MUSKOKA - Muskoka municipalities are leaning on the opposite sides of the deck on whether to allow secondary dwelling units on Muskoka’s waterfronts.
The District of Muskoka is looking at creating more affordable housing through secondary dwelling units to comply with changes to the provincial planning act, which came into effect in January.
A secondary dwelling unit, also known as a secondary apartment, accessory apartment, in-law suite or basement apartment, is a self-contained residential unit with a
kitchen and a bathroom and is located in a primary dwelling.
The changes require only a few minor revisions to Muskoka’s Official Plan, which would be changed to allow secondary units in individual homes, semi-detached homes, row housing, and ancillary structures. Municipalities are concerned the change could impact the policies regarding secondary dwellings on waterfront properties, which are currently not permitted.
Paul Wiancko, a councillor for Georgian Bay Township, said allowing secondary units in waterfront housing would cause major issues in his municipality.
“I think it would be devastating to start having it apply to our waterfront community,” Wiancko said.
At a planning and economic development committee meeting on August 23, Summer Valentine, manager of planning projects for the District of Muskoka, said the province is allowing municipalities to determine the appropriate locations and the standards, such as parking requirements and size for the secondary units.
Wiancko was concerned that could mean the district will take charge and enforce secondary units on the waterfront.
Valentine said more discussion needs to take place before anything happens on the waterfronts because there isn’t enough agreement between the staff of the different municipalities.
“I can’t foresee a circumstance that we (the district) would proceed in that regard. At this time, looking at flexible policies would seem to be the best option,” Valentine said.
John Klinck, chair for the District of Muskoka, agreed the district should look at secondary units on the waterfront, but leave the final decision to municipalities.
“I can think of several instances in my neighbourhood where a family might be preparing for that,” Klinck said.
The proposed minor changes to Muskoka’s Official Plan regarding secondary dwelling units are not appealable to the Ontario Municipal Board, but any changes to allowing secondary dwelling units on the waterfront would be appealable.
Alice Murphy, mayor of Muskoka Lakes Township, asked why the district is considering going down the path of allowing waterfront properties to add units if it is possibly subject to Ontario Municipal Board hearings.
“At no point do we move forward with anything related to the waterfront unless there’s been a lot of consideration beforehand,” Murphy said.
Wiancko said the issue needs to be addressed soon, as he doesn’t want it to go to the next council.
“Out in the boonies where we are, if we starting doubling the size of our communities on some of our lakes, I think there’d be an outcry. I think we should put some parameters on this sooner than later,” Wiancko said.
The proposed amendment to the official plan will be circulated in area municipalities, and a public meeting will be scheduled to discuss secondary units on waterfront properties at a later date.