Know your rights and have your say.
That is the message the Our Muskoka Stakeholders Association wants cottagers, full-time residents, and business owners to embrace.
Over the past two years, the group itself has been involved in public meetings, sharing information and offering input during the ongoing Official Plan Review in the Township of Muskoka Lakes.
With many proposed Official Plan changes potentially impacting owners’ ability to enjoy their properties, Our Muskoka is trying to find a balance that acknowledges the rights of property owners while respecting and caring for the natural environment.
“We want the community to know they have a right to share their views with respect to the Official Plan Review. More likely than not, at least one of the proposed changes will impact you directly,” the group said in a release.
Views can be shared through writing a municipal council member, contacting the Township, or directly through Our Muskoka. As well, public meetings are being held to allow ratepayers to have their say.
Much discussion has taken place around adding Recreational Carry Capacity limits, which would freeze development on around 50 lakes.
Our Muskoka believes RCC may work on smaller lakes, but is concerned that a door has been left open to apply it to bays on larger bodies of water. This doesn’t work, they say, because the larger lakes are public and regularly host hundreds of transient boaters.
“Anyone can boat on the big lakes. It doesn’t make sense to apply it to the bays because you don’t just boat on a single bay.”
There are concerns about the process to create water-access lots. Property owners could require more frontage to sever a lot, as well as be forced to enter complicated lease agreements with nearby marinas.
Another concern is a proposed change that would require full site plan approvals – including all manner of studies – to occur before making even the slightest alteration to your property. While recognizing their usefulness, Our Muskoka believes full site plan approvals should only be done when appropriate.
“Site plan approvals are a necessary tool in certain circumstances, such as larger properties undergoing significant changes that have big impacts on the surrounding areas.”
Those with lower-level boathouse lounges should be aware that accessory recreational use floor area is – at the time of this writing – being included in the draft Official Plan, but that some uses will still not be permitted.
The question Our Muskoka asks is, “how do you want to use your boathouse?”
Their website has more information, surveys, links to official documents, petitions and more. It is continually updated as each draft of the Official Plan comes to fruition.
With the OP Review nearing the end and a municipal election around the corner, the time is now to get informed and have your say.
TEXT CHRIS OCCHIUZZI | PHOTOS ANDREW FEARMAN