years; their use has been endorsed by our country’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada.
Your resolution directing study recognizes the serious issues facing the Resort Village of Minett and the need for the Interim Control By-law to prevent new development which may prejudice the recommendations of those studies. It represents a prudent and thoughtful approach to balancing public and private interests. Of course, no changes to the Township’s Official Plan or Zoning Bylaw, as a result of the study, will be permitted without notice as required by the Planning Act.
Since the Official Plan Amendment for the Resort Village of Minett was adopted much has transpired:
- It has recently come to light that the rules regulating Minett are out of step with Council’s requirements. Key policies contained in Official Plan Amendment 34, which are critical to environmental protection and preservation of character, were inadvertently omitted from Official Plan Amendment 40. Notwithstanding the adoption of a new comprehensive zoning bylaw in 2014, at least 16 old site specific bylaws were left in force even though they may not conform with the Official Plan;
- Growth in the Township has been substantially lower than predicted a decade ago. Given that the economic justification for the Resort Village of Minett relied on a much higher growth rate than actually materialized, the assumptions concerning what is appropriate in this area should be revisited;
- Township Council has asked that the District of Muskoka, in its Official Plan Review, specifically review the District Official Plan policies applicable to the Resort Village of Minett; and
- The Province has adopted a new Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) and the Planning Act requires that all decisions affecting planning matters be consistent with the new PPS.
As a result of these changes, the fact that the studies which formed the foundation for the approval of Official Plan Amendment 34 are now a decade old, and the risk that new development may try to go ahead now to circumvent the results of the study, it is prudent and responsible for the Township to take a pause to carefully consider the appropriate policies and zoning provisions for lands within the Resort Village of Minett.
Friends of Muskoka and the Muskoka Lakes Association both welcome the opportunity to assist and support the development of Terms of Reference for the required land use study. As significant residential property taxpayers, our members are interested in seeing this work completed in manner that is as expeditious and cost effective as possible.
The MRA has alleged that the ICBL “will require the Township to undertake and pay for various studies that would normally have been to the account of the developer, but now will be an additional substantial cost to the taxpayer”. This is patently wrong. Council’s resolution clearly provides that it needs a pause to determine what studies need to be done before development approvals, and appropriate terms of reference for those studies. As is currently the case, the Township can then ask that the developer pay for these studies to be done, and can “peer review” the developer’s studies to ensure they aren’t biased.
As representatives of the interests of TML taxpayers, Friends of Muskoka and the Muskoka Lakes Association are prepared to support the Township to ensure that this work is pursued without delay and invite other interested groups to join us in this constructive effort.
Discussions with Developer
Friends of Muskoka has been approached by a representative of the Fowler family developer to enter into discussions regarding their development plans in the Resort Village of Minett. We have indicated that we are willing to meet with them once they provide us with their development application material, in order to go over their plans and make sure we understand what they are proposing. We have told them that we have many questions about how the various developments in Minett will impact the water quality, and boat traffic and safety in Wallace Bay, how these developments will fit in with the natural character of Muskoka, and what the economic impact of these developments will be on the Township and District – which can only be answered once appropriate studies are done. While we agree that an ongoing dialogue is important, no decision should be made concerning any aspect of the Resort Village of Minett until the studies mandated by your resolution have been completed and their recommendations implemented.
Friends of Muskoka Muskoka Lakes Association
TO: Friends of Muskoka June 6, 2018
FROM: Catherine Lyons FILE NO: 172749
SUBJECT: Interim Control By-law
You have asked us to review a letter to the Mayor and Councillors of the Township of Muskoka Lakes dated June 1, 2018 from the Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association. The letter raises some concerns regarding the legality of the Interim Control By-law enacted by the Township on May 18th.
Summary of Conclusions:
The June 1 letter raises concerns regarding requirements for prior notice. The Township’s enactment of the Interim Control By-law is compliant with Planning Act requirements for prior notice.
The June 1st letter advises that the Interim Control By-law “has unnecessarily hurt those who have building permits with construction under way from allowing their developments to be occupied.” This is not the case.
Prior notice is not required by the Statute and is seldom given. Section 38 of the Planning Act sets out the requirements for notice for an Interim Control By-law. Section 38(3) is clear that “no notice or hearing is required prior to the passing of a by-law” under Section 38 (emphasis added).
The June 1st letter contains allegations of bad faith, “blatant disregard” for principles of fairness and “disrespect for process” -all stemming, in the view of the association, from issue of prior notice. Interim Control By-laws have been a part of the planning regime in Ontario for thirty five years. Its intention of Section 38 of the Planning Act is to allow municipalities breathing space when it is desirable and appropriate to review land use policies. Often Interim Control By-laws are enacted when development applications are pending and the legal requirements for notice reflect this intent.
Interim Control By-laws were recommended in the 1977 Report of the Planning Act Review Committee and in the 1979 White Paper on the Planning Act and were first authorized by s.37 of the Planning Act, 1983, S.O. 1983, c. 1 (now s.38). Section 11.12 of the 1977 report states:
A municipal council should be able to control developments on an interim basis when it decides to review or change the existing land use and development policies in a given area. The council may want to do so because it believes it feels it was elected to institute a change in policy, or because it believes circumstances have changed since the zoning was enacted (emphasis added).
The Supreme Court of Canada has commented on the legislative purpose of an Interim Control By-law:
The power to enact an Interim Control By-law has been aptly described as an ‘extraordinary one, typically exercised in a situation where an unforeseen issue arises with the terms of an existing zoning permission, as a means of providing breathing space during which time the municipality may study the problem and determine the appropriate planning policy and controls for dealing with the situation (emphasis added).
Council’s resolution has clearly set out a number of issues which lead to the need for a pause or “breathing space” including the unforeseen omission of key policies in Official Plan Amendment No. 40 – some of which were required in order to ensure OPA 40 conformed with the District’s Official Plan – and including the many circumstances which have changed since the adoption of the Plan. This seems to fall very squarely into the legislative intent regarding the use of the Interim Control By-laws.
Issued Building Permits
As noted above, the June 1st letter advises that the Interim Control By-law “has unnecessarily hurt those who have building permits with construction under way from allowing their developments to be occupied.” The Planning Act is very clear that an Interim Control By-law does not “prevent the erection or use for a purpose prohibited by the Interim Control By-law of any building or structure for which a [building] permit has been issued… prior to the passing” of the Interim Control By-law (emphasis added). Therefore, once a building permit has been issued, there is no restriction as a result of an Interim Control By-law on the occupation of the building provided that the building is used for the purposes for which it was constructed. (See Section 38(8) and Section 34(9)(b) of the Planning Act).
Given that no notice of the enactment of the by-law was required, the resolution of Council falls squarely within the legislative intent, and that there is no interference with completion of construction and occupation of buildings for which building permits were issued prior to the enactment of the Interim Control By-law, it is not at all clear how the Township has been “opened up” to “the potential of lawsuits.”
District Planning Committee Pulls Resort and Minett Policies from Official Plan
Hot on the heels of the Minett breakthrough, District Planning committee voted unanimously on May 24th to move ahead with preparations to adopt a new District Official Plan (OP), with the exclusion of the resort and site specific policies for the ‘Resort Village of Minett’. Over the next two months, District staff will work with TML staff on a work plan and budget regarding the various studies needed for the interim control by-law in Minett, and for the studies related to the resort industry in general. In addition, District Chair John Klinck requested that a special committee of area planners be established to provide input into the final draft of the Official Plan.
