Muskoka Lakes continues to request a high number of site plans for building projects according to a report by the township’s planning department.
Planning staff in the township foresee an increase in the number of site plan approvals, according to the report, “as Committee of Adjustment and Council decisions increasingly impose this process as a condition.”
In 2012 planning staff processed 70 site plans, which is an agreement between the property owner and township to make sure the development is compatible with the surrounding landscape and development and is completed in an orderly fashion. Muskoka Lakes uses site plan agreements for all commercial properties as well as many residential properties on the water to deal with issues such as steep shorelines, privacy concerns, and properties on narrow water bodies. The municipality can also require a site plan for other situations to alleviate concerns of council and neighbours for development on certain properties.
In 2006 the municipality’s bylaw became more specific as to what lakes and zones are subject to site plan approval.
David Pink, interim director of planning for Muskoka Lakes, estimated about half the residential waterfront properties are subject to site plan agreements.
“It seems it’s increasing,” Pink said. “It seems when you review a development quite specifically in detail for a planning application and it’s in front of council and neighbours it seems inevitably there’s going to be some concerns and sometimes they’re best addressed through a site plan agreement, so I do find that they’re being imposed as a condition seems to be generally increasing.”
The number of site plan agreements in 2012 was 70, down two from 2011, but up from the previous council’s term which had 55 in 2009 and 61 in 2010.
Muskoka Lakes Alice Murphy said many municipalities are using site plan agreements to ensure the vision for the township is reflected in individual property planning.
“It is a tool that is available to us and it is a tool that is of assistance both to the property owner and to the municipality in insuring that what has been agreed to with respect to the property, is in fact reflected as that property is developed,” she said.
The report said staff’s main priority for 2013, aside from planning act applications, will be the ongoing review of the comprehensive zoning bylaw which council is overhauling.
Coun. Brad Burgess, new chair of the planning committee, said they need to keep their plans updated to make sure they don’t advantage or disadvantage anyone.
“It’s obviously 25 years old, so that will certainly become one of our priorities over the next two years is to get 87-87 upgraded and updated and then passed again,” he said.
There were 12 OMB hearings in 2012, an increase from 10 in 2011, nine in 2010 and seven in 2009.
Pink said that number includes hearings that were settled or withdrawn.
In 2012, two of the hearings were from previous councils, two were withdrawn, one was submitted too late and the remaining four were resolved.
Special projects involving the planning department in 2012 included the comprehensive zoning bylaw review, restricted waterbody bylaw, resort commercial symposium, health and safety audit, the Conservation Review Board Hearing process for heritage designations in Bala and consideration of a Heritage District in Windermere.