GRAVENHURST - Council has given the nod to a marina improvement site plan for Lakeshore Landing, but the decision may face appeal.
Six delegates in opposition to the plan’s approval led a large crowd into council chambers for the debate Sept. 5 and despite warnings that they would pursue an appeal if council gave marina expansion plans approval, the plans passed in a 5-4 vote.
“If approved, I see disaster in the making for all stakeholders; if it does proceed, we feel very strongly as a group that we would have to proceed with a judicial review,” said nearby resident Barbara Desmond. “This site plan needs a lot more detail to make it safe, to make all the stakeholders (happy). Make sure it’s proper; make sure it works for everybody.”
She added the proposal would draw unwanted and potentially dangerous levels of vehicle traffic to Lakeshore Drive as people seek to use a public boat launch there, while not enough room is available for loading and unloading. Desmond added the launch is proposed to be placed near a beach on a bend of the road, also creating unsafe conditions for swimmers.
“It will be mass chaos,” she said. “I can see how a marina would work on this site, or a cottage (rental facility); you put the two together, it just doesn’t make common sense.”
The development is one the Ontario Municipal Board is familiar with, as the board is currently dealing with a rezoning denial appeal by the developer relating to the same property, as council stood pat in April of this year. Although that appeal will likely now be withdrawn, at that time, the developer Lakeshore Landing Inc. was asking for a zoning amendment to increase rental units there from 20 to 24, to delete certain restrictions on the floor area of new units and to permit docking facilities to accommodate up to 52 watercraft.
The property is currently zoned commercial waterfront and is developed with eight housekeeping-style rental units, plus accessory structures and a waterfront landing on Lake Muskoka. Zoning bylaws currently restrict the number of watercraft to 14, which is historical use there.
The crux of opposition is that neighbours fear heavy boat traffic to the docks, which would be large enough to accommodate many more boats than the historical 14, and a public-access launch at the site will draw plenty of motor vehicle traffic there as well.
The developer’s representative, lawyer Paul Peterson hoped to put the crowd’s mind at ease, explaining the focus now is strictly on the marina and not with the cottage portion of the property, which had originally been planned to move forward as part of the same phase. That includes reconstruction of the marina, slips and the associated parking lot.
“My client is a little bit concerned about the cost and delay of a municipal board hearing,” Peterson explained, saying that is why an altered, scaled down phase one site plan had been presented for approval. “My client would rather be dock building this autumn; he wouldn’t like to be waiting for an appeal.”
Peterson explained Transport Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ministry of Natural Resources and District of Muskoka all gave their approval to the proposed plan, but nearby residents and cottagers, represented in full force Tuesday night, are opposed to the potential of busier docking and launching facilities and the associated motor traffic that would come with that.
As many a six local residents, including representatives from the Muskoka Lakes Cottagers Association gave their opposition to the approval and their appeals split the vote. When council voted, councillors Heidi Lorenz, Lola Bratty, Jeff Watson and Mayor Paisley Donaldson were opposed while councillors Rosemary King, Randy Jorgensen, Joe Donoghue and Sandy Cairns knotted the ballots at four each, leaving Coun. Bob Colhoun, chair of the development services committee, to cast the breaker for a 5-4 vote in favour of the site plan.
Desmond said the group cannot appeal to the OMB for a site plan approval, but will be seeking alternatives, such as a judicial review of the decision.
“We support redevelopment, but not at this scale; the potential of slips for 50 boats doesn’t sit well and is going to cause a lot of problems with traffic there,” Desmond said.