This will likely be the last opportunity to have meaningful input into the OP that we will live with for perhaps the next 20 years. If you have concerns or substantive ideas for improvement of the OP, let us know NOW. The clock ticks….
The MLA has provided a number of suggestions regarding the environmental and lake system health policies. We are very pleased to have been asked to join this special committee and look forward to productive discussions.
The Proposed ‘Resort Village of Minett’ goes under the Microscope
INCREDIBLE NEWS!: On Friday, May 18th Township of Muskoka Lakes council voted 8 to 2 in favour of a resolution to re-examine TML’s Official Plan policies and zoning by-laws that apply to the ‘Resort Village of Minett’. More importantly, township council voted 8 to 2 in favour of an Interim Control By-law for all the lands included in the Resort Village of Minett. The Interim Control By-law essentially freezes all development, and halts issuance of building permits in the designated Minett area for a period of one year; with a possible extension to a second year. This pause will allow for a series of much needed comprehensive studies to be completed to ensure that whatever is ultimately built in Minett is respectful of the environment and the character of our Muskoka, and addresses safety concerns associated with overuse of Wallace Bay.
Over the last seven months, the MLA and the Friends of Muskoka have worked together with planners and lawyers in hopes of achieving this very outcome. A special expression of gratitude goes to the MLA’s own planner Anne McCauley for her tireless efforts. We would also like to thank the Friends of Muskoka who have proven that together we are stronger. And of course a huge expression of thanks to Frank Jaglowitz who has personally pushed for more reasonable development in Minett for several years.
The MLA would especially like to thank Township councillors Allen Edwards, Phil Harding, Ruth Nishikawa, Sandy Currie and Donelda Hayes for bringing this to the attention of council and for their ongoing support of these very important actions. Thanks also to councillors Gault McTaggart, Jean-Ann Baranik and Linda Barrick-Spearn for voting in support of the actions. Mayor Don Furniss and Councillor Terry Ledger did not support the resolutions.
A local news article on this issue can be found here:
Friday, May 18th, 2018 was a good day for Muskoka – and for Minett in particular.
By-law 2018 – ___
An Interim Control By-law Pursuant to Section 38 of the Planning Act, R.S.O. 1990
WHEREAS Section 38 of the Planning Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P.13, as amended, provides
that where the Council of a Municipality has directed that a review or study be
undertaken in respect of land use policies in a defined area, the Council may pass an
interim control by-law;
AND WHEREAS the Council of the Corporation of the Township of Muskoka Lakes by
resolution dated May 18, 2018, has directed that a study be undertaken to examine the
land use policies in its Official Plan and zoning provisions applicable to the lands within
the area bounded by a bold line on Schedule “A” to this by-law, which is comprised of
the Resort Village of Minett;
AND WHEREAS Council has directed that an Interim Control By-law applying to the
said lands be enacted immediately in accordance with the provisions of Section 38(1) of
the Planning Act, R.S.O. 1990. c P.13 as amended;
NOW THEREFORE the Council of the Corporation of the Township of Muskoka Lakes
hereby enacts as follows:
1. Notwithstanding the provisions of By-law 2014-14, as amended, and Bylaws 87-175,
87-501, 87-700, 87-712, 87-720, 87-993, 87-1091, 87-1104, 87-1141, 87-1352, 87-
1393, 87-1394, 87-1570, 87-993, 87-1944 and 87-b, within the area bounded by a bold
line shown on Schedule ‘A’, the permitted use of land shall be restricted to the use
lawfully existing on the date of enactment of this By-law. Said existing use shall only be
permitted if it is conducted entirely within a building in existence on the date of the
enactment of this By-law;
2. This by-law shall be in effect from May 18, 2018 to May 17, 2019.
Read a first, second, and third time and passed on __________________________
Boundaries of the Resort Village of Minett
Mayor and Members of Council
Township of Muskoka Lakes
1 Bailey Street, PO Box 129
Port Carling, Ontario P0B 1J0
Dear Mr. Mayor and Members of Council:
Re: Resort Village of Minett
The Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) and Friends of Muskoka have become increasingly alarmed as the errors, omissions and confusion about the intent for the Resort Village of Minett , becomes more apparent.
On April 12, 2018 Council received a report from your Director of Planning which stated that inadvertently some of the policies approved by the OMB in March 2008 were not carried forward and included in the twp new Official Plan as adopted by council March 2009. Some of these were polices that the MLA had fought for and understood as being approved at the time. These polices effect density, steep slope development requirements, shoreline development policy and shoreline buffer policies
These are policies that the MLA believes continue to be of important in ensuring that development in Muskoka is sensitive to the environment and provides for good recreational water quality for all. Yesterday Council heard a presentation from the MLA regarding the results of MLA`s 2017 Water quality testing program, over ten yeans in operation involving over 175 volunteers water, which continues to identify a concern with the water quality in Wallace Bay, Minett.
This Council never approved the Resort Village of Minett OP nor did the previous Council, it was the Council 3 elections ago that put in place Official Plan policies for Minett. It was even further back in history, 1980s and 1990s that much of the zoning for Minett was put in place and has never been reviewed.
In 2014 , the Twp of Muskoka Lakes undertook a comprehensive zoning by-law review Unlike most zoning by-law comprehensive reviews, that review never looked at the numerous site specific zoning by-laws in place on individual properties. The appropriate approach would have been to repeal each by-law and re-enact those that continue to be appropriate. That never happened . In the Resort Village of Minett there are over 16 zoning by-laws that have never been reviewed. Zoning by-laws that are no longer appropriate like the zoning provisions allowing townhouses to be built within a few feet of the shoreline on Red Leaves Marriott property.
It is time to take a pause.
We believe that TML council is as confused as us, about what is expected for Minett.
Before major development takes place, and before Council invests in new roads, new fire halls, and new bridges, it is time to take a pause and determine how Minettt should be developed.
For that purpose, the MLA and the Friends of Muskoka have worked together.
Attached to this email and provided earlier to your Director of Planning is a draft resolution that could be used by Council to initiate a Study of Minett. It is accompanied by a draft interim control bylaw which could be enacted today without further notice to provide a pause while Council and the residents determine what is best for Minett.
We are pleased that TML council has asked the District to undertake a review BUT this is a local matter for the local municipality to determine. The District Council cannot review zoning by-laws or approve interim control by-laws, they do not have the jurisdiction.
Today, the MLA is asking TML Council to initiate a study for Minett. If a study is initiated we are asking that council give approval today of an interim control by-law to give us all time to undertake the studies necessary before major development proceeds.
We are all concerned about Muskoka, and about how the Resort Village of Minett should be developed to be a benefit and example of good environmentally sensitive development in the Township of Muskoka lakes.
Let`s work together to ensure that happens.
The MLA requests that a recorded vote be taken. The MLA also respectfully requests a copy of the minutes of this meeting and a copy of council’s decision.
Anne McCauley Bob Ensor
Chair Political & Land Use, MLA President, MLA
On March 22nd, the District Planning Committee heard from three delegates who expressed their concerns regarding the planning policies for the Resort Village of Minett. The first delegate was Frank Jaglowitz who delegated to ensure that the committee knew that TML’s Official Plan never included the Minett OMB policies from 2008. Jaglowitz noted that a number of stringent policies, with regards to density, character, building height, shoreline setbacks and shoreline vegetative buffers, were omitted when TML adopted its Official Plan in 2009. He stated: “It’s an unfortunate error and should be corrected ASAP.” He requested that the District refrain from any further approvals as it explores its options for moving forward.
