The extent of development being proposed on Langmaid’s Island in Lake of Bays is raising concerns not just among surrounding residents, but Huntsville’s Planning Committee members as well.
The owners of Langmaid’s Island, which is roughly 147 acres and consists of two land masses, have also purchased an additional mainland property to help provide access and parking to the island. Their proposal involves the creation of 36 island lots to be developed with single residential homes.
According to planning documents listed on the Township of Lake of Bays’ website, the frontage of the proposed lots would range in size from 295.9 feet to a maximum size of 1,039.3 feet. The development would have access from the mainland at 3933 South Portage Road, which is a vacant lot roughly 0.25 acres in size that has historically served as access for the island. The proponents have also secured access from 4215 South Portage Road, which is roughly 2.89 acres and contains a tourist establishment known as Beauview Cottage Resort.
Rezoning for both properties would need to be approved in order to establish a waterfront landing as the permitted use, provide parking for up to 20 vehicles and docking for 10 boats on 3933 South Portage Road, and a waterfront landing as an additional permitted use and parking for up to 100 vehicles on 4215 South Portage Road.
Three municipalities will be involved in the planning approval process. The Township of Lake of Bays would have to approve the proposed island development, which would require an Official Plan amendment as well as a close analysis of the impact such a development would have on the designated heritage areas of the island. The District Municipality of Muskoka is responsible for plans of subdivision associated with the creation of separate island lots, while the lands intended for parking and access to the island fall under the jurisdiction of the Town of Huntsville, where the island access lots on South Portage Road are located.
Town of Huntsville Manager of Planning Process, Kirstin Maxwell, told Huntsville’s Planning Committee at its June 13 meeting that as far as the planning process is concerned, approvals would first have to come from both the Township of Lake of Bays and the District, before committee makes a recommendation on zoning amendment requirements for the properties on South Portage Road.
“In terms of process, there’s the subdivision application that has to be approved at District, there’s an Official Plan amendment in Lake of Bays as well as a development permit amendment and then there’s our zoning amendments,” Maxwell told committee. “So we would be looking to Lake of Bays to do their approval process before we would consider the zoning amendment, because if there’s no use established for the island… then there’s no requirement on our side to proceed with the zoning amendments.”
A joint public meeting was held by all three approval bodies on June 2 at the Lake of Bays Community Centre. Whether the applicants will return with a revised proposal to address concerns raised at that meeting is not yet clear, said Maxwell.
Several councillors and planning committe members who attended the meeting told Huntsville Doppler that it was extremely well attended. “There was a great public turnout and I would say there were about 30 deputations from cottagers, homeowners, residents and they were mostly negative about the size of the development on Langmaid’s and the impact it would have visually, on water quality and ecologically,” noted Councillor Jason FitzGerald.
He said quite a bit of information was presented at the meeting, which at times became heated particularly when the Mayor asked a man to leave. He said an area resident accused the Township of Lake of Bays of having already approved the project, given the significant funds that had already been expended by the island developers. “(Lake of Bays) Mayor Young stood up and said, ‘sir, you’re accusing us of fraud and I’m going to ask you to leave this meeting immediately,’” said FitzGerald, who also confirmed that the man did in fact leave.
Asked for his opinion on what’s being proposed on the island, he said:
I don’t think it’s responsible development. I don’t think it needs to be that scale.Huntsville Councillor Jason Fitzgerald who is also a member of Huntsville’s Planning Committee
Councillor Nancy Alcock, who chairs Huntsville’s Planning Committee, said the turnout at the June 2 meeting was “incredible.”
Councillor Jonathan Wiebe, also a member of Huntsville’s Planning Committee, concurred. He said attendance was at standing room only and all three municipalities involved in the approval process were well represented with councillors and municipal staff present. He also said the concerns expressed by area residents who attended the meeting were numerous and valid. “I think it’s going to take a lot of work to find the right balance,” he said of the amount of development that might be acceptable to all stakeholders.
“If I were a member of council in Lake of Bays, I’d be concerned with the scale of it. I think that they may be underestimating how much (infrastructure) is going to be needed for boat ownership, boat traffic, access to the island. I think it’s a far bigger issue into the future than maybe the proponents are leading on. I’d be very hesitant about it, I would be bargaining for less development and more conservation land on that property,” said Wiebe of the island.
“I echo all of that,” said Alcock, who was sitting beside Wiebe during the informal discussion following the Huntsville Planning Committee meeting. “From my perspective, it was hard for me not to have an opinion in a way because there was one report that was presented that suggested that they’re okay with the development, but they scaled it back from 36 to about 10 or 12 (lots) and the reason for that is they identified very clearly the areas that should not be developed at all.” Alcock was referring to a report put together by a consultant hired to examine the proposal. “I thought that was quite interesting because the way the plan of subdivision is now, it seems to blanket the entire Langmaid’s Island, even though there’s a recognition that there are some areas that are truly conservation, or natural heritage, or have features that are really important and there was this recognition that there are these areas, but somehow they’re divided into all of these private lots.” She said a revised plan would absolutely need to take those special areas into consideration.
There’s not as much stewardship when you slice it all up and hope that everyone takes care of their parcel. Environmental constraints are really about the whole. There are many constraints around waterfront and there are many factors to consider when dividing property up… just because you paid a lot of money and damned the torpedoes, I get to do this, I have lots of money – you shouldn’t always expect to have the full rein to develop at your whim.Huntsville Councillor Jonathan Wiebe who is also a member of the Town’s Planning Committee
Alcock added that there is also a buyer beware element to the development of that particular island. “In this situation there were identified natural heritage areas and there are some physical constraints, barriers on this property. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be any development, absolutely not, but I don’t think anyone should assume (anything),” she said, adding that those buying an island such as Langmaid’s should look at the history, surrounding properties and all constraints involving the island.
“When you’re on the water you’re not in a bubble. You’re part of a bigger community and a bigger fabric,” added Wiebe.
You can find more information on what’s being proposed here.
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