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Friends of Muskoka Waves Newsletter


“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald
IN THIS '25th EDITION' ISSUE: (Press  to return to this index)


Aerial shot of subject lands - lake Muskoka in background.

A Toronto developer - Muskoka Royale Development Inc. - is seeking permission from Bracebridge Council to rezone 443 acres of vacant land, including wetlands and forests, to build a private boarding school for 1800 Ontario and international students. The developer’s proposed project will include a senior school, an elementary school, residences for senior and junior school students and staff, and a sports complex. Their proposal is detailed here.

Local community members formed The South Bracebridge Environmental Protection Group (SBEPG) to oppose the development. They have raised serious concerns with the scope and scale of the development, as well as insufficient evaluation and protection of numerous environmental features including wetlands with endangered species. Wetlands are integral to the Muskoka Lakes ecosystem.

A rendering of the plan is shown below. 
Note that the proposed roads are planned to go right through the wetlands as shown by the 4 Orange highlights. The proposed multi-storey buildings will be visible from a great distance, including potentially from the waters of Lake Muskoka. 

Friends of Muskoka and the MLA have each advised Bracebridge Council in writing spring 2019 of their concerns with the environmental and planning implications of the proposed development, and remain concerned in light of the significant wildlife habitat on the site and the inability to meet the policies of the Provincial Policy Statement. SBEPG indicates there are 204 species on the site, with 20 species of concern and 7 endangered species. Friends of Muskoka supports economic development opportunities in Bracebridge and have no objection to a boarding school locating in the Bracebridge area, but development must only be permitted where protection of our natural assets, which include ever important wetlands, can be maintained and enhanced. Friends is disappointed that, to date, Bracebridge Council has not required the developer to complete an Ontario Wetland Evaluation Study (OWES) to understand what wildlife would be put at risk from this development

We find it very concerning that the developer’s consultant has asserted that no wetland evaluation is needed particularly when that assertion ignores the most salient section of the Provincial Policy Statement pertaining to wetland conservation, namely section 2.1.4, which expressly precludes any development or site alteration in a significant wetland, without exception. 

Without carrying out an OWES evaluation of the wetland complex on the subject property, the Developer, and by extension Council, risks this proposed development being found in violation of PPS rules surrounding development on Ontario wetlands.

Bracebridge Town Council must order the developer to conduct an independent Ontario Wetland Evaluation System (OWES) assessment on the Subject Lands, including Species at Risk so that the MNRF can review and comment. An OWES would ground any required protective measures in current facts.

Further information and steps you can take to oppose this development (including signing a petition and emailing Council) are explained by SBEPG here and here. You also may register to speak at the virtual public meeting that will be held over Zoom on October 27th at 2pm.


Since the inception of the District of Muskoka 50 years ago, seasonal residents have been counted at 50% of a person for the purpose of allocation of seats on District Council. This has implications for the number of District Councillors that represent towns vs townships. Jointly with the MLA, we have written to both District Council and Minister Steve Clark requesting this be changed to 100% as part of the Council modernization review. The newly formed District Modernization Committee has agreed to right this wrong - finally! More details, including our letters, can be found here and here. We will keep you updated on this issue that impacts us all. 


On Monday October 19 2020, the report of the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Group was released by the Hon. Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. The report was co-authored by the Advisory Group’s 9 volunteers, including its Chair and Friend of Muskoka supporter Mardi Witzel.

The Advisory Group makes 19 recommendations which together offer a bold and ambitious plan to protect and enhance the Muskoka River Watershed, addressing issues of water quality, water quantity and optimal functioning of ecological systems, while considering social and economic imperatives. The overarching recommendation is to implement comprehensive, Integrated Watershed Management (IWM) in the Muskoka watershed. The Advisory Group recommends the formation of a Community Round Table to implement the IWM framework. A link to the full document is provided here.

IWM brings a science-based, ecological perspective to environment and land-use management. It is the process of managing human activities and natural resources on a watershed basis​, taking into account social, economic and environmental issues, as well as local community​ interests and issues such as the impacts of growth and climate change.

For a detailed discussion of IWM and the case for this type of planning in Muskoka, please see the Muskoka Watershed Council’s recent report


Although Legacy Cottages was given approval by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) earlier this year to build 43 cottages on only 470’ of shoreline – despite objections from the Township of Muskoka Lakes (TML) and Friends of Muskoka – TML now has an opportunity to include very specific terms and measurements in its agreement with Legacy to ensure the LPAT conditions are implemented and enforced. 

Strong terms will help ensure that Legacy Cottages operates as a commercial resort, as required by the property’s zoning, and not as a residential subdivision disguised as a resort. 
FOM and the MLA provided TML Council with suggested additional terms in this joint letter

For example, one of LPAT’s conditions requires that unit owners put their units in a rental pool so they are available to be rented by the travelling and vacationing public, consistent with any commercial resort. However, an additional term should be added that prevents unit owners from being able to set the rental rate – otherwise, unit owners could avoid the rental pool by setting rental rates so high that the units are not rented and unit owners are able to stay in their units all summer. 

