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Friends of Muskoka Waves Newsletter


Another incredible Muskoka summer has come to an end. But major developments are still underway that could damage the envioronment and change the unique character of Muskoka.


(Press  to return to this index)


As we reported in Waves XVII in June, the LPAT hearing for the Legacy Cottages development on Lake Rosseau will proceed on October 16 - 18, 2019 at the District’s offices in Bracebridge.

The developer is proposing to build 43 condominium units on 470’ of shoreline property that is zoned for a commercial resort. Friends of Muskoka became a party to this hearing, at which we  will be represented by our lawyer, because we oppose these 43 units being used as residential cottages when the zoning for one residential cottage requires a minimum of 200’ of shoreline and other restrictions that protect our lakes from over-development.

At issue in the hearing is whether the 43 units may be operated as de facto residential condominium cottages on a property zoned for 100% commercial usage. 

Although building permits have been issued and construction is underway, the units will not be able to be occupied unless the required approvals are given for the water treatment and septic system. In addition, the units may not be individually sold unless the LPAT hearing results in a decision favourable to the developer allowing the units to be owned through a condominium.



The Township of Muskoka Lakes (TML) is in the process of writing a new Official Plan (OP), with policies that will govern land use decisions for the next decade. This includes decisions on commercial and residential development that will directly impact the health of our lakes and the natural character of Muskoka.
Friends of Muskoka presented these comments to TML Council on August 16th, with specific recommendations for policies that should be included in the new OP.  We told Council that this OP is the opportunity for our community to become a leading edge protector of the natural environment -- a role model for the rest of Ontario, and the world beyond, as to how to protect a watershed in a changing and uncertain world. Now is the time for a bold new Official Plan that places the environment firmly in the forefront.
We advocated certain key policies be included in TML’s new OP, including an Environment First philosophy, a Recreational Carrying Capacity model to determine appropriate shoreline development, and a number of controls on waterfront development to help protect our environment and preserve the “View from the Canoe” which is so important to our natural character. See our comments for our specific recommendations. 

The public will have several opportunities to comment on the proposed OP policies before they are finalized, as explained on TML’s OP website page. We are pleased that TML recognizes that ‘community engagement and participation in the process is paramount to the success of this project.’  


In our Special Issue of Waves on August 17, 2019, we explained the Work Order issued by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) against the owners and operator of JW Marriott The Rosseau Resort and Spa (JW Marriott) as a result of sewage system issues, including raw sewage spills as far back as July 2015. The Province updated the initial work order on September 27, 2019.

The Province has required JW Marriott to take a number of steps, including hiring an ‘appropriately licensed operator’ to be on site to oversee the operation of the sewage system, and to email the MECP weekly with details of daily sewage flows and sewage haulage. JW Marriott was required to hire an independent, qualified person with extensive sewage works experience to submit a detailed report to the MECP by November 30, 2019, assessing and providing recommendations to deal with the capacity and compliance issues at the sewage system. 

The District and Township of Muskoka Lakes confirmed in their September 23, 2019 Release that their staff have been communicating with the MECP about JW Marriott’s response to the Work Order, and “the MECP is satisfied that the Order is being complied with.” 

JW Marriott’s water and sewage system is a ‘private communal system’, with one owner and multiple users (ie. all of the resort’s units). Although the District and TML have no authority over private communal systems, which are regulated by the MECP, the repeated problems with JW Marriott’s sewage system over the past four years is unacceptable to our community. 

Friends of Muskoka is committed to working with the District and Township to put policies and programs in place to ensure septic systems on all properties operate to the highest environmental standards and are monitored on an ongoing basis. 


The Province is proposing a number of changes to its land use planning policies that are contained in the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). The District and its six Area Municipalities (including Township of Muskoka Lakes) are preparing a joint comment letter to the Province describing their concerns with some of the proposed changes, as described in this staff report
In order to ensure consistency in our comments, Friends of Muskoka and the Muskoka Lakes Association have jointly reviewed the proposed changes to the PPS, and will each submit comments to the Province, including:
  • Support for the proposed new requirement for municipalities to prepare for the impacts of a changing climate.  
  • Concern that the draft policies promote private communal services as a viable and preferred alternative to municipally owned water and wastewater services. We appreciate that this is being done to facilitate housing development in rural areas. However, there are environment and health risks with private communal septic systems which require regular maintenance by the owners who often don't have an incentive to invest in them, and the result is that they often fail. An example is the JW Marriott's private communal system that the Ministry of Environment took action against this summer because it has been leaking raw sewage towards Lake Rosseau since 2015. The Ministry only became involved as a result of persistent calls of concern from neighbours. The Province should recognize this risk and refrain from encouraging more of these private communal systems in environmentally sensitive rural areas such as Muskoka.
  • Concern that the draft policies remove the express recognition that municipalities may impose higher standards than those set out in the PPS. 
  • Concern that the draft policies would permit mineral aggregate extraction in natural heritage areas such as forests and wetlands (that are not provincially significant), “provided that the long-term rehabilitation can demonstrate no negative impacts on the natural features or their ecological functions.”  Given the duration of extractions and the lag time to restore natural features, especially forests, avoidance should still be the first principle of resource development. Allowing mineral aggregate extraction to proceed in natural areas just because they are not provincially significant is inconsistent with voters' desire to protect our natural environment. 
We encourage you to provide your comments to the Province on their proposed changes, which are detailed in this report. Comments are due October 21, 2019 by emailing or writing to: Provincial Policy Statement Review, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Provincial Planning Policy Branch, 777 Bay St., 13th Floor, Toronto, ON M5G 2E5


