Save Muskoka

Last spring, the MLA wrote an article for a Muskoka newspaper warning of a new threat to Muskoka’s natural waterfront: a proposal by the District of Muskoka to allow resorts to build urban-style residential developments. 

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.

  • Where do we stand today and how did we get here?

    • The MLA requests council defer approval of Developments ( February 15, 2018)
      The MLA requests council defer approval of The Rousseau Resorts Developments Townhomes Plans.
      Please click here for Letter to Township of Muskoka Lakes
    • Resort Issue Takes A Pause (January 2018)

      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.

    • TML Defers Comment on Legacy Cottages in the Resort Village of Minett (January , 2018)

      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

    • Update on the Status of the Villas of Lake Muskoka Condominium Agreement (January 16, 2018)

       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.

    • TML Council votes to Request the District to Review the Resort Village of Minett Policies in District's OP (January 12, 2018)

       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.

    • The Latest News re ‘The Villas of Lake Muskoka’, ‘Touchstone’ and ‘Legacy Cottages’ (December 2017)

      ‘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.

    • ‘Touchstone Resort’ /Mist Opportunities (December 2017)

       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’/’Lakeside Lodge’ (December 2017)

      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.

    • District Public Meeting re new Official Plan Resort Policies / Public Meeting (November 23, 2017)

      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:  

    • District Withdraws Delegation to Staff for Condominium Approval of Legacy Cottages (November 23, 2017

      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.

    • Our Voices were heard! (November 16, 2017)

      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!

    • Township of Muskoka Lakes Meeting re the Villas of Lake Muskoka Application/Resort Policies Meeting (November 16, 2017)

       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. 

    • Resorts Conversion Issue Catches Fire! (October 2017)

      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.


    • Update on District’s proposed new Official Plan Resort Policies District (October 2017)

      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.”

    • In support of the 50-50 proposal, TML Mayor Don Furniss took a different tack.(October 2017)

       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.

    • Update on the District’s Proposed new Resort Policies and Next Meetings (October 2017)

       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.

    • District Meeting to address new Lake Health Policies (OPA# 45) (October 17, 2017)

       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.

    • ‘Villas of Lake Muskoka’ Resort Condominium Agreement with TML (October 2017)

      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.

    • TML’s Comments on the District’s new Official Plan draft (September 2017)

      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:

      1. Growth Targets – District has proposed a goal of 70% of all permanent residential growth to be directed to Port Carling and Bala with the remaining 30% growth to the rest of TML, which includes communities like Torrance and Windermere along with the rural areas. This is a significant change from the current target of 20% to the urban areas and 80% to the rural areas.  David did note that these are just targets to be achieved incrementally over the next 20 years. However he did also point out that TML’s next OP will take aggressive steps towards growth in TML’s urban areas of Bala and Port Carling.

      1. Resorts – The big change proposed for resorts is the flexibility to allow for 50% of a resort to be residential; as opposed to TML’s current official policy which requires a resort to be 100% commercial. The District has suggested that each lower-tier municipality have the flexibility to set their own standards for residential component and that each resort application be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. 

      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.

    • District’s Proposed new Resort Policies (August 2017)

      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.

    • The MLA was busy in July participating in the District’s new Official Plan - Resorts (July 2017)

      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.

    • District of Muskoka’s Proposed New Official Plan’s Resort Policies (July 2017)

      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

    • MLA Champions another Public Meeting re the District Official Plan - Resorts (July 2017)

      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.

    • ‘Villas of Lake Muskoka’ Resort (former ‘Tamwood Lodge’ property) (June 2017)

      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.

    • Dates to Remember – Re District’s new Official Plan – Resorts (June 2017)

       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!

    • Update on District’s New Proposed Official Plan - Resorts (OP) (May 2017)

      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?

    • “Villas of Lake Muskoka” Resort (former “Tamwood” Property) (May 2017)

      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

    • RECAP of Key Public Meeting Dates (May 2017)

      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.

    • Update on District’s Official Plan - Resorts (OP) (April 2017)

      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 full 113 page revised document can be found here. An overview of the 40 revised Official Plan directional policies can be found here.

      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.

    • Lakeside Lodge (Legacy) Site Plan Approved - (March 2017)

      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.

    • Update on District’s new Official Plan (February 2017)

      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.

    • District’s Resort Industry Stakeholders’ Working Session (February 2017)

      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

    • District Official Plan (OP) Update including Resorts (January 2017)

      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

      Letter from MLA to District of Muskoka – Re – Comments on Muskoka Official Plan Draft – January 31, 2017. Here.

  • What you should know:

    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.
    For best results, and for our own planning purposes, we request that you make your contribution by March 15th, 2018. If you have any questions, please call the MLA office or email me at

    Letters to Township of Muskoka Lakes and District of Muskoka

    Letter to District of Muskoka RE: Muskoka Official Plan Review – Draft Policies re Resorts Development D6 (Posted May 17, 2017)

    MLA Lawyers Letter to Council & Muskoka Lakes  (Posted Nov 14, 2017)

    Cottagers oppose changes to Muskoka Official Plan (Posted Nov 16, 2017)

    Minett Zoning Changes (Posted Nov 17, 2017)

    Lake Rosseau North Association - Supports MLA over development cause (Posted Nov 20, 2017)

    Letter to District re Minett sections of the MOP-Decxember 20-17 (Posted January 4, 2018)

    Letter to District Council Goodmans-December 20-17 (Posted January 4, 2018)

    Letters of Support to Stop the Resort Over Development

    Brandy Lake


    Lake Joe Cottagers

    Friends of Muskoka

    Ms. C.K.D. Seagram

    Ross Clarke

    The Wilsons

    The Bortolus

    Media Articles

    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 - 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)  (Posted January 19, 2018)

    Waves - Edition II   (Posted January 15, 2018)


If you have any questions or would like to donate to the Save Muskoka Fund, please give us a call or email us at  705-765-5723