LAKE OF BAYS - A number of Lake of Bays residents voiced their opposition during a council meeting to a proposal by Squarehouse Holdings Inc. to reconstruct a two-storey boathouse and redevelop the property at 1868 Fox Point Rd.
Squarehouse Holdings wants to demolish the current cottage, bunkies, boathouse and deck to build a new 2,000-square-foot cottage and attached decks 43 feet from the water’s edge and a new boathouse in a different location.
Opposition stems mainly from the setback of the cottage from the water and the size and location of the proposed boathouse.
The current cottage is 32 feet from the water’s edge and the new cottage would have a 50-foot setback. The township official plan (OP) dictates in a typical situation, development on an existing lot is permitted with a setback of a minimum 66 feet. The OP also stipulates consideration for a lesser setback is possible when achieving the required setback is not possible and when existing terrain or soil conditions create an alternate, more suitable location.
The current boathouse on the property is grandfathered. However, the proposal would not see the two-storey boathouse built on the existing footprint, but slightly farther from the side lot line.
Squarehouse Holdings wants to build a flat-roofed boatport on the westerly side of the boathouse. The flat-roof portion meets the required 29.5-foot side yard setback. The current boathouse has a flat roof, 18.6 feet high. The new boathouse would have a peaked roof over the living quarters at a height of 22.4 feet.
Planning staff presented a report to council recommending the approval of the proposal. However, members of council and residents weren’t so keen.
“Building a new, very large cottage within the 66-foot setback is unnecessary and unacceptable,” wrote Tom Anselmi in a letter addressed to the deputy clerk and council. “Building living quarters in a new boathouse is absolutely unacceptable. By permitting these kinds of exceptions, we are accelerating the slippery slope that has turned lakes Muskoka, Rosseau and Joe into Forest Hill north. The township has been successful in avoiding that for Lake of Bays and should continue that approach.”
Resident Leslie French had similar concerns and attended the council meeting on July 17.
Mayor Bob Young said he was conflicted regarding the boathouse and its living quarters and the concept of grandfathering.
“Where does grandfathering start and end?” he asked openly. “Grandfathering in my mind started with the exact footprint nailed to the ground, if you will. I know in certain other jurisdictions, you’re even required in some cases to use parts of the original foundation to maintain that grandfathering principle. In this case I’m conflicted because they’re moving the boathouse, which is a positive thing, but how does that affect the grandfathering?”
Township planner Stefan Szczerbak said property owners are allowed, through the OP and the development bylaw, to demolish and rebuild a grandfathered structured so long as it is the exact same size on the same footprint.
However, he said the OP also allows for expansion so long as it would not have any negative impact to the surrounding properties.
Councillors Nancy Tapley and Ruth Ross had concerns over the boathouse’s change of character with the peak roof, deck and proposed bathroom. Coun. Ginny Burgess noted that staff has done its homework and that she has previously been on the property. Setting the cottage back farther would not be helpful, she said, and staff has worked to come up with the best situation for the property.
After more back-and forth-discussion, council approved a site-specific bylaw for the property owners to go ahead with development. The vote was not unanimous with councillors Tapley and Ross voting against the approval.