The second delegate was planner Stefan Szczerbak of Planscape, the planning agent for Minett developer Ken Fowler Enterprises (KFE). Szczerbak said KFE and Planscape will be happy to work with the District on this issue. While he agreed that the Official Plans should incorporate the OMB policy set, he noted that Planscape expects that current rezoning applications in Minett should be reviewed under the current policies.
Minett resident Paul Richards expressed concerns about “resort residential use” being allowed on commercially-zoned waterfront resort properties. He said the enforcement of any rental policies would be impossible. “How do you control 8 weeks rental per year in a residential condominium? The basic issue is whether it is a resort or is it condo residential?” He referenced Legacy Cottages in Minett as the first example of condo-residential development disguised as resort commercial.
Committee thanked all the delegates but deferred discussion of the issues raised. It wanted to hear input from District staff on the “lost” Minett polices.
For more than a year, the MLA has been immersed in the complex “resort-conversion” issue. To help you better understand all the various resort-related issues, we have created a new ‘MLA Preserving Muskoka’ section on our website. It lists each related development and offers a timeline of key events. The site includes letters from the MLA and other documents that demonstrate the many concerns over the proposed District policies that would allow increased residential density under the guise of a commercial resort. These new policies would change the face of Muskoka’s waterfront forever. The page can be found here.
The MLA hopes you find this site useful and encourages you to check in occasionally to stay up to date on this very important issue.
The proposed Resort Village of Minett, on Lake Rosseau, continues to be in the spotlight. The Township of Muskoka Lakes (TML) planning staff recently advised that the Township’s Official Plan does not include certain development restrictions devised for Minett by the Ontario Municipal Board in 2008. These policies may also have been left out of the District’s Official Plan. This appears to stem from an error by the Township’s planners in 2008. What does this mean? For the last 10 years, any planning decisions concerning Minett have not been based on the OMB decision!
How will this be resolved? TML’s Planning Director recommended the Township begin an Official Plan Review in 2019. Council, however, felt this issue needed to be dealt with sooner. District Council has previously asked their staff for a report on the Minett policies, which should include an explanation of this discrepancy. See further details under the ‘District’ and ‘TML’ sections below. The MLA agrees this issue needs to be addressed immediately. We encourage our members in TML to contact their local councillors to press for a deferral of further planning decisions for Minett until the proper standards can be incorporated into the Official Plan. Click here for councillor contact information.
TML planning director David Pink informed councillors that TML’s Official Plan (OP) does not contain the approved March 2008 OMB policies for Minett. During 2008 TML was also reviewing its Official Plan, and the OPP policies were inadvertently left out of the new plan. The District as upper-tier authority never caught the error. Rather than correct this error immediately, Pink suggested the Township review this issue as part of its 2019 Official Plan review.
A version of TML’s Official Plan along with the omitted OMB policies can be found here:
Resident Frank Jaglowitz delegated on this error. Ten years ago, he and other residents disagreed with the creation of the “Resort Village of Minett,” which allowed high-density resort and residential development on the waterfront. They appealed the council’s policies to the OMB. A subsequent settlement devised a more stringent policy set. “It is of grave concern to me that significant revisions to the policies resulting from public consultation that were agreed to by all parties and approved by the OMB were not included in the new Official Plan,” said Jaglowitz. The approved policies included reduced densities, increased waterfront setbacks, building height restrictions, and stronger shoreline-naturalization policies. Jaglowitz requested that “TML refrain from any further approvals for the Minett area until everyone has had an opportunity to understand the gravity of this apparent error and explore options to remedy the situation.”
Council felt that this error must be corrected as soon as possible. Council directed David Pink to prepare a report for April’s council meeting. It also recommended holding a public meeting this summer to gauge public opinion on how to move forward.
The MLA is pleased that councillors understand the gravity of the issue and are moving to correct the situation.
The Villas property owner submitted a condominium agreement for TML review last September 2017. Council deferred it. Council then reviewed it again in November 2017 and deferred it again. The second deferral was in order to receive a legal opinion in response to a submission made by legal counsel for the MLA. Both the MLA and the Friends of Muskoka requested that TML provide them with a copy of TML’s legal opinion in respect to the MLA’s legal letter. Committee agreed to speak with their legal counsel to ensure this letter can be legally shared. Meanwhile the owner’s lawyer has appealed to the OMB the District of Muskoka’s draft approval of a condominium including the condition that TML enter into an agreement with them. Committee heard from four delegates who outlined their opposition to the Villas development. Their issues included increased density and boat traffic, a lack of typical on-site commercial resort amenities (pool, restaurant, etc.) and limited number of weeks the units were made available to the travelling public. One delegate expressed concern that the Villas appeared to be marketed as wholly owned residential cottages.
This matter will now be debated at the OMB. The OMB hearing will commence April 23rd, 2018 at the District of Muskoka offices in Bracebridge. TML has formally requested Party status at the OMB.
The MLA looks forward to the OMB hearing.
At the January 12th council meeting, several delegates spoke urging council to request that the District review the policies for the Resort Village of Minett as part of their overall review of their Official Plan. The delegates spoke of changes in the Planning Act and the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) since this development was first approved. The Planning Act requires that Official plans must be reviewed every 10 years. When the Minett policies were first developed they complied with the 2005 Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). Delegates requested that these policies now be reviewed for compliance under the new 2014 PPS. One delegate made it very clear that the residents of Minett were never in favour of Minett’s Resort Village development. The Friends of Muskoka legal counsel spoke of concerns about new regulations and about the concerns of the promised treatment plant that has not yet been built.
District’s Director of Planning Summer Valentine attended the meeting and stated that although District staff has not made any changes to the Minett policies and that the District is still receiving public input and that the policies can be reviewed. Mr. Greg Knight on behalf of the applicant Ken Fowler Enterprises (KFE) stated that KFE had submitted a rezoning application to TML last February and stated that the application must be reviewed based on the current Official Plan policies. TML councillors voted unanimously in favour of requesting the District review the Resort Village of Minett development.
A local news story on this issue can be found here.
Much has occurred regarding the resort issue since we last reported in our December issue of NewsBites. Touchstone resort’s recent phase of development has been appealed to the OMB by a concerned taxpayer. The Villas of Lake Muskoka lawyers have appealed their development application to the OMB. That OMB hearing will commence on April 23rd, 2018. Legacy Cottages has submitted their condominium application for approval to the District. The conditions of approval for all three condominium applications are similar. In January the OMB heard a motion to dismiss the Mist/Touchstone appeal and while the OMB’s decision has not been made there were many people in the audience, including all three development lawyers, watching these proceedings. More information on each of these three individual resort development applications can be found in the Township of Muskoka Lakes section below.
The MLA is not only working with other organizations requesting that resort units be commercial use year round, but is also tackling the District’s Official Plan. This plan is the over-arching policy document that provides direction to the lower-tier municipalities in Muskoka on resort development. We are working hard to have input into these policies that would see Muskoka’s waterfront saved from densely developed resorts; which have been marketed as wholly owned residential cottages.
The MLA has initiated meetings with District staff and the Friends of Muskoka to discuss current and proposed policies in the District’s new Official Plan. The MLA appreciates the opportunity to sit down with District planners to have an open dialogue. After District staff meet with us and others they will be drafting a third version of the District Official Plan. The MLA will keep you apprised of any pertinent developments, but for now the District and Township of Muskoka Lakes have taken a pause.
