Committee approves development of undersized Ravenscliffe lot

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It’s been a long haul for Ron Earl.

Further to a story we brought you last March, Earl was back at Town Hall on July 10, 2019, seeking approval once more to build a house and attached garage for his son on an undersized lot on Ravenscliffe Road.

He brought a zoning amendment application forward to the Town’s planning committee twice last year. Had it been approved, it would have allowed him to develop the lot. The first time it was deferred so committee members could visit the property. When he returned to committee a month later, a majority of its members voted against allowing the lot to be developed on the heels of presentations made by several neighbours who opposed the development. At the time, committee voted against the proposal despite staff’s recommendation to allow it.

This time the applicant, represented by a planner, appealed to Huntsville’s committee of adjustments to allow the development to proceed. Instead of seeking a zoning amendment he requested a minor variance in order to get relief from Huntsville’s comprehensive zoning bylaw which requires existing lots of record on private services to have a minimum area of 1,350 sq.m. and limits primary lot coverage to 10 per cent. Earl’s lot is 929 sq.m. and the proposed house and attached garage would take up 15 per cent of the property.

The Official Plan permits the recognition of lots that do not meet the minimum frontage or maximum lot coverage subject to certain tests, explained Town of Huntsville planner Curtis Syvret.

“These criteria include ensuring that sufficient lot area exists to address water supply and sewage disposal as well as ensuring the character of the area is generally maintained,” said Syvret, who was once more recommending that the application be approved. “In this case the provided plan shows a modest dwelling that meets the setback requirements of the zoning bylaw, and additionally the applicant has retained a septic permit and entrance permit to address the provision of safe road access and sewage disposal,” he noted.

Area neighbours made some of the same arguments on July 10 as they had the year before. They expressed concern about the lot size and the visual impact the development would have on their property. They argued that in the past they had been told by municipal staff that the lot could not be developed. They also expressed concerns about being held liable if one of their trees fell on the house the applicant is proposing to build.

Stephen Fahner of Northern Vision Planning Ltd. in Bracebridge was before committee representing the applicant.

He spoke to the updated Official Plan’s provision for affordable housing and said affordability is an issue in Huntsville as well as Muskoka, and a smaller lot makes building a house on it more affordable.

“What’s proposed is pretty modest, in my opinion, a 908 square foot dwelling with an attached 480 square foot garage,” he told committee. He also noted that while primary structures are limited to 10 per cent of lot coverage, accessory structures can be another five per cent. In this instance, the applicant is proposing an overall 15 per cent primary lot coverage because the garage would be attached to the house and there’d be no accessory structure.

Other arguments presented by the planner included the fact that the lot is zoned rural residential, “which to me as a planner indicates some development potential. If there’s no development potential for the property…why wasn’t it zoned open space?” he questioned. He also noted that there were already lots of varying sizes in the area, which he referred to as suburban rather than urban.

Fahner also noted that while another area resident argued that the Town had been approached to ask if the lot could be built on and was told it could not be, “unfortunately the question that doesn’t get asked is can a minor variance be applied for, and yes it can be so things can change,” he said.

Councillor Nancy Alcock said she had visited the property that morning and agreed with the planner for the applicant and noted that the area was surrounded by properties of varying sizes. “With respect to the compatibility I don’t think that this proposal is incompatible with the surrounding area,” she said.

Councillor Jason FitzGerald told committee that they were there to make sound planning approvals. “If you can fit the services required on a lot to build a house, then that’s a building lot and you should be able to build a house on it,” he said. “To follow up on the trees, we live in Muskoka and we all run the inherent risk that trees are going to fall. It is up to us individually as property owners to have a tree management plan,” he said, adding that he supports the approval of the proposal.

In the end, committee approved the variance. Decisions by the Committee of Adjustment do not have to be ratified by council, but do involve an appeal period.

You can find the staff planning report here.

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2 Comments

  1. One wonders why the OP even exists (or the COMPREHENSIVE Bylaw, for that matter) even exist. Apparently, they are merely guidelines, which staff and PC use to commence a pitched battle toward an eventual result. The affordable-housing, “red herring” is so far off-base, as to be totally ludicrous. Affordable housing was never intended as an excuse for the densification of established neighbourhoods. Instead of envisaging original ways to design mixed solutions (containing affordable housing within larger developments); architects/planners will move on to more welcoming communities. After all, with this precedent, infilling will begin to proliferate.

  2. Henk Rietveld on

    Did anyone consider the access just below the crown of the hill? Really bad idea to approve this variance for the reasons stated. Also, the driveway will have to be steep…a real hazard in winter!

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