MUSKOKA LAKES - Plans are moving ahead to develop the blasted eyesore in Port Carling.
Simon Hirsh, from Hirsh Resort Developments, is working toward plans for more housing, retail and office space on the property just beside the bridge going into Port Carling. The land has been sitting desolate for several years after the previous owner stopped work because of the economic conditions.
Hirsh gained approval for several bylaw amendments from Muskoka Lakes Township on Monday, May 28.
Mayor Alice Murphy referred to the land as Muskoka Lakes’ crown jewel and told Hirsh to make them proud.
The plans include a building facing Joseph Street and the Indian River with retail shops, offices and three residences, as well as a boathouse with seven residences above it.
A neighbour of the resort property voiced his concern about the damage his home received the last time the area was blasted.
“What has happened to this property next door has been devastating to us,” he said.
The blasting caused damage to the house that insurance did not cover it, so he had to swallow the cost himself, he said.
Hirsh doesn’t expect any more blasting to be necessary, but if it is he said they will post bonds to ensure the neighbouring properties are safe.
During the discussion at council, Shawn Leon, the previous owner, said he supports the development, but voiced his concern about how the buildings are laid out, the location of the buildings and making sure there would be enough parking.
“I’d be very surprised if council supported this application in its current form,” he said, referencing the difficulty he had working with council on setbacks and heights in the past.
He mentioned the living quarters and space in the boathouse is higher than other boathouses are allowed to have.
“That sets a precedent that can certainly be copied elsewhere in the area and I’m not sure that’s a path that council wants to go down,” he said.
Several concerns about parking were voiced, which council said would be addressed during site plan control, emphasizing there will be no reduction in parking.
Part of the plans includes widening the road five feet to accommodate traffic. Neighbours were concerned that it will affect their landscaping, including gardens they planted in front of their home, trees that act as a noise barrier, and old stone steps on their home.
Hirsh said if that happens, they would restore it to the same state or better than what it was.
It will still be several months before the shovels hit the dirt, even if all goes well. The application is currently in an appeal period until June 22.