The District has received an application for condominium approval for 43 housekeeping units. The Township was asked to provide their comments on this application. Legacy Cottages is proposed to be built in 3 phases, as follows:
Phase 1 –15 units in the central area of the site and includes the septic area, parking area, servicing and garbage areas.
Phase 2 – 11 units on the waterfront and includes the outdoor fireplace/pit. It excludes any docks and boathouses.
Phase 3 – 17 units at the rear of the property and includes the gazebo.
Phasing plan and site plan can be found here:
Staff recommended that:
(1) That a satisfactory Condominium Agreement with the Township of Muskoka Lakes is entered into which includes provisions related to the maintenance of commercial use;
(2) That the management building be moved to Phase 1;
(3) That the plan showing architectural floor plans and elevations be amended to state that the proposed units are for resort commercial accommodation use; and,
(4) That the exclusive use areas be reduced to coincide with each individual resort unit building boundary.
Five delegations were heard. The developer’s planner requested that committee approve the condominium agreement with the details to be debated at a later date. The other four delegates expressed concerns that the resort be available to the travelling public for the entire year as a commercial property; that the on-site management be in Phase 1 of the resort; concerns regarding the clear cutting of the site; and lack of on-site amenities. Additionally, a request for deferral was heard. After much discussion, committee voted unanimously to defer comment on the application.
The staff report can be found here
‘The Villas of Lake Muskoka’ (a.k.a Villas) –On November 27th, an appeal was registered with the OMB by the law firm of Loopstra Nixon representing the owner of the Villas. The District of Muskoka had granted draft approval of the Villas Condominium Description on June 22nd, 2017. The draft approval contained a total of 17 conditions which needed to be fulfilled prior to the issuance of final approval. The appeal is lodged with respect to 5 of those 17 conditions; all relate to the requirement of entering into, and registering on title, a Condominium Agreement with the Township of Muskoka Lakes (TML). The basis of the Villa’s appeal is that a Condominium Agreement should not include conditions of use. Specifically, TML’s conditions of Condominium Agreement include definitions of land use and reference to the property as a commercial use. Loopstra Nixon has stated they are “hopeful that this appeal can be resolved through mediation with the District and Township.” A 2 day hearing has been requested. No date has been set. The issue of use and the 10 weeks rental requirement, referred to in TML’s draft Condominium Agreement, will now be argued at the OMB. Since it was the District that imposed the conditions, it will be the District who must defend itself at the OMB. TML has requested to be a Party at the hearing. TML has recently stated that they will be providing a staff report on the Villas at the January 16th Committee of the Whole meeting.
Phase 1 was built and sold on a ‘fractional’ ownership model. Phase 2 consisting of 28 Penthouses, Villas and Suites are currently being marketed for sale on a ‘whole ownership’ model. Similar to the Villas of Lake Muskoka, the District granted draft plan of condominium approval for Phase 2 of the Touchtone Resort on August 1st, 2017. The draft approval contained conditions, similar to the Villas of Lake Muskoka, including that the owner enters into an agreement with the Township of Muskoka Lakes referencing the requirement that the units be put into a rental agreement for a minimum of 8 weeks. This draft plan of condominium approval has been appealed to the OMB by a concerned citizen. The law firm of Loopstra Nixon is also representing the owners of Touchstone Resort, as well as the Villas. Loopstra Nixon has brought a motion to the OMB to dismiss the appeal on Touchstone, referencing the requirement that the units be put into a rental agreement. That motion will be heard on Thursday, January 4th, 2018 at 11 a.m. at the Township Council Chamber in Port Carling. The MLA is closely involved with both appeals and will keep the membership informed as decisions are made.
Legacy Cottages was given site plan approval by TML under commercial resort zoning. These 43 units are currently being marketed for sale on a ‘whole ownership’ model. The District of Muskoka is now reviewing an application from Legacy for draft plan approval of these units. A community group engaged in the opposition of this development has put together a video showing the current state of this development including the clear cutting of the site and initial construction of several units. The video can be found here:
The MLA is working with various community groups to positively affect the outcome of future resort development in Muskoka.
In contrast to the ‘Save Muskoka’ video re Legacy Cottages, the MLA provides another video for your viewing – one produced by FOCA (Federation of Cottage Associations). This video highlights the importance of lake associations and community associations that work towards the preservation of the waterfront environment. See here for the video:
The MLA continues to work hard on your behalf to help preserve Muskoka’s unique and valued waterfront. In that spirit, the MLA thanks all those who have generously contributed to our fundraising campaign which fuels our efforts, and gives us the financial resources, to fight these high density waterfront developments.
On November 23rd the District Planning Committee held a Public meeting on the second draft of the proposed new Official Plan. An overwhelming 330 people attended the meeting to delegate on various aspects of the draft Official Plan. Although the District received comments on 3 main issues (growth policies, recreational water quality and resort development), by far the main topic of concern was the proposed policy allowing resorts to have up to 50% of their units as residential dwellings. The MLA, along with approximately 42 other delegates, presented our concerns. Only 3 presenters were in favour of the new resort policies; being one developer and two consultants representing developers. Delegations continued for 5 hours. After hearing such opposition to the draft resort and recreational water quality policies, District Planning committee felt there was more work to be done and decided to continue reviewing these policies.
Committee member Nancy Alcock (Huntsville) said she was pleased to see so many people come out and thanked everyone. She felt that the meeting was successful and said “I appreciate constructive comments. There’s no question that we didn’t get it right but we do have to update our Official Plan. I feel privileged to have all this expertise here today.” Committee member Lori-Lynn Giaschi-Pacini (Bracebridge) also thanked people for attending and said “I do not believe in over intensification on our waterfront. I believe in reasonable and responsible intensification not only on waterfronts but also in rural and urban areas across Muskoka. I oppose development of a residential nature with densities allowable to commercial properties. If it is zoned commercial then it needs to be commercial, period. I am also opposed to the 50 percent of units generating turnover – if it is commercial it should be 100% - a resort is a resort period. I believe it is too difficult to enforce the 50% open to the travelling public. Responsible development is key. I know resorts and the development of resorts are struggling but we need to find another way to deal with this issue.”
Written submissions to the District are being accepted to the end of January 2018. Staff will review all public comments and bring a revised Official Plan back in spring 2018. The MLA was very pleased that the District will pause to review the proposed Official Plan policies. The MLA will continue to be involved in the drafting of these policies and requested further meetings with District staff.
The link to the recorded webcast of the meeting can be found here: Related newspaper articles include:
The Globe & Mail – found here:
The Muskoka Region News – found here:
At the November 23rd District Planning Committee meeting, the application for draft plan approval for Legacy Cottages was listed on the agenda. The application is to permit Legacy to create a 43 unit condominium in which each unit would be wholly-owned and sold. The concern is that these units could become residential dwellings; not resort units bought for investment purposes. Mr. Frank Jaglowitz delegated requesting Committee to withdraw the approval authority delegated to staff for condominium approval for Legacy Cottages (Minett), and any similar applications. Rather than staff approval these applications would be dealt with in Committee and District Council for approval. Mr. Jaglowitz referred to three developments in the Township of Muskoka Lakes (Villas of Lake Muskoka, Touchstone Resort and Legacy Cottages) which are selling resort commercial units whereby the purchasers have the expectation that the owner can occupy their unit for all but 8 to 10 weeks a year. All three development applications have received overwhelming opposition from the public.
