Committee heeds staff’s recommendation to deny exemptions from required setbacks on Lake of Bays

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Main photo: A rendering from FRi Ecological Services fish habitat evaluation report

Despite the builder and planner’s best attempts to get a multitude of zoning variances passed for a boat house, dock and covered barbecue at 3401 South Portage Road, their application was denied.

Committee of Adjustment members were concurring with a rare recommendation from planning staff at their December 13 meeting to deny the application. Had it been recommended for passage, it would have, among other approvals, permitted the projection of a roughly 100 square metre boathouse to about 24 metres from the shore of Whitehouse Bay on Lake of Bays.

“The hardship is generated because of the shallow nature of the shoreline,” explained Lanny Dennis, planning consultant with Wayne Simpson and Associates. “I think they’re not asking for anything more than what’s absolutely necessary to provide proper function for boating traffic on the property,” he added.

But planning staff expressed concern with a stream less than 30 m from the proposed dock and boathouse on the eastern side of the property and although the proponent’s fish study did not find significant evidence of Type 1 Fish Habitat, it did indicate the merit of protecting the stream. “The stream itself is not direct fish habitat but contributes to fish habitat in Lake of Bays by providing flow input and some nutrients and potentially forage for fish,” states the report. “However, we do feel that a 20m setback that maintains the existing vegetation is prudent to maintain the thermal qualities of the stream and nutrient transfer.”

Staff agreed with the recommendation and suggested that the applicant consider an alternate location for any proposed structure — one that could not interfere with the stream.

“As the recommendation of the fish study suggests that the stream merits protection and contributes to the overall health of the lake, and there does not appear to be any natural constraints that would prohibit the boathouse from being located elsewhere along the shoreline, staff feel that there are opportunities to explore other potential locations for the boathouse/dock away from the mouth of the stream, which would thereby allow for the protection of the Type 1 Fish Habitat,” stated municipal planner Curtis Syvret in his report.

Lanny Dennis (left) of Wayne Simpson and Associates and Jeff Lovegrove of Lovegrove Construction defend an application before Huntsville’s Committee of Adjustments on December 13, 2017.

Jeff Lovegrove of Lovegrove Construction also spoke to committee and said there is no conclusive evidence of Type 1 Fish Habitat as per a fish study conducted for the applicant. He also told committee that if the structures are moved to the other side of the shoreline, the applicant would be required to get a greater exemption as that side of the property is more shallow. He also told committee there are already larger docks and boathouses in the bay than what he’s proposing to build.

“So what we’re asking for is way less than everything else that’s in the bay,” he said, adding that he’s built structures in that area over the past 25 years and it’s always been an issue.

People don’t like change, people don’t want to see the boathousesJeff Lovegrove of Lovegrove construction

David Knowles who has been a resident of the area for 57 years, told committee the large structures are mostly on the  western side of the bay.

“The western most part of the bay has the confluence of Wadis Creek. Wadis Creek brings in a huge amount of sand and silt into that bay and it flows westerly more than it flows easterly,” explained Knowles. “The properties on that western boundary where these longer docks are have very, very shallow water. In fact, their boathouses are at a ridiculous depth regardless how long they are. The existing structures are not nice to look at but we understand their purpose,” said Knowles, adding that on the western side of the bay, docks and boathouses are not as prevalent, thereby ensuring that the character of that side of the bay is maintained.

“This bay is under your stewardship,” said another area resident, who also attended the meeting. “Let’s remember that Whitehouse Bay is also the home of Fairview Island and the home of Langmaid’s Island, both of which are currently under a great deal of development. Our bay, over the next 10 years, is going to see a great deal of development, much of it contentious and I implore you to get it right the first time. Be very, very mindful of the effect that your decisions today, starting today and in the next few years, are going to have on the lifestyle and the livelihood of the rest of us — of the people, taxpayers in this bay,” she said.

“Since the 1950s most of the cottagers in this area have had an unwritten agreement to keep the shoreline on the bay as uncluttered as possible. The reason to be on the lake is to be able to see the lake. Up until now this has worked quite well to the benefit of all. This variance request is in direct violation of that agreement and the wishes of the Whitehouse Bay community,” stated a letter submitted by Ken and Shelley Puska.

The issue here is not the bending of rules to allow a larger than permitted (I would say huge) boathouse to be built. On shore the size would still be an issue. In this case however the request is to build it out in open water. Any structure this far off shore is an eyesore, let alone one this bigKen and Shelley Puska

A total of 12 letters were submitted to the committee asking that it deny a request to:

  • Increase the projection of a dock from the permitted 15m to 29.3m;
  • Increase the permitted projection of a boathouse from 15m to 23.91m;
  • Reduce the required setback from Type 1 Fish Habitat from 30m to 0m for a boathouse only;
  • Increase the maximum width of a boathouse from 10m to 12m;
  • Reduce the required setback from Type 1 Fish Habitat from 30m to 7m for a roofed barbecue only;
  • Recognize a roofed barbecue as a permitted shoreline structure; and
  • Reduce the shoreline amenity area from 15m to 12.8m.

In the end committee denied the variance requests. Councillor Jonathan Wiebe who works for Lovegrove Construction declared a conflict and left the room while this application was being heard.

You can find the municipal report on the application here and the fish habitat evaluation report for the dwelling here (pdf) and for the dock and boathouse here (also pdf).

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