New District Plan Proposes High-Density Housing on Muskoka Waterfront

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The Muskoka Lakes Association needs to make you aware of avery significant threat to the environment and lifestyle of Muskoka.

We hope you will pass on this alert to friends, family and neighbors who share our commitment to this beautiful landscape.

The District of Muskoka is considering a policy change that will result in an alarming increase in the number of condos and residential communities on the Muskoka waterfront.

 In an attempt to preserve Muskoka's "grand resort" tradition, the District’s planners are suggesting that commercial resorts should be allowed to redevelop as residential communities. The current proposal is that these "hybrid" resorts could designate up to 50% of their units as conventional homes. The rest would be required to enter a "rental pool" for an undetermined number of weeks per year.

Here's the problem: Resorts in Muskoka have special dispensation to build at much higher density than residential communities. (The District calls this "enhanced density permissions.") How "enhanced?" One project currently underway on the former Lakeside Lodge site near Minett is marketing 43 "cottage" units on a 470’ frontage lot that, if zoned cottage residential, could support only two conventional cottages.

Make no mistake: developers are watching and hoping to do similar projects if this change goes through. We could see new, highdensity residential development all over Muskoka, on big lakes and small.

Some advocates are promoting this initiative by saying, "No one wants resorts any more. This is what the market wants to buy." The MLA knows this. People have always wanted access to Muskoka's waterfront. Our clean water and unspoiled views are a magnet for visitors from around the world.

Underpinning this interest in “owning a piece of Muskoka” is the forward looking, thoughtful public policy that has so far protected Muskoka for the last 50 years.

Muskoka has said, "Environment First." Seasonal and permanent residents have accepted increasing restrictions on their development rights, to achieve a shared purpose: preservation of Muskoka's waterfront character.

Over the years, minimum lot sizes have risen, setbacks from the water have been increased, back-lot development has been discouraged, and shoreline-buffer rules have been tightened. Muskokans accept these restrictions as the only means of preserving Muskoka's uniqueness in the face of increasing development pressures.

The proposed changes to the District's Official Plan would irrevocably change the character of Muskoka waterfront. New developments would bring hundreds of new homes to rural Muskoka, marring our green forested shores with mini-cities bristling with waterfront condos and back-lot development. This would put immense pressure on Muskoka's rural character, wildlife and water quality.

Think for a moment about the impact on boat traffic created by high density waterfront developments. If you're not yet convinced that this proposal is wrong-headed, consider this.

These so-called "resorts" will really be residential communities, masquerading as resorts solely to exploit that industry’s special zoning rights. The District's so -called condition -having at least 50% of the units "to be available to the traveling public" –would be no help at all. Why? It is unknown how -or even if -the District would regulate this requirement. How would it ensure these units are made available to resort clients in summer? How would it ensure that unit-holders wouldn't skirt the requirement to rent out their homes by underselling or overcharging? How would municipalities even monitor this activity? And what penalties could they levy for non-compliance?

There are no answers ...Here's more bad news. The District is actively delegating many of its powers to its six component municipalities (Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, TML, etc.). How would these lower-tier municipalities, especially the three resource-strapped townships, possibly track or enforce residents’ compliance with such complex rules?

The MLA truly laments the decline of Muskoka's traditional resorts. But that's no reason to hand over prime Muskoka real estate to developers who want to despoil our pristine waterways for their own gain.

We hope the District will come to its senses and continue its long, vital mission to restrict waterfront development -not open it up to all comers.

The MLA intends to fight this proposed change in Policy all the way. But we need your support.

TIME IS VERY SHORT this issue will be closed to public input in less than a month.

 

 



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