The general public of Muskoka Lakes will be asked for their feedback on the official plan that outlines development projects set to take place in the Minett resort village.
The Township of Muskoka Lakes council, in partnership with the Muskoka district's planning economic development committee, met this week to plan for public consultations. They're scheduled to take place in October, according to Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding. They'll be holding joint consultations for the official plan amendment.
“We have agreed to forward our initial note, and we’ll be doing joint public consultation with the district so that the OPAs are in step,” Harding said. “We want to get it moving.”
This plan will determine what development in Minett will look like in the future, including the density, the height of buildings, protections for the lakes and the environment and more.
A handful of stakeholder groups have already seen and given their feedback on the OPA, including Friends of Muskoka. Susan Eplett, a member of the group, spoke at a special council meeting of the township of Muskoka Lakes on Sept. 11.
She highlighted that the Friends of Muskoka, in conjunction with the Muskoka Lakes Association, sent a letter to council the week before the meeting with their feedback on the OPA draft. At the meeting, she spoke in support of a public consultation, calling it “the missing piece to make an informed decision on what is appropriate for Minett.”
“Until you hear from the public at large, we don't have all perspectives,” she said.
Laurie Thomson, the group's president, said that while the Minett area has traditionally been a “resort hamlet,” they want to hear what vision community members have for the area through public discussions.
Talk of future developments in the resort village, in recent years, have centred around projects involving the JW Marriott, The Villas of Lake Muskoka and Touchstone Resort, Legacy Cottages and Cleveland's House.
Eplett, speaking to MuskokaRegion.com on Sept. 23, shared that in discussions with members of the Muskoka Lakes Association and Friends of Muskoka, the groups would support some residential properties being built on commercial lands in Minett. However, they do not want to see this happen outside of the resort village.
During the Sept. 11 meeting, Eplett said that the wishes of council and the community need to be more explicit in the official plan. She pointed to the recent decision on the Bala Bay Inn, which, after a Sept. 2 ruling from the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, will continue to allow staff accommodation, as an example of LPAT ruling in favour of developers when a plan's language is “ambiguous.”
“If the rules aren't clear or there is any room for interpretation, it will likely be allowed by LPAT,” she said.
The Minett steering committee, formed in 2018, submitted its recommendations for the Minett development back in June. They wrote that the “protection and enhancement” of the environment should be prioritized over economic and social development.
Zahraa Hmood, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com