Latest News

Photo of - Cottage Life: What Bill 23 Means for Cottage Country

Cottage Life: What Bill 23 Means for Cottage Country

How the Ontario government’s sweeping planning and development changes will play out in cottage country BY JOHN LORINC, PUBLISHED IN COTTAGE LIFE: NOVEMBER 23, 2022 For the past several years, Deborah Martin-Downs, who served as the chief administrative officer of the Credit Valley Conservation Authority, has been working closely with the Township of Muskoka Lakes to update the environmental protections in its land use policies. “The township has official plans that put the environment first,” says Martin-Downs, who also served for two years as the president of the Muskoka Lakes Association. The township’s latest official plan explicitly cites goals such as maintaining a “high level of protection” for lakes and natural heritage features. “Other cottage municipalities, such as Haliburton and Kawartha Lakes, have done similar things, because without the environment, they will have nothing to offer people.” So, in late October, when the Ontario government tabled a far-reaching omnibus bill that not only scrambled much of the province’s land-use planning rules, but also struck at the heart of environmental protections—for natural features such as wetlands, as well as the clout of conservation authorities by removing their ability to weigh in on the impact of development proposals within watersheds—Martin-Downs’ radar began to ping. “What I read in this act is a total disregard for the environment,” she said about a week after it was tabled in the Ontario legislature. (Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities, many of which were established in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel in 1954, are mandated to protect floodplains and block development on hazardous or ecologically sensitive areas within a watershed.) The legislation, formally known as Bill 23, or the “More Homes Built Faster Act,” ostensibly aims to remove bureaucratic roadblocks that have, according to the government, allowed a housing shortage in the more built-up parts of Ontario to reach crisis proportions. House and condo prices have gone through the roof. New home starts aren’t keeping up with demographics. Rents have also skyrocketed. In order to close the gap and bring down the costs of ownership, Premier Doug Ford has said he wants to build 1.5 million new homes in a decade—an unprecedented pace of development. To accomplish this, his government has introduced legislation that effectively strip-mines the planning approvals system, removing conditions that have long rankled developers, such as consultation processes, high development charges and other fