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“I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want.”

- Andy Warhol 


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On Wednesday November 10th, Township of Muskoka Lakes Council approved changes to the Minett Official Plan.   Susan Eplett, Ken Pearce, Paul Richards, Frank Pottow and Laurie Thomson delegated on behalf of Friends of Muskoka and the Muskoka Lakes Association and Lisa Vanexan spoke on behalf of Bruce Lake, all asking for several changes to the rules governing development. You can watch us in action here (starting at 1:05:00).

We are pleased to report that Council adopted virtually all of our recommendations, including
  • Removing 158 acres of “non-Red Leaves” lands from the resort village designation, which will limit future growth potential in Minett.
  • Extending water quality protections to Bruce Lake
  • Limiting building height to 16m AND requiring buildings to remain below the natural treeline
  • Limiting building height in the waterfront setback area to 2 storeys
  • Capping maximum equivalent unit size to 850 sq ft in ALL of Minett
  • Requiring staff housing be located in Minett
  • Requiring the major landowners to pay for municipal water and wastewater services
  • Several other small wording changes and clarifying language that make a meaningful difference
At the request of Paula Bustard, representative of major Minett property owner Mitch Goldhar, Council removed the requirement to enhance public access to the resort. Enhancing public access, including along the shoreline, is now “encouraged”. Council did not approve additional requests by Ms Bustard for increased development flexibility.

As a reminder, Council previously approved limiting development in Minett to 1700 units with a unit size limit of 850 sq ft, down from approx 4000 units of unlimited size. That has not changed. This limit, combined with the changes above, are a huge win for our community!

Thank you for helping us make this happen and for supporting us through this long review process. We are most grateful to those who volunteered their time and effort to prepare written comments and attend the many meetings that led up to this policy. We could not have accomplished what we have in Minett without your support.

Our experience with Minett has shown, once again, that there is strength in numbers and that collective voices can have real impact. A community that comes together and participates - writes letters, fills in surveys, calls Councillors, votes in elections - has a stronger voice.

We’d also like to thank Council for listening to our community and thank Mr. Goldhar for purchasing the property and for his willingness to work with the community to create something special in Minett.

What’s next?
  1. The Minett Official Plan Amendment will be debated by District Council early in 2022, where they will look at issues of concern to the District, such as water and wastewater services, the impact on Peninsula Road and the bridge at Port Sandfield, as well as the financial impact of the development on District taxpayers.
  2. It will then go back to Township Council to consider the District’s comments and to consider any final changes.
  3. Once the OPA is passed, Council will need to amend the Zoning By-Law that implements the Official Plan Amendment. Mr. Goldhar will be required to submit a Master Development Plan which will determine the phasing of development, the design, building location, building heights in different parts of the resort village, access and transportation, required environmental safeguards, tree removal and vegetation requirements, and other considerations. This is where the rubber hits the road, as the devil is in the details.
We will stay closely involved and advocate for minimal impact development in Minett, and for a design and feel that is in keeping with Muskoka.


A recent decision by the City of Hamilton to combat urban sprawl is food for thought in Muskoka.

As reported in the national press, Hamilton City Council voted in November not to designate more farmland for housing over the next 30 years. The reasoning was that, for both environmental and financial reasons, municipalities should be concentrating on building in locations where there is existing infrastructure.
Many municipal governments, including in Muskoka, are updating their own official plans to comply with new land use policies being put forward by the provincial government.

The issue is whether Muskoka should be promoting growth through intensification in municipally-serviced areas, rather than encouraging sprawl in areas valued for their natural environment.

Encouraging growth outside of existing municipal boundaries is not only environmentally damaging, it is also more costly for all taxpayers, and residents in the urban areas end up subsidizing those in the suburban and rural areas. This happens in large urban centres expanding their suburbs and in smaller rural areas that either expand their town boundaries or create new municipally serviced areas. Growth by urban sprawl or new serviced nodes rarely pays for the infrastructure requirements. Such growth is also rarely “affordable” or “attainable” housing as it is not often on a transit corridor.

It remains to be seen how or if local municipal governments, such as those in Muskoka, react to Hamilton’s decision and incorporate it into their own plans as the areas struggle with the housing crisis and the stresses of increased development on the local environment.


There is a municipal election coming up in October 2022, less than a year away. We advocate for you and in 2018 our community elected a council that is very much aligned with our supporters’ priority of stopping ‘fake resorts’ and putting Muskoka’s environment first, in everything we do. With your help we can do it again. Please encourage your friends and family to sign up to our newsletters and to join the Muskoka Lakes Association for information on who can vote, how to vote and other pertinent election information.

Thank you so much for loving Muskoka and caring about its future!
All the best for a healthy and happy holiday season,

From all of us at 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.


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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