As we reported in Waves XIV in April, a three day hearing was held on April 16 - 18, 2019 into two developments on Lake Muskoka --  Villas of Muskoka (formerly Tamwood Lodge) and Touchstone Resorts (formerly Aston Villas). 

Friends of Muskoka was a party to this hearing, where the key issue was whether the developers were marketing and selling residential units on property zoned for a commercial resort (ie. a ‘fake resort’). Click here for more information. 

We were not given a time frame for a decision - stay tuned. 


The Minett Joint Policy Review Steering Committee set up last year to review District and Township policies concerning the Resort Village of Minett will issue their preliminary draft recommendations at the Township of Muskoka Lakes Planning Committee meeting on October 18th at 9 am.   

The Minett Committee has spent the past 10 months meeting with subject experts, conducting research and deliberating on the issues of relevance to Minett.  While this report is preliminary, it will provide the broad policy objectives and directions to be considered by TML’s Planning Committee and Council.
“The generation that destroys the environment is not the generation that pays the price”


The District of Muskoka, in partnership with the six area municipalities including Township of Muskoka Lakes, is reviewing the way garbage is collected, recycled and composted. This Muskoka Region article provides a helpful discussion of the issues. 

Of particular concern to water-only access properties, aka islanders, is the Province’s requirement that unstaffed garbage bins be removed. Some people have been using unstaffed bins to dispose of unauthorized materials, such as furniture, mattresses, construction material, etc, which overfill the bins and cause spills. The Province sees this as creating an environmental hazard. We agree, although other alternatives to removing the unstaffed bins may solve the problem, such as enclosed bins with small openings and clear signs with directions to disposal areas for large items.

The public is being encouraged to provide comments and suggestions through:

1. A Community Consultation Session
- Wednesday, October 30, 2019
- Bala Community Centre (1008 Maple Avenue, Bala)
- 6:00 to 7:30pm - formal presentation at 6:15pm
- Please RSVP: 

2. An online Waste Management Survey (due October 10th, 2019). For a physical copy of the survey to complete by hand, call 705.645.6764 or email here.

3. Email your ideas here.


The Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Association (FOCA) has conducted a study into residential septic re-inspection programs at rural municipalities across Ontario. It released this Report that describes re-inspection results -- including the alarming report that 41% of the 370 systems re-inspected by one company in 2015 to 2017 “had major deficiencies in significant/extreme ways that impeded function and performance” (see page 10 of the Report). 

FOCA’s findings are described in this September 17, 2019 Cottage Life article

Friends of Muskoka supports the initiative of District’s Engineering & Public Works Committee (chaired by TML Mayor Phil Harding) to review how its six area municipalities do septic inspections, and their policies for septic systems. We also support Mayor Harding’s election promise for mandatory septic re-inspections and a meaningful fine for deficient systems applied to the owner’s property tax bill until the septic system is remediated.


In a federal election, you may only vote once - in the riding where you have your “ordinary residence”. It may be possible to designate your cottage property as your ordinary residence for purposes of voting, as described by the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations here.  

Although Friends of Muskoka has been politically active on the local level when it comes to protecting our lakes and ensuring by-laws are being enforced, it is worth pointing out that there are Provincial and Federal jurisdictions that impact our lakes. Specifically, the Federal government is responsible for our lake waters inclusive of noise, boat speed and aerodromes (eg. stationing for seaplanes and helicopters), where a small number of people are adversely impacting a very large number of neighbouring cottagers.

With the Federal election on October 21st, please let your respective candidates know how they can help in making our lakes more enjoyable and safe. For example, institute a maximum noise decibel on our water, which the OPP have said they would enforce, and which may also help deal with excessive boat speeds. And why not require helicopters not to land within 500 feet from the shoreline and neighbouring cottagers? Our elected MP’s can make a difference and this is the best time to make our concerns known….as we have found, our local MP and MPP have been very reluctant to get  involved in any of the local issues that we have been addressing at municipal Councils.

Friends of Muskoka has contacted the Parry Sound-Muskoka candidates for the Conservative, Liberal, New Democrat and Green parties and asked them whether, if they were elected, they would stay abreast of the important local issues and support making our waterways safer and more enjoyable. We only received responses from the Conservative and Liberal Candidates:

Scott Aitchison (Conservative): “I have been a collaborative municipal leader for over 20 years in Muskoka, and as a Member of Parliament I will continue to work with all levels of government to protect our waterways.  I will always be an advocate for appropriate development and for better tools to address the carrying capacity of our lakes.” 