The Committee, including District Chair John Klinck, agreed that the Legacy Cottages application will go to the Planning Committee for further discussion. The MLA was extremely pleased that the District agreed that the condominium application would be considered by Planning Committee which allows for further discussion and public input.
The MLA, along with many other organizations, groups and individuals, delegated at two Muskoka meetings this month. The first was a Township of Muskoka Lakes (TML) meeting on November 16th where the MLA cautioned against TML entering into a Condominium Agreement with ‘The Villas of Lake Muskoka’ which was contrary to TML’s Official Plan. The second meeting was at District Planning Committee on November 23rd where the MLA again stressed our concerns about proposed new policies for Resort Development as well as requesting stronger policies for Recreational Water Quality. The MLA is heartened to know that are concerns were heard and that TML is taking time to review our legal letter and the District is going to revisit their draft Official Plan policies.
Make no mistake - the MLA will continue to fight to ensure that resorts do not become high density residential developments along Muskoka’s waterfront. (Please see our latest e-blast dated November 25th)With over 80 Muskoka resort properties that could be redeveloped at much higher densities, the threat to our Muskoka waterfront character is real. The MLA believes that a resort should be 100% commercial and that units within that resort should be available to be rented to the public 100% of the year. We will keep you apprised of any future meetings and thank you for your continued support of our efforts!
This meeting had to be moved to the Port Carling Community Centre to accommodate the 140 plus people who attended. The subject of the meeting was the proposed approval of a Condominium Agreement between TML and ‘The Villas of Lake Muskoka’. The Villas’ Condominium Agreement states that their condominium units will be placed in a rental pool for only 8 to 10 weeks a year, with only 2 of those weeks in the summer. TML Official Plan states that any commercial resort requires their units to be available to the travelling public the entire year, including the high season. The MLA delegated citing our legal counsel’s letter which stated that approving the Villas’ application would be in contravention of TML’s Official Plan. The MLA requested that a decision by council be deferred. Our lawyer’s letter can be found here:
Many other delegates spoke in opposition to the Villas’ application and specifically about the proposed resort policy that would allow up to 50% of the resort units to be residential. Councillor Phil Harding, who chaired the meeting, made it clear that he was not in favour of allowing 50% residential use of resort units. Mayor Don Furniss was more sympathetic to today’s resorts struggling to be financially viable. Council decided to defer any decision about entering into a condominium agreement with Villas pending a review of the MLA’s legal position by their own legal counsel. The matter is expected to be back in front of council in December. The local news story on this issue can be found here:
The MLA was pleased that council chose to take time to review its legal position. We look forward to their response.
MLA Lawyers letter to TML & District - please click here
Adjacent to Touchstone, the ‘Villas’ property is zoned resort commercial. TML’s Official Plan requires resort commercial units to be available to the travelling public for the entire year, including the summer months. However, the District of Muskoka recently approved draft condominium approval for the ‘Villas’ requiring the units to be in the rental pool for a minimum of 10 weeks a year, with only 2 weeks during the summer, and not available to the travelling public for the entire year. We question whether District approval is in violation with TML’s Official Plan. Listing a unit in the rental pool does not automatically mean that the unit will be rented out to the travelling public. Having a unit in a rental pool for only 10 weeks a year allows the owner to use the unit as a vacation home, or a private rental, for the remaining 42 weeks. These units then become comparable with residential use rather than resort use.
The definition of a ‘resort’ states that rental units must be available to the travelling public. TML’s Director of Planning recommended that units be in a rental pool for at least 30 days during the summer (i.e. 4 weeks in the summer months). This would allow the units to be available to the travelling public in the most popular rental season. However, the ability to enforce the required number of rental weeks of a unit was identified as a problem for TML. Councillors agreed to defer a decision on the ‘Villas’ condominium agreement to allow further investigation and discussion. The MLA is pleased to see that TML Council is becoming aware of the problems associated with allowing residential use of resort units. We look forward to seeing how TML will resolve the discrepancy between the District’s approval and TML’s own Official Plan policies.
The District recently completed a 2nd draft of its new Official Plan, which was presented to the District Planning Committee on October 19th. Most discussion focused on the resort policies issue.
The District is proposing that resorts be allowed up to 50% residential units. Developers want this flexibility in order to evade the zoning controls that normally restrict residential development. The District is receiving pushback from the public, including the MLA, concerned this will cause high-density development on the waterfront that would jeopardize water quality and waterfront character. On Oct. 19, the MLA was relieved to see new pushback on this issue by several councillors.
All four Township of Muskoka Lakes District councillors attended this meeting. Councillor Phil Harding said he has been contacted by hundreds of residents concerned about the resort policies. Councillor Harding spoke passionately about the dangers of allowing 50% of commercial units to be residential, and questioned the rationale behind this proposal. He felt strongly that policies needed to be much more restrictive at the District level. Councillor Allen Edwards, who sits on the planning committee, said he opposes the 50-50 proposal, and that it will lead to overuse of the lakes and reduced water quality. Rather than bowing to developers’ demands, he said the District should adopt the policy: “If you don’t like our rules, don’t come here.”
On August 29th, the District held a public meeting to receive comments on their draft Official Plan. Over 100 people attended the meeting; the main topic being the proposed new resort policies. It was clear that the proposed policy to allow resort commercial developments the flexibility to have up to 50% of their units as residential units was a major concern for those in attendance. MLA attended and delegated at this meeting, again expressing our concern that allowing such flexibility will lead to high-density ‘residential’ housing projects on the Muskoka waterfront. District staff has reviewed all comments and will be presenting a second draft of the Official Plan to the District Planning and Economic Development Committee on Thursday, October 19th, at 9 a.m. in District council chambers. In addition the District has also scheduled a second statutory public meeting to receive feedback on the new Official Plan draft for Thursday, November 23rd in District council chambers. The MLA has now attended and delegated at both District public meetings held over the summer. We are pleased to have been invited by the District to sit on a planning advisory committee to provide further comment on the Official Plan. The MLA will be in attendance at both the October 19th and November 23rd meetings and urge all those interested in future resort policies to also attend.
Muskoka residents are waking up, and speaking out, to oppose a misguided District proposal that would create new high-density communities on precious Muskoka waterfront. You may have received some of the many letters, from the MLA and others, alerting ratepayers to this threat. The MLA first raised these concerns earlier this year, worried that developers are using Muskokans’ longtime affection for traditional resorts to push for new rules that will change our waterfront forever.
In a nutshell, the District is proposing to allow resorts – which have traditionally accommodated visitors to Muskoka, not residents – to sell up to half of their units as year-round family homes. Theoretically, the other half of their units would still be considered commercial – but only in the sense that their owners would be required to make them available to rent for as little as eight to 10 weeks each year.
The MLA’s primary concern is that high-density year-round residences will be built under the guise of being a resort. A secondary concern is that local municipalities would have no way of enforcing or monitoring compliance, which suggests these “resorts” would inevitably become full-time residential communities.
What’s the problem with these new waterfront developments? Muskoka has always prided itself on its pristine, unspoiled waterfront. Residential development is regulated tightly through zoning rules that ensure minimum lot frontages (usually 200 to 300 feet) and minimum setbacks, and encourage responsible shoreline stewardship. Based in part on their traditional role as small, family-owned recreational centres, resorts have long enjoyed an exemption from such restrictions. Now developers want to take advantage of resorts’ special development rights to build large residential compounds in place of rustic resorts.