To reassure TML Council that it is permitted to add our suggested terms, FOM provided this legal opinion which states that our “proposed changes to the condominium agreement can be made” and that “these changes represent details required to facilitate the implementation and or administration of the LPAT conditions”.

In addition, representatives of FOM explained our suggested terms to TML’s Planning Committee at its meetings on September 17th and October 14th.

FOM urges TML Council to include our suggested terms in its condominium agreement with Legacy, which we believe are essential in order to implement and enforce LPAT’s conditions for commercial usage of Legacy’s units.


We are sad to report that the Township of Muskoka Lakes and the We Love Bala group lost their recent LPAT hearing. The decision permits JW Marriott to use the Bala Bay Inn as staff accommodation, including the trailers, which the community argued are not in keeping with the character of Bala.

This loss highlights issues that need to be addressed in our Township Official Plan (OP) and Zoning By-Law (ZBL). We need architectural guidelines if we don’t want trailers lining our main streets. We need policies that require on-site staff housing for resorts to avoid issues with noise and disruption. And we need to eliminate the “may”s and “where possible”s from OP lexicon and put back the “must”s and “shall”s. 

We need specific, unambiguous policies and by-laws that are not open to interpretation when challenged. This decision demonstrates that what the community wants must be explicitly spelled out in the OP since no matter how much a development will alter or harm the character of a community, if the rules allow it, it will likely be allowed by LPAT. 

Please tell our Mayor and Councillors that our new Official Plan and Zoning By-Law must be more robust and defensible. 


Thank you to our many supporters who took part in the virtual TML OP review public meeting and completed the OP survey. Unsurprisingly, there was strong support for policies that will protect both the environment and character of our lakes for the benefit of future generations.  There was also some support for allowing owners more leeway with what and how much is built on the waterfront.   FOM believes that moving in this direction would be detrimental to our lakes and our experience of the lakes in the long term and encourages the Township to pass more protective policies that the majority of the community is asking for.  

Next Steps: TML Working Group and Council will discuss the consultant’s summary of your feedback on the 29 Policy Directions at meetings on October 28th and 30th. FOM President, Laurie Thomson, and MLA board member, Liz Lundell, will both take part in those discussions.


Township of Muskoka lakes is undergoing a strategic planning exercise, coinciding with the review of it’s Official Plan. A virtual town hall was held last Saturday October 17th where about 40 residents provided their input into TML’s strategic plan. Again, environmental issues were at the forefront with some support for “managed” economic growth. Many of our supporters experienced technical difficulties with the meeting and we encourage you to complete the survey to have your views heard.   There has been some confusion about this survey vs the OP Review survey. This is a different survey asking your views on issues of focus for our Council. The deadline to complete the Strategic Plan Survey is next Friday, October 30th.

Please take 15 minutes to complete this survey today and tell the Township (again!) what Muskoka means to you. We have heard from hundreds of our supporters that an Environment First philosophy should be adopted - the environment should be at the forefront of decision-making. This is a chance to reiterate that sentiment. 


Friends of Muskoka and the MLA submitted a carefully researched joint letter commenting on the recently released draft Minett Official Plan Amendment (OPA), and pointing out our concerns in five key areas: residential units on commercially zoned property, density of development in the waterfront area, number of docks, servicing, and conditions to ensure commercial usage of accommodation units. FOM and MLA representatives also explained our comments at the TML Council meetings on August 31st and September 11th. 

The draft Minett OPA was prepared by consultants, based on discussions of the Minett Working Group that met numerous times over the summer and had representatives from TML Staff and Council, the Minett Joint Policy Review Steering Committee, and the owners of the three resort properties in Minett. 
The long awaited public meeting on the Minett OPA will be held in conjunction with the District. We were hoping the meeting would be in November, but this has been delayed. With the urging of District Councillors and Friends of Muskoka, the District has requested a staff report on servicing for the Minett area. Currently, the District Official Plan requires municipal water and wastewater servicing for significant development to proceed. The Minett Joint Policy Review Steering Committee and the Minett Working Group both recommend private servicing as the preferred option. The servicing decision will influence the amount and type of development allowed in the hamlet of Minett.

Friends of Muskoka agree that properly run private servicing is preferred as it will allow the Township to limit development for the foreseeable future to a level that is more appropriate for small Wallace Bay. There is adequate excess capacity at other wastewater facilities in the District to accommodate projected residential growth, so there is no need to designate such growth in Minett. 

The servicing report is due back to District in November and we expect the virtual public meeting to follow shortly after that. We will keep you posted!


Stop Muskoka Pit is a group organized to stop the proposed Lippa Pit and Quarry located within 2km of Skeleton Lake. The rock crushing gravel pit could impact the water quality of one of the most pristine lakes in the Muskokas, and could also negatively impact Lakes Rosseau, Joseph and Muskoka. Some surprising scientific facts about Skeleton Lake and the surrounding waterfront area are available on their website here

We wish you and your loved ones continued strength and good health as we move forward in confidence together.

Directors, 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.


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.


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