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WAVES XI - MAJOR CHANGES UNDERWAY IN MUSKOKA
“I will live in the past, the present, and the future. The spirits of all three shall strive within me.”  ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

In This Issue:

Major Changes in Village of Minett Plans

We are very pleased to let you know that Mitchell Goldhar, a long-time resident on Lake Rosseau and an active participant in our organization, has recently entered into a contract to purchase the Clevelands House Resort and associated properties from its previous purchaser and will soon close on the property. This change in events has given us some reason for optimism that Cleves will be developed in a less impactful way than is permitted under the Official Plan or as earlier depicted in other schemes we have seen from previous proposals. We will keep you posted as this project proceeds.

Inaugural Speeches from the District’s Chair and 6 Town/Township Mayors

During the past month, the newly elected District Chair and Mayors of our 6 towns/townships presented their inauguration speeches, which you can find at the links below. We are encouraged to see a common theme in these speeches of protecting our watershed and environment, and only permitting sensible development.

District Chair John Klinck’s speech (transcription).

Township of Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding’s speech.

Lake of Bays Mayor Terry Glover’s speech (coverage). 

Georgian Bay Mayor Peter Koetsier’s speech.

Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison’s speech.

Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith’s speech.

Gravenhurst Mayor Paul Kelly’s speech.
 

Background Information on Key Challenges in Muskoka

Friends of Muskoka prepared a summary of background information on key challenges for the Township of Muskoka Lakes (TML), and provided it to the newly elected TML Council members and District Chair, as well as planners at the District of Muskoka and Township of Muskoka Lakes (TML). It explains the regulations and our perspective on residential development on commercially zoned properties that we believe will adversely impact Muskoka’s environment and watershed.
 
These are some of our key points – if you are interested in more detail, you may wish to read our full summary.
 
The Official Plans for the District of Muskoka and TML are being Reviewed
 
  • The District is in the process of reviewing its Official Plan that will govern Muskoka for the next 20 years.
  • In 2019, TML will review its Official Plan that will govern TML for 5 years.
  • We believe it is crucial for the protection and preservation of our lakes and natural environment that an Environment First Priority be embedded into the Official Plans of the District and TML, as has been done in Seguin Township.
  • We also believe the Official Plans should include a Recreational Carrying Capacity (RCC) model to assess proposed development; this model calculates the number of users that can be accommodated on the surface of a lake while still maintaining its recreational amenity; RCC has been included in the Official Plan of Seguin Township and upheld in a court challenge.
 
The Minett Steering Committee has Started its Work
 
  • The Minett Steering Committee was created jointly by the District and TML to review the site-specific policies for the Resort Village of Minett and conduct studies that could impact policies for other resorts across the District.
  • TML Council passed an Interim Control By-law (ICBL) on May 18, 2018 pausing development in Minett while these studies are done.
  • We are very pleased that two Friends of Muskoka board members, Laurie Thomson and Frank Pottow, have been chosen to sit on this committee. For more details, please visit the Committee's page at the District of Muskoka website. 
     
The Problem with Residential Development on Commercially Zoned Properties
 
  • Both the District Official Plan and TML Official Plan contain policies requiring that tourist resort accommodation units (i) retain their commercial character, and (ii) are available to the travelling public.
  • In recent years, many developers have received approval to build effectively residential units on commercial resort properties.
  • Developers have followed a ‘bait and switch’ strategy: they receive approval from TML for a commercial resort development with a single owner, begin construction, and then apply to the District to switch to condominium ownership of the resort units. 
  • Experience shows that the condominium units are marketed and purchased as residential accommodation; the District and TML have required the condominium units to be placed in a rental pool for two weeks during the summer months, but it is virtually impossible to enforce.
  • If developers are allowed to build residential units on commercially zoned properties, without the residential zoning restrictions that apply to all other residentially zoned properties, then the natural character and the environment on our lakes will be at risk.

Villas and MIST/Touchstone Hearings
 
  • Two developments on Lake Muskoka, known as Villas of Muskoka (Villas) and Touchstone Resorts (MIST/Touchstone), have been appealed to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), the successor to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
  • The hearing began on November 7-9, 2018, and will continue on April 16-18, 2019.
  • The decision at this hearing will set a precedent for development on the more than 100 commercially zoned properties across the District.
 