Trisha Cowie (Liberal): "As MP I would stay abreast of important local issues and support making our waterways safer and more enjoyable by working in collaboration with the grassroots organizations in our community, and with municipal and provincial stakeholders. I would work toward finding the right balancing between competing interests, keeping in mind the needs of our residents and the importance of conserving our natural environment. Our watershed is one of our most valuable resources. It is to be cherished and protected. I'm proud that in the past four years the Liberal government re-established the protections for our lakes and rivers that were taken away by the Harper government. In 2018, the government also banned the use of micro-beads in certain products, removing a major source of pollution in our waters that were negatively affecting the entire ecosystem. I want to continue to build on this progress. I understand that a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand in our community."


Our former Mayor Don Furniss submitted an application to the Muskoka Compliance Audit Committee to conduct a hearing into the advertising activities of Friends of Muskoka during the 2018 municipal election  which was unanimously REJECTED. The Committee found “there are no reasonable grounds to believe that a contravention of the MEA [Municipal Elections Act] has occurred.” A copy of the decision is here
Mr. Furniss also challenged the election activities of the Muskoka Lakes Association, Mayor Phil Harding and, indirectly, Councillor Frank Jaglowitz. The Compliance Audit Committee also upheld each of their election activities, and rejected all of Mr. Furniss’ applications.


Friends of Muskoka (FOM) supports and collaborates with the Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) in the protection of our lakes and shorelines. Whereas FOM has been a special interest group this past two years, the MLA has operated for 125 years in the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Seguin, carrying out its mission of promoting the responsible use, enjoyment and conservation of Muskoka’s unique environment. 

We are writing this reminder to please support the MLA by subscribing as a member and through volunteering your time and expertise, as its broader mission is important, its organization larger and, with your support, it will hopefully be around and support our interests for another 125 years. The annual membership fee is only $125 per family. We would add that all directors of FOM are members of the MLA, and three are volunteering as MLA Board and committee members. 

We encourage our supporters to also become MLA members and, if you have time, volunteer. A strong and healthy Muskoka is all of our responsibility.  
The MLA’s activities are conducted by a host of volunteers, including seasonal and year-round residents, and are concentrated in the following areas: 
  1. Champion of Water Quality: The MLA’s marquee water quality program is the most comprehensive of any lake association in Canada. The MLA samples water across Muskoka (175 test sites in 2019), and tests the water for contaminants such as phosphorus, E. coli, dissolved organic carbon, and coliform bacteria. The MLA presents the test results to District and municipal governments, and works to find solutions for problem areas.
  2. Advocate for responsible government and fair taxation: The MLA’s volunteers bring expertise (including planning, legal, tax, accounting, and business expertise) and dedication to advocating for responsible government and fair taxation at the District, municipal and provincial levels. During the 2018 municipal elections, the MLA worked alongside FOM to identify and support candidates who shared MLA members’ values and vision for Muskoka. All TML candidates recommended by FOM and the MLA were elected.
  3. Advocate for responsible land use: The MLA’s volunteers also bring their expertise and dedication to advocating for strong environmental standards and smart, forward-thinking land use and development planning that respects and protects Muskoka’s unique character.  Directors of both FOM and the MLA are members of the Minett Joint Policy Review Steering Committee that is reviewing and recommending the appropriate development policies for Wallace Bay on Lake Rosseau where Clevelands’ House and JW Marriott (Red Leaves) are located.  The FOM and the MLA are also contributing financially to legal challenges against three proposed developments of de facto residential subdivisions on commercially zoned properties (Villas of Muskoka, Touchstone Resort and Legacy Cottages). 
  4. Leader on important Muskoka issues: FOM and the MLA participate in the initiatives of the District, municipal and provincial governments that will impact waterfront properties, and communicates these initiatives to its members to assist them in staying informed.  Both organizations make frequent submissions, separately and jointly when combining forces makes sense, to municipal Councils on land use issues, including individual property applications as well as the Official Plan policies being reviewed by the District and Township of Muskoka Lakes. 
  5. Supporter of Local Community: The MLA supports the local community in a variety of ways. This includes the MLA’s annual student bursary in the amount of $5,000, awarded to a student from one of the area’s three high schools to support their post-secondary education. The MLA also coordinates an annual food drive each fall, and delivers hundreds of pounds of food to a number of food banks in Muskoka. 
  6. Supporter of Recreational Activities: The MLA supports, funds or operates a variety of recreational activities for its members and their families, friends and neighbours that help create a strong Muskoka community and allow the current generation of cottagers to experience the lifestyle of the previous era. For example, the MLA organizes an annual aquatic regatta, sailing regattas, a winter curling bonspiel and seedling day. The MLA hosts a bi-annual antique boat show, and produces an annual year-book with professionally-written articles of interest and a valuable member directory. 
Please also support the MLA!


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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