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“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.”

The Peace of Wild things by Wendell Berry


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Flawed planning and opportunistic developers have changed Minett forever. More work needs to be done to make sure that Muskoka developments are sustainable in order to preserve Muskoka for future generations and to protect our lakes from harm.


Although Legacy Cottages was given approval by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) earlier this year to proceed with its condominium development on Lake Rosseau, Legacy was required to enter into a condominium agreement with the Township of Muskoka Lakes (TML) that sets out important terms, such as how TML will be able enforce LPAT’s conditions on how the owners will use their units. 

As we previously explained, Legacy is building a 43 unit condominium development on 470’ of shoreline zoned for a commercial resort, and LPAT is permitting unit owners exclusive use of their units for 42 weeks per year, including the entire summer, with the exception of two weeks between mid June and mid September. This is vastly more owner use than the Minett Steering Committee recommended in order to ensure that resorts remain commercial. 

While the LPAT decision specified many provisions that were required to be included in the condominium agreement and limited the ability of TML to include additional restrictions, FOM and the MLA provided TML Council with suggested additional terms to implement and enforce the agreement, a number of which were accepted by Council at its December 16 meeting. However, it is still unlikely that the Township has sufficient enforcement powers to prevent these units from being used as residential cottages. 

We are concerned that many more properties zoned as high density resort commercial will be sold and operated as effectively residential condominiums. There are over 50 properties in TML and 130 in the District of Muskoka that could potentially be zoned for such condominiums. 

FOM and the MLA will be recommending that TML Council pass a licensing by-law to ensure the ongoing commerciality of resort condominiums. We also will continue to work with TML and the District to ensure that new commercial resort policies are passed for Minett and beyond which will address these concerns and ensure that resorts remain resorts. 



There was a historic decision at a joint District Engineering and Public Works (EPW) and Community and Planning Services (CPS) Committee meeting on November 19th. Committee members voted against a motion to approve multi-unit residential use on private communal water and wastewater services (PCS). 
This is an important and positive decision for Muskoka since the draft 2017 District Official Plan had proposed allowing up to 50% of resort units on any commercial waterfront property to be sold and used as residential cottages. This issue is what brought Friends of Muskoka and 300 of our supporters to that historic council meeting 3 years ago. We believe preventing densely built multi-unit residential development on private communal water and wastewater services is a vital step in ensuring sustainable development in Muskoka. 
Current District policy does not allow residential use on PCS. Approving it would have set a precedent that could have allowed owners of every resort commercial property in Muskoka to sell half of their units as residential homes. The staff report for the meeting came out firmly against this change in policy in Minett for well documented reasons (see our joint letter with the MLA). 
Although we are pleased with the District’s decision to uphold their policy of not allowing residences on PCS, questions about appropriate water and wastewater services in Minett remain. The two alternatives are: Municipal Services (MS) with residential development allowed, or Private Communal Services (PCS) with any residential development on individual septics, like other private residences and cottages. MS would allow a substantial residential component in Minett and would render Minett a growth node, making it difficult to push back on future proposals for growth (like Deerhurst or Friday Harbour). PCS would help cap growth in Minett and would prevent a residential component on the waterfront. 
There is much more work to be done on this important issue to protect Minett and Muskoka for future generations.

Stay tuned!


Did you know:
  1. Muskoka is a Regional Municipality, with the District of Muskoka as the upper tier (currently with 22 District Councillors and a District Chair) and with 6 lower tiers: 3 Townships (Muskoka Lakes, Georgian Bay and Lake of Bays) and 3 Towns (Huntsville, Bracebridge and Gravenhurst). 
  2. There are approximately 80,000 seasonal residents and approximately 60,000 permanent residents in Muskoka. 
  3. For the last 50 years seasonal residents have been counted as 50% of a person for the purpose of allocation of seats on District Council. 
  4. For the last 50 years the Towns (predominantly permanent residents) have had more Councillors and more votes on District Council than the Townships (predominantly seasonal residents).
  5. District Council represents all permanent and seasonal residents, not just those who are Canadian citizens or who can vote.
For the past six years, the District has been considering District Council composition, including the number of District Councillors. The recently formed District Modernization Committee, comprised of the 6 lower tier Mayors and the District Chair, reached consensus that seasonal residents will count as 100% of a person and the size of District Council should be reduced. 

