To Whom It May Concern:
I’ve been a year-round resident of Muskoka for the past 21 years, a cottager since 1971.
I live on Juddhaven Road on Lake Rosseau, approx. 2 miles north of Minett. I am a Realtor, selling waterfront cottages.
I am opposed to the proposed changes to the Official Plan that would allow a “Residential” component to existing Resort properties on The Muskoka Lakes. The proposed changes would allow Resort owners to circumvent the existing Bylaws regarding Waterfront Residential properties (cottages), creating ultra-high density developments. This density would cause issues of roadway & boating safety, and endanger the environmental health of our Lakes.
We all agree that Resorts are part of the historical fabric & appeal of Muskoka. My family were resort guests as far back as 1901. But sadly, times change and the traditional Resort likely doesn’t make financial sense in the present day.
We cannot sacrifice the environmental health of these Lakes by providing Resort properties with special, high-density Residential development rights. If we lose the health of the Lakes, we all lose. District & Township representatives should be taking steps to decrease waterfront density.
The Resort owners say they need to raise funds for capital investments, in order to compete effectively. The solution: the Townships & District should allow the Resorts to downzone all or a portion of their properties to Waterfront Residential building lots. These lots can be developed as proper cottage lots, meaning minimum 200 feet shoreline., & subject to all usual WR bylaws.
Re; the former Lakeside Lodge property in Minett. This property is apparently zoned to allow for 46 detached cottages, with the developers requesting a confusing blend of quasi resort-residential bylaws, all on 470 feet of shoreline, the equivalent of 11 feet of shoreline per cottage. I’m assuming that each of the 46 owners will want to have a boat on the Lake.
If a Resort on the Lakeside property was no longer financially viable, the District/Township should have allowed the zoning to be changed to allow 2 cottage lots to be created, each with 275 ft shoreline, in keeping with current Official Plan requirements.
These 2 lots would have a current value of approx. $3Million. I’m assuming this option was not as potentially profitable as creating 46 separate cottages, for either the developer of the property, or the District/Township in terms of property tax revenues?
The Applicant/Developer apparently has approval via the existing Official Plan to build over 1,400 units on the property, with density near the shoreline of 25 units per acre, for a total population of over 4,000 people. There are currently approx. 1,900 cottages on Lake Rosseau; thus this development would increase the population using the Lake by 75%.
This could add 1,400 boats/sea-doos etc to the Lake. Chaos! There is no infrastructure planned for this community of 4,000 people, other than a sewage treatment plant that is 10 years overdue; no schools, no healthcare, no policing, no churches, no recreation centre. All accessed via the narrow 2-lane Peninsula Road that passes over a 1-lane bridge. This all suggests an obvious example of poor planning on the part of the 2008 District/Township in supporting this Plan. How did this irresponsible Plan get approved?
The Applicant predicts that this will be a thriving year-round community. In my opinion, as a Realtor and a fulltime resident of the area, there is no realistic evidence to suggest this prediction will come true, quite the opposite. Minett has a year-round population of approx. 50 people. Muskoka is a good-weather destination. The area booms in the Summer, and suffers in the shoulder seasons & the winter. Always has, and always will. The towns of Gravenhurst, Bracebridge & Huntsville are proof of this, despite their best efforts, even though Huntsville has a small downhill ski facility.
Large-scale Resort/Residential developments in Muskoka have failed in the past; Touchstone, Deerhurst, RockyCrest, Hanna’s Landing, even “Red Leaves” itself fell into an early Receivership. There is no reason to believe that Minett Village will have a different fate. There is no demand for these mega-projects in Muskoka.
If the District/Township insists on supporting this mega-development and the requested Residential component changes, then you should require that the Applicant/Developer provide all normal levels of infrastructure for a town of 4,000 people (schools, churches, water treatment, policing, healthcare, recreation centre) before 1 residential/resort unit is built. Don’t repeat past environmental mistakes, such as waiting 10 YEARS for a water/sewage treatment plant in Minett. If the Applicant/Developer truly believes in the viability of this project, he should be happy to “put his money where his mouth is” by funding this infrastructure. The year-round and seasonal residents of Muskoka deserve no less. We don’t deserve another white elephant.
Muskoka’s tourism has changed. The traditional Resorts aren’t driving vacationers to Muskoka as in the past. The obvious economic engine for Muskoka is the cottagers; approx. 7,500 on Lakes Muskoka/Rosseau/Joseph, plus many many more on all the smaller Lakes in the District. The cottagers support the marinas, the Towns, provide direct & indirect employment, contribute to the property tax base, etc., etc. Please don’t kill the Golden Goose! None of my hundreds of cottage clients have told me they support theses mega-resorts, or the proposed Residential component, quite the contrary. They are concerned about the water quality of the Lakes, road safety, boating safety, and of course the future value of their cottages.
Property Values: Consider the Recreational areas of North America that enjoy the highest property values: Sanibel, Captiva, Boca Grande and Naples in Florida, Monterey and Carmel in California, and Vail and Aspen in Colorado. The common element is strictly controlled, low-density development, particularly on waterfronts. These areas are always in high demand; people want to vacation and live there because of the low density!
Muskoka deserves intelligent, controlled, low-density development. Anything less will destroy the health of The Lakes. It is your responsibility to take a long-term approach.