Legacy Cottages Development
 
  • Legacy Cottages is located within the Resort Village of Minett on Lake Rosseau, and construction has been paused under the ICBL adopted by TML Council on May 18, 2018.
  • Legacy’s developer has appealed the District’s failure to make a decision on its condominium application within 180 days to LPAT; the hearing is scheduled for May 2019.
  • Legacy’s developer challenged the ICBL in court in August, 2018, and the judge upheld the ICBL and ruled that TML Council did not act in bad faith.
  • Legacy’s developer filed a lawsuit against TML for $22 million as a result of the ICBL; Legacy announced the lawsuit on October 12, 2018 – the first day of voting in the municipal election.

Bangor Lodge’s Downzoning Application

Bracebridge Council has approved the downzoning of Bangor Lodge on Lake Muskoka from resort commercial to a combination of residential and ecological habitat for species at risk. Details of the downzoning are described here.

Friends of Muskoka believes that this type of downzoning should be considered for other small resort properties across our lakes that are no longer operating as viable resorts, rather than having these properties converted by developers into high density lakeside residential subdivisions.

‘Stop Muskoka Pit’ is challenging the proposed Lippa Pit-Quarry on Skeleton Lake

Despite a snowstorm on November 26th, 140 people came to Port Carling to show their support for “Stop Muskoka Pit’, who are opposing the proposed Lippa pit and quarry on Skeleton Lake. The developers have appealed to LPAT the decision by TML Council in June 2017 to reject Lippa Pit-Quarry’s application to rezone the land to allow the pit and quarry. Detailed information is available on Stop Muskoka Pit’s website.

Lake of Bays Council Denies Redevelopment Application on Langmaid’s Island

On November 20th, after extensive debate and public input, the Lake of Bays Township denied an application to redevelop Langmaid’s Island on Lake of Bays. The developer was seeking approval to create 32 new lots on the now undeveloped island including adding 120 parking spaces on a landing close to the island. The Township’s planning department recommended refusal of the application and stated in their report, "While the Township Official Plan recognizes the importance of fostering a sound economy, development should maintain the integrity of the natural environment and landscape, preserve aesthetic and scenic areas and complement the character and heritage of the Township.”

The Lake of Bays Township, like Township of Muskoka Lakes, is a lower tier municipality under the District of Muskoka, so we hope this decision as another example of our collective voices being heard throughout Muskoka. It is also relevant because we’ve heard a rumour that the owner of Legacy Cottages may have also purchased the large and mostly vacant Highlands Island on Lake Rosseau (south of Royal Muskoka Island), with plans to subdivide it into building lots, in an already busy bay. As the Seguin Township has already done, we need to institute an 'Environment First' policy and adopt a Recreational Carrying Capacity (RCC) model that can be used to prevent overbuilding of a specific lake area.

Support a Local Muskoka Charity this Holiday Season

Muskoka has many local charities that support local needs and concerns. In the spirit of the holidays, please consider supporting your favourite Muskoka charity. If you don’t have one yet, we’ve listed a few suggestions here.
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The Friends of Muskoka Board thanks you for your tremendous support this year, and wishes you and your families the very best for the Holiday Season and the New Year!
Click here and bookmark our constantly updated calendar of events or click here to download and import / subscribe to the Friends of Muskoka calendar in your desktop or phone calendar application.
Head to SaveMuskoka.ca to get updated news and information from the Friends of Muskoka campaign. The site lists many ways to help you preserve the natural environment and unique character of Muskoka, including information on how to contribute to the development of sustainable official plans for the District of Muskoka. For more frequent updates, follow us on Facebook
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About Friends of Muskoka
 
Friends of Muskoka are a group of dedicated volunteers working to protect and to preserve the natural environment and unique character of Muskoka by promoting responsible use and development of its land and lakes. Friends of Muskoka believe that the environment IS the economy in Muskoka since millions of people come to Muskoka and invest here because of its clean water and natural, treed shorelines. Our lakes, forests and rivers are a resource that can drive Muskoka’s economy for decades to come if we put the environment first. To this end, Friends of Muskoka is trying to stop residential subdivisions on the waterfront in Muskoka and will work to enshrine sustainable development in the Municipal and District Official Plans.
Copyright © 2018 Friends of Muskoka, All rights reserved.


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