There will be two additional chances for the public to voice their opinions on this issue: a November 23rd public meeting on the new draft Official Plan (OP) itself, at the district offices in Bracebridge; and a follow-up District Planning committee meeting, devoted solely to the resorts issue, to be held early in 2018.
We continue to stress the importance of letting your Mayor and District councillors know how wrong-headed this resort-conversion policy is. See the MLA website for more background information on this topic and a full list of politicians to send letters/emails to expressing your disapproval. The MLA link can be found here:
Try to attend the Thursday, November 23rd 9 a.m. public meeting held at the District Council Chambers, 70 Pine Street, Bracebridge. Let the politicians know how worried you are about the degradation of Muskoka’s waterfront!
The MLA will be delegating at the November 23rd meeting.
COME JOIN US AND MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!!
Over the last year District staff has been involved in reviewing and updating their recreational water quality policies. This task has been done as part of their comprehensive review of the District of Muskoka’s Official Plan. The District has now received provincial feedback on the newly proposed Lake Health policies and has revised the Official Plan accordingly. As stated above, the new draft of the Official Plan will be presented to the District Planning and Economic Development committee on Thursday, October 19th at 9 a.m. in District council chambers. The MLA will be in attendance at the October 19th meeting and expects to see representatives from those lake associations who also had grave concerns about the removal of lake classifications and the new direction District is taking regarding lake health.
He suggested the District was being too harsh on developers by requiring commercial units to be rented out for 10 weeks. He thinks eight weeks would be sufficient: “I’ve never heard anyone say there is a shortage of rental accommodation in the summertime.” The MLA is not surprised by this stance, but we are very disappointed.
Given ongoing division over the resort policy, the Planning Committee decided to hold an additional meeting in January or February to specifically discuss the resort policies. It was noted that this would push the final adoption of the OP back a few months.
Next Steps – The next opportunity for public comment on the proposed OP will be held Thursday, November 23rd at 9 a.m. in District Council Chambers, Bracebridge. Note that you do not have to register to speak at this meeting. Written public comments can be submitted up to the end of January 2018.
Director of Planning David Pink presented a report on District’s draft Official Plan at the September 14th TML meeting. The two main issues continue to be:
TML staff had other concerns surrounding resorts. These include how to deal with resort properties that are no longer viable, perhaps more stringent downzoning requirements and questions how the District plans to handle Airbnb cottage rentals. Councillors voted unanimously to recommend that Council submit the Director of Planning’s staff report to the District (see link below). In addition, councillors suggested that the District remove all numbers relating to the permission of a non-commercial use on resort properties (i.e. the 50/50 split); to be replaced with ‘a nominal’ amount to be determined by the area municipality. Councillors also supported the removal of the growth target figures in the District’s Official Plan. Director of Planning’s staff report can be found Here:
The MLA will continue to provide input into these important discussions, as the proposed policies have the potential of allowing significantly more dense waterfront development throughout Muskoka.
As reported in previous issues of NewsBites, the District is reviewing its current Official Plan and has proposed several changes. The MLA is particularly concerned with the proposed resort policies that would allow increased flexibility for resort developers, including the controversial proposal to allow up to 50% of a unit’s resort to be deemed “residential.” The MLA is concerned this will lead to high-density housing projects on the Muskoka waterfront. The MLA has attended both District public meetings this summer. In addition the MLA has met separately with District staff to provide further input on the resort policies. The MLA strongly encourages you to join us in attending the District’s Tuesday, August 29th public meeting in Bracebridge to voice your opinions. The meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Rotary Club, 131 Wellington Street in Bracebridge. The MLA will be making a presentation. District staff has indicated there will be one last final public meeting this fall, at a date yet to be determined. We hope you will attend the August 29th meeting to add your comments on this important document.
This key document determines the balance between preserving the unique Muskoka environment and promoting development. The MLA is very concerned with the District’s proposal to provide increased flexibility for resort developers - including allowing up to 50% of a resort to be residential. This is a HUGE change of direction from the current Official Plan which requires a resort to be 100% commercial. We are very concerned this will lead to high-density housing projects on the Muskoka waterfront!
If these policies are adopted by the District, expect resorts on the waterfront to increase. Note resorts, as commercial entities, are allowed higher densities than allowed for residential zoning. The District is motivated to keep the resort industry alive. The MLA is watching and delegating to ensure that the cost of increased permission for resorts to include residential uses will NOT degrade water quality, increase noise and have a negative impact on shorelines. Again, if approved these directional policies could change the character of Muskoka’s waterfront FOREVER. (Note: TML has the bulk of the resort properties in the District of Muskoka.)
We are asking our members to carefully read the District consultant’s presentation found here. We are also strongly encouraging you to attend the District’s August 29th statutory meeting in Bracebridge to voice your opinions. This is a critical change in thinking. The future of Muskoka’s waterfront rests in your hands. See meeting dates and locations below.
Historically the District was the overriding authority which strove to balance the preservation of Muskoka’s unique environment while still allowing appropriate development. This Official Plan’s draft policies clearly side with developers’ objectives. The MLA believes that STRICT and ENFORCEABLE RULES need to be in place to protect Muskoka’s prime asset – the waterfront. All the proposed changes which transfer authority to the local municipality make the MLA question why the District exists/ is involved at all. Take time to read the consultant’s presentation and join the MLA in attending the District’s meeting on August 29th to stand up for the Muskoka you love. If adopted, Muskoka’s current ‘environment first’ shorelines and communities may be unrecognizable in the future.
As stated above, the last opportunity to provide your feedback on District’s Official Plan is August 29th. The MLA has spoken in favour of allowing the public another opportunity after that date to respond to any changes made to the Official Plan policies as a result of the August 29th meeting. District Planning Committee discussed this possibility at their July 20th meeting. Some councillors were concerned that another public meeting may delay the adoption of this plan by this current council. But in the end, Committee directed staff to schedule another public meeting in November; exact date to be determined. The MLA believes strongly in the ability to provide sufficient opportunities for the public to comment on proposed changes; especially significant changes as outlined in the proposed Official Plan draft. The MLA appreciates the efforts of District staff to hold an extra meeting.
The District acknowledges that resorts in Muskoka are declining, resulting in a loss of tourist dollars. In an effort to retain existing resorts and encourage new ones, resort policies in the proposed new Official Plan are taking a new direction. The consultant’s presentation can be found here.
The District has held several public meetings to receive input on the new policies and has heard back from resort developers and other stakeholders (such as the MLA). At the July 20th District Planning Committee, councillors heard from their consultant a summary of public comments and concerns. The District has listened to the developers’ wish for more flexibility in the policies and they propose more flexibility. Each resort will be judged on a case-by-case basis. However, developers are expressing concern over too much flexibility; they would prefer more specific rules and regulations.
Other worrying changes from the MLA’s perspective are the proposal to reduce the requirement that developers to put up 100% security to fund sewage systems. Other ‘arrangements’ may be allowed. And, neighbors should be concerned that on-site management may no longer be required
This issue of NewsBites contains a great deal of information regarding proposed government changes at each of the provincial, local municipal and District levels. All levels of government are looking for your feedback and it is vital that, as both permanent and seasonal residents, your voice is heard!
July 15th (9 – 11 a.m.) and August 17th (7 -9 p.m.) District Council Chambers, 70 Pine Street, Bracebridge – Open Houses re the District’s new Official Plan.