Why does this matter? Fair representation is important, since District Council makes decisions concerning how our tax dollars are spent, and how the cost of District services are allocated among its residents (eg. OPP policing, infrastructure, healthcare costs). 

Counting seasonal residents at 100% is a huge step forward, but the devil is in the details. Counting permanent residents is relatively straightforward using the most recent census data (which includes children and other family members living with permanent residents). To count seasonal residents, the District is considering using data from 2 studies: the Second Home Study and a new study by Environics which uses cell phone data. 

The Second Home Study has yielded consistent, reliable data that District decision makers have relied upon for many years. However, we have serious concerns about the cell phone study - for example it excludes all international cell phones and its data contains some irregularities that result in overweighting populations in the Towns versus the Townships. For more details, see our recent letter here to the Modernization Committee.

Regardless of how residents are counted, we know that seasonal residents outnumber permanent residents in Muskoka and thus should have at least an equal voice on District Council. However, due to the way municipal boundaries have been drawn, many seasonal residents are located within the Towns, boosting their populations. Since seasonal voices are best represented by the Townships, the Townships should have at least as many representatives and votes around the District Council table as the Towns.

Some members of the Modernization Committee are proposing that seats on District Council be determined solely by population (where Towns would have a majority by counting seasonal residents located within their municipal boundaries). Alternatively, some members of the Modernization Committee have proposed that the Towns and the Townships have equal numbers of representatives on District Council, but that on important matters, such as financial decisions, weighted voting be used. Unfortunately, this proposal would mean the Towns will again have a majority and be able to control decisions. 

We believe that the Committee should follow the example of other regions in Ontario that have adopted models that respect the principle of representation by population, but allow for effective representation of significant groups of interest (for example Waterloo Region and York Region). This model would allow seasonal residents, who represent the majority of the population in the District, to have effective representation. In fact, the Supreme Court of Canada has determined that effective representation is essential. 

FOM is supportive of an equal number of District Councillors for each of the Towns and Townships, ideally 18 Councillors with three from each lower tier municipality. We are not in favour of weighted voting that gives the Towns control over decisions. We support majority voting, with a super-majority or two-thirds for important issues, and without a tie-breaking vote by an elected District Chair. 

Having received an extension to the December 10th Provincial deadline for resolving this issue, the District has until March 31, 2021 to make a decision. There is a triple majority test which must be satisfied in order for the District to change the number of District Councillors, including that a majority of the Town and Township Councils approve the change. 

We will continue to work with the MLA and other lake associations to ensure both seasonal and permanent resident voices are effectively represented on District Council.


Many charities are struggling with increased demand for their services this year, while the weakening economy has significantly reduced donations, and fundraising events have all but disappeared. Please consider supporting a local Muskoka charity.  If you don’t have a favourite, we’ve listed some suggestions here.


The Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) has been working on behalf of our cottage community for over 125 years.  It is one of Canada’s oldest and largest cottage associations.  We collaborate closely with them on sustainable development issues and they work tirelessly on behalf of all of us on many other issues that affect us enormously - taxation, fair representation, water quality protection, flood mitigation, land use planning and more.   Friends of Muskoka directors are all members of the MLA and two of our founding members are also now directors of the MLA.  In fact, Susan Eplett, one of our founding Directors, is slated to be the next MLA President.  We encourage everyone to consider joining this important organisation.  

The MLA needs all our support, so they can continue to advocate for our cottage community and provide us with much needed services.

For more information visit the MLA website here.

The Friends of Muskoka Board hopes that you are thriving despite this difficult year. We wish you and your families the very best for the Holiday Season and the New Year!


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.


You can help Friends of Muskoka to protect and to preserve the natural environment and unique character of Muskoka by promoting responsible use and development of its land and lakes.


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.


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