What we are doing to Save Muskoka

The District of Muskoka is currently in the process of reviewing its Official Plan policies that will govern land use, development and government decision making for the next 20 years.  In the fall of 2017 Friends of Muskoka discovered that the Draft Official Plan contained policies that would make it easy for developers to build high density residential subdivisions on the waterfront in the guise of resorts.  

Friends of Muskoka and the Muskoka Lakes Association launched a strong opposition to these policies with the help of several environmental and planning experts.  We had important and constructive meetings to discuss our input on the District Official Plan ("DOP") with planners from the District and the 6 local Muskoka municipalities, and the District planning consultant.  These meetings related to:

  1. the resorts clauses in the DOP, including the destructive clause that would allow 50% of the units on resort properties to be residential, and
  2. the policies that will preserve our watershed, lake health and environment.

Our efforts to influence OP policies resulted in District staff taking the position that more studies and discussion are necessary before the new Official Plan is finalized.   In August 2018, District Council approved OPA 47, an amendment to the current OP, that includes revised and updated policies to all parts of the Official Plan with the exception of the resorts clauses and the clauses related to the Resort Village of Minett.  Work on these policies is ongoing.

We are pleased that District included several of our suggested improvements to the clauses relating to protection of our lakes, however, we believe they could be strengthened further and have written a letter to the final approval authority, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH), detailing our suggestions.

We continue to advocate for what is best for Muskoka at 5 developments: Villas of Muskoka, Touchstone/MIST, Legacy Resorts, Marriott Hotel, and Resort Village of Minett. - Villas and Touchstone/MIST: The developer appealed the District's conditions in its condominium application to the OMB, and the hearing was scheduled to proceed on April 23 and 24. Friends of Muskoka applied for party status, and we and our lawyer and planner prepared for the OMB hearing; however, it was postponed at the last minute when the Board member hearing the matter became unavailable for the first day. On the second day, our lawyer participated in a pre-hearing conference with lawyers from the developers, the District and Township of Muskoka Lakes. The OMB hearing has been rescheduled for early November 7 to 9.....so another lost season for the developers of these two properties. There was discussion of mediation in the next few months. - Legacy: At the end of February, the developer at Legacy Cottages applied for a work permit to build 8 new docks and a large boathouse with 3 additional slips, in addition to the existing docks, which would provide docking space for 50 boats - clearly intended to allow each of Legacy's units to dock a boat. We have challenged this application at the federal Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and await their decision. At this point all other construction on the site has stopped, which we suspect is the result of our actions and wanting to hear the outcome of OMB hearing in November, which will also affect them. - Marriott: Through our lawyer , we objected to the application by the Marriott Red Leaves to build 40 more cottages on their property, some of them only 10 feet from the shoreline. At the Township of Muskoka Lakes 'Committee of the Whole' hearing on February 15th, 3 representatives of Friends of Muskoka spoke in opposition, and won a unanimous deferral until the developer is able to address concerns about the septic system, (undersized and not on their property, which Council was unaware of) and the fire department access.

Our WAVES newsletter provides timely updates on our progress and keeps our members engaged. Wave archive is available here.

Our petition to protect the lakes from overdevelopment reached over 25,000 signatures and was instrumental in raising awareness of the threat to the natural environment and unique character of Muskoka! 

Thanks to the record numbers of people who voted to protect the future of Muskoka, the candidates who support sustainable development now form a majority on four of Muskoka’s municipal councils.

Now we have momentum!

With this tremendous show of support for the stated Core Values, we are optimistic Councils will put our fragile environment first. We hope that means stopping the unsustainable development that is being planned by developers across Muskoka. Our collective voices have made a difference – and by staying involved, we can continue to use our voices to protect the Muskoka we all love, for generations to come!

For more information, look through our news feed or Waves.

the problem in muskoka

We are asking for your help today to fend off a drastic threat to the scenic waterfront communities of Muskoka.

A new District Official Plan will, if enacted, generate high-density redevelopment of resort properties throughout Muskoka.

Sign up for the Friends of Muskoka Waves newsletter for updates on the next chance for input on the new Official Plan. Official plans set the rules of land use and development for a municipality. This new plan would allow any of Muskoka’s 100-plus waterfront commercial properties to be redeveloped into high-density residential subdivisions – thanks to a developer-friendly redefinition of what constitutes a “Resort”. The District of Muskoka’s planners, in a misguided attempt to prop up the ailing resort industry, are proposing that 50% of all new units may be sold and operated as fully residential units, without the requirement to rent. The other 50% can be sold with minimal (and unenforceable) rental obligations. It is, simply, residential densification under the guise of being a “Resort”. Ironically the real effect maybe doing away with resorts entirely as it will be much more lucrative for a developer to fully build out and sell homes on these properties than it will be to run a resort.

If passed, this new District Plan will change the character of Muskoka and our beautiful shorelines forever.

The Muskoka Lakes Association Board and Friends of Muskoka are unanimously opposed to the District’s proposals, and have mounted a strong and collaborative opposition effort. Several other cottage associations are working with us. This is truly a defining moment for Muskoka. It could be an expensive undertaking. But if we don’t act now, in 10 years our children will ask us why we didn’t.

Friends of Muskoka have been working tirelessly over the past year to educate politicians and planners as to what is actually happening and we have effectively paused activity at 5 resorts, including the entire Resort Village of Minett. Developers could be permitted to build up to 3600 residences just in Minett, more than all the cottages on Lake Rosseau and Lake Joseph COMBINED, and that could create a community larger than Bracebridge. Other developments already underway include: Legacy Cottages on Lake Rosseau where the developer has clear cut to build 43 cottages on 470’ of shoreline; Villas of Muskoka on Lake Muskoka where 23 units have been built along 800’ of shoreline; Touchstone Resort on Lake Muskoka that has applied to build an additional 100 residential condominium units; and JW Marriott (Red Leaves) on Lake Rosseau that has applied to build an additional 42 residences along the shoreline. With over 100 commercially zoned properties in the District, (including resorts, camps and marinas), there is huge risk of over-loading the lakes from the stand point of safety, our continued enjoyment, and water quality.

 

What can you do?

STAY TUNED FOR UPDATES ON THE NEXT CHANCE FOR INPUT ON THE MUSKOKA OFFICIAL PLAN – SEE THE EVENTS PAGE HERE.

 Let’s stop the Muskoka sell-out!

NEWS FEED

Holiday Wishes

Holiday Wishes

The Friends of Muskoka Board thanks you for your tremendous support this year, and wishes you and your families the very best for the Holiday Season and the New Year!

Press Coverage of LPAT

Press Coverage of LPAT

Agatha Farmer covers the November LPAT in Muskoka Region: Battle between commercial vs. residential land use continues in Muskoka "The LPAT hearing is extremely important as commercial properties are attempting to rebuild their properties selling residential usage at...