August 29th (7 -9 p.m.) Statutory Public Meeting, Rotary Centre, 131 Wellington Street, Bracebridge - Last opportunity to address council on the District’s new Official Plan.
The future of Muskoka rests in your hands!
This new resort development has been a continual topic of discussion at TML council. The first phase of this development, with 15 units and a clubhouse, is nearing completion and TML has approved their site plan. Concerns regarding MOECC approval for the updated on-site septic system had been addressed. However at the June 16th council meeting, a member of the public alerted council that effective October 2011 the Ministry of the Environment & Climate Change (MOECC) enacted a new regulation, whereby any new development is subject to an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA). The owner is now addressing the requirement for an ECA.
The same member of the public delegated at the District’s planning committee meeting on June 22nd at which District planning committee was giving approval, subject to conditions, of the proposed plan of condominium. Villas is to be a commercial resort whereby the units are available in a rental pool, as opposed to wholly owner-occupied units. The applicant proposed that the units be placed in a rental pool for a minimum 8 weeks, of which only 2 weeks were between the summer months of June 1st and September 1st. The delegate requested that the minimum rental pool of 2 weeks in the summer be extended to 30 days between July 1st and August 31st to ensure the units remain a commercial resort during the high season in Muskoka. The committee approved the condominium with the condition as requested by the applicant; as being a minimum 8 weeks available for rent during the year, but with only 2 weeks required in the summer. District committee gave approval subject to conditions. The MLA supports efforts to ensure that resort commercial developments remain open to tourist for rental, and not become 100% residential in nature. The MLA has delegated to District on this very issue as regards their resort policies in their new Official Plan. See our MLA May 17th letter here.
Saturday, July 15th (9 to 11 a.m.) and Thursday, August 17th (7 to 9 p.m.)-Open Houses re: the District’s new Official Plan - Resorts. To be held at District council chambers, Bracebridge.
Tuesday, August 29th from 7 to 9 p.m.-Public Statutory Meeting re: the District Official Plan. To be held at District council chambers, Bracebridge.
The MLA urges everyone to attend these important meetings to listen and provide your comments. At minimum, if you have concerns, email your comments to your councillor.
Your representatives need to know what YOU think.
The first phase of this development (across from Kirrie Glen golf course on Hwy 118 just west of Bracebridge) with 7 buildings /15 units is near completion. The site plan for the full property allows 23 units and a swimming pool. An application for a change of ownership (condominium) came to TML in May. TML planning staff were concerned that the swimming pool was not being built in the first phase of the development, as a pool is part of the amenities offered by a resort. The District wishes to ensure this property will be run as a resort and does not become 100% residential. A member of the public addressed council on May 12th stating 3 concerns with this development:
1. What assurance does TML have that this development will not eventually become 100% residential? How can TML enforce the requirement that a certain percentage of these units are available to the travelling public?
2. Why was this development allowed to proceed with a septic approval that dates back to 1978? The tank is new and the tile bed has been repaired, but today’s standards require a new approval and inspection. The original approval applied to the previous development, which would have generated about a third of the septic/water flow that this new project will have.
3. The pool needs to be part of the first phase of development in order to ensure this is a true resort.
TML council had no issues with the pool being built in the second phase or with the 1978 MOE approval. However, the same individual addressed District’s planning committee a week later very concerned about this development depending on a 40-year-old MOE approval. District committee has asked that this application come back to them for final approval after District public works reviews the application. This case demonstrates why the MLA is so concerned about the District’s new draft Official Plan, which proposes to allow up to 50% of resort units to be developed as residential. If a resort is defined as having amenities (like a pool), then these should be built in the first phase, to ensure they actually get built. The MLA was shocked to learn that this development was allowed to proceed with such an outdated septic approval. If the newly repaired septic is overloaded and eventually fails, the MLA is concerned the effluent will find its way into nearby Lake Muskoka. We are pleased that District is looking into this
District planning staff have completed a first draft of the District of Muskoka’s new Official Plan, which sets out development guidelines and restrictions for the next 10 years (it was presented to District’s Planning and Economic Development committee on May 18th) The draft provides direction to the local municipalities while allowing them flexibility in how to implement these policies. There are two areas of key concern to MLA members: growth management and resort policies.
The MLA has been an active participant in offering policy recommendations. We are pleased that the draft plan incorporates many of our ideas, including requiring that new development be of appropriate ‘scope and scale’ to adjacent surrounding structures.
Two Open Houses are scheduled to allow you to review these draft policies: July 15th and August 17th. The final opportunity for the public to speak about this new OP will be at the Statutory Public Meeting on August 29th. After this meeting, the draft OP goes to District Council for adoption and then on to the Province for comments and approval.
The MLA spoke at the May 18th meeting to restate our serious concerns with the proposed deregulation of planning policies related to “resorts”. We are particularly concerned about the proposal to compromise the “tourist” nature of Muskoka resorts by allowing up to 50% of the units at new resort developments to be residential – i.e. full-time privately owned. We feel strongly that such developments would quickly cease to be “resorts” at all, and would basically become high-density, multi-unit waterfront developments; which traditional Muskoka policies have discouraged. We believe such a step would lead to rapid intensification of Muskoka’s waterfront and do irreparable harm to the rustic rural character that brings so many people to Muskoka in the first place. (See the Tamwood discussion in this Newsletter, below)
Also concerning are the communal septic treatment agreements, the lack of amenities at the resorts and the reduced availability of rooms to the traveling public. Further, we doubt the local municipality’s ability to enforce these policies. Who would count how many units are “residential”, and what would they do when the 50% maximum is exceeded?
District planning staff presented a revised draft of proposed Official Plan policies to District Council mid-April. Having consulted with all six area municipalities, the development community, resort owners, lake associations and area residents, District staff were able to present a revised version of the original document. The draft does not contain specific wording but instead presents land use policy guidelines. This is a high-level document which will allow for interpretation at the municipal level. District Council agreed to receive the document. This is only completion of Phase 2 of the process. District staff will be continuing to consult with the public during the summer months with the hope that the final OP will be adopted by District Council in the fall.
The MLA submitted a variety of comments regarding the policies and is pleased that District staff has incorporated many of our suggestions. Of particular interest to the MLA is District’s decision to delete the provision for secondary dwelling units on the waterfront. Over the last few years, the MLA has consistently objected to this proposed policy which would allow for increased density on the waterfront. The MLA very much appreciates the District’s support to remove this proposed policy.
District staff received many submissions and suggestions specifically on the resort industry policies. The current OP requires resorts to be 100% commercial. District wishes to continue to support the resort industry in Muskoka and has proposed that as much as 50% of a resort can be residential but the remaining 50% must have a commercial component. Several resort owners feel this is too onerous a policy and have requested that as much as 100% of a new resort be residential in nature. The MLA has several concerns and intends to present these concerns as part of our ongoing dialogue with the District, at the Planning and Economic Development committee meeting on May 18th.
On March 17th Council voted unanimously to approve a new site plan proposal for Lakeside Lodge in Minett. The proposed development consists of 44 detached Housekeeping Units (including one within the boathouse) and accessory facilities including a pool-house, pool, lookout gazebo, boathouse and docks. The proposal was almost identical to Site Plan Agreement approved on October 20, 2014 and again on May 19, 2015. The only significant change was the relocation of three units further away from the neighbour on the northern lot line. Two members of the public spoke of their concern that this development could turn into a residential subdivision unless it was clearly stated in the Site Plan Agreement that there would be ‘continued 100% commercial use of the property’. Council approved the application with the following 5 conditions -
1. Satisfactory confirmation is received from the MOECC that the existing sewage treatment system has been satisfactorily decommissioned;
2. Ensuring the continued 100% commercial use of the property;
3. On-site management facilities to be staffed and available at all times the resort is occupied;
4. Proposed cumulative dock width be reduced; and
5. Receipt of securities
This approval will expire on March 17, 2018, unless the corresponding Site Plan Agreement has been registered on title of the lands. Site plans can be found here beginning on page 37. The MLA is pleased that Council agreed to the 100% commercial condition. The District of Muskoka is currently revising its Official Plan, and one of the resort policies being debated is the requirement of the 100% commercial-use component. The District is receiving pressure from current resort owners to lower the requirement for the 100% commercial component to allow for more residential use. A preliminary report from the District’s consultant is suggesting that resorts should be allowed a residential component of 50% (the other 50% would still be required to serve ‘the travelling public’). The MLA has a number of concerns with the proposal to permit 50% residential and 50% commercial use on lands without municipal water and sewer services. Historically the District has fiercely protected these properties as commercial to provide more opportunities for local employment and to maintain the higher business tax rate.
On February 6th, District staff, along with their consultant, invited Muskoka resort industry owners, managers and other interested parties to discuss the draft resort and tourism policies for the new Official Plan. The resort industry is struggling. In 1957 Muskoka had 554 resorts; by 2011 there were just 87. Discussion topics included: commercial components of resorts, the issue of cottage rentals and Airbnb, how resorts can become more sustainable, and how resort property owners can exit the industry successfully. Resort owners requested more flexibility so that resorts could be operated as 100% residential use with no commercial component. The consultant’s presentation can be found here. Several MLA members attended this important meeting. We remain concerned about District’s ability to enforce resort policies and the possibility of allowing “maximum flexibility” in regard to the number of residential units
On January 18th, the District held an Open House to discuss the draft Preliminary Directions which are intended to shape the updated policies for the Muskoka Official Plan. A variety of interested stakeholders attended and provided comments. Issues discussed were: What growth could be expected, how resort development could be supported, where secondary dwelling units could be located, and consideration of support for the sharing economy. The District expects to have the new Official Plan policies February 2017 NewsBites Page 2 available by the summer. Information on the new Official Plan can be found here. The MLA attended and spoke about our concerns with allowing secondary dwellings on the waterfront, and questioned the definition of ‘appropriate’ development. We also stressed that any new resort development should be compatible with the character, density and scale of existing neighbouring properties; stressed the economic contribution of seasonal residents; and agreed that Muskoka’s ‘small-town’, waterfront and rural character must be maintained. The MLA’s letter submitted to the District can be found here. The MLA will continue to attend future OP meetings and consult with District staff and politicians. The MLA invites your questions and feedback on this issue.
District’s Resort Industry Stakeholders’ Working Session – On February 6th, District staff, along with their consultant, invited Muskoka resort industry owners, managers and other interested parties to discuss the draft resort and tourism policies for the new Official Plan. The resort industry is struggling. In 1957 Muskoka had 554 resorts; by 2011 there were just 87. Discussion topics included: commercial components of resorts, the issue of cottage rentals and Airbnb, how resorts can become more sustainable, and how resort property owners can exit the industry successfully. Resort owners requested more flexibility so that resorts could be operated as 100% residential use with no commercial component. The consultant’s presentation can be found here. Several MLA members attended this important meeting. We remain concerned about District’s ability to enforce resort policies and the possibility of allowing “maximum flexibility” in regard to the number of residential units.
The District continues to review its Official Plan (OP). The District of Muskoka held an Open House on the current draft on Wednesday, January 18th. The purpose of the Open House was to give the public an informal opportunity to review and ask questions of the consultant and staff regarding directions to guide policy development for the new Official Plan. Written submissions, either in support of, or in opposition to, all or parts of the proposed preliminary directions should be received at the District office prior to Wednesday, January 25th, 2017. The District OP review will be on-going throughout 2017 and there will be other meetings and opportunities for public comment. The MLA is currently reviewing the directional policies and will be providing comments to the District. The MLA will keep you informed of any up-coming meetings.
Letter from MLA to District of Muskoka – Re – Comments on Muskoka Official Plan Draft – January 31, 2017. Here.
Important letter to Everyone who loves Muskoka (Posted Oct 24, 2017)
MLA Launches Fund Raising Campaign To Combat Resort Over Development (Posted Nov 7, 2017)
MLA Resort Over Development Update (Posted Nov 25, 2017)
Important Meeting at Township of Muskoka Lakes Dec 14, 2017 (Posted Dec 9, 2017)
What you can do:
Here is a contact list of Councilors for the District and the local municipalities. If you have not al-ready emailed them to voice your displeasure with their plans, please do so.
Two ways to donate:
By Cheque - please forward a cheque payable to “MLA” marked “Save Muskoka” to the following address. MLA, Box 298, 65 Joseph St. Port Carling, ON P0B 1J0
By Credit Card – please call the MLA at 705 765-5723 Monday to Friday during business hours.
We regret that donations to causes such as these are not tax deductible.
If you have any questions, please call the MLA office or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letters of Support to Stop the Resort Over Development
We Are the Future of Muskoka (posted Oct 29, 2018)
The Difference Between China and Muskoka (posted Oct 29, 2018)
Lake Rosseau North Association - Supports MLA over development cause (Posted Nov 20, 2017)
Cottagers oppose changes to Muskoka Official Plan (Posted Nov 16, 2017)
Minett Zoning Changes (Posted Nov 17, 2017)
Letter to District Council Goodmans-December 20-17 (Posted January 4, 2018)
Letter to District re Minett sections of the MOP-Decxember 20-17 (Posted January 4, 2018)
Muskoka Ratepayers Association - Commercial Resort Properties (Posted Nov 14, 2017)
Muskoka Ratepayers Association Township Watch (Posted Nov 15, 2017)
Globe & Mail - Ontario's Muskoka cottagers wary of proposals to ease development limits (Posted Nov 21, 2017)
Globe & Mail - Ontario Cottage Country to reconsider development limits around lakes. (Posted Nov 23, 2017)
Muskoka Region.com - Backlash prompts review of Muskoka OP resort-residential proposal (Posted Nov 24, 2017)
Muskoka Mayor defends "palace" remark (Posted Jan 12, 2018)
Township of Muskoka Lakes defers comments on Legacy Cottages (Posted Jan 16, 2018)
Muskoka Lakes Council votes unanimously for review of Minett Development (Posted Jan 18, 2018)
Friend of Muskoka The Friends of Muskoka is a coalition of cottage associations, local residents, environmentalists, farmers and local business people who are concerned about the future of our communities in Muskoka. The Friends of Muskoka advocate for responsible economic development, environment protection and preservation of Muskoka’s unique character, in order to ensure its economic well-being and to preserve its natural environment for future generations. . The MLA works collaboratively with the Friends of Muskoka and is pleased to share these posts with MLA members, which are a sample of the fine work being done by the Friends group.
Brief of Experts (Posted November 2017)
Summary of Experts (Posted January 2018)
CV's of Experts (Posted November 2017)
Video - SAVE MUSKOKA - Legacy Development (Posted December 13, 2017)
TML voted to Review Minett Development (Posted January 14, 2018)
http://savemuskoka.ca/blog/ (Posted January 19, 2018)
Waves - Edition II (Posted January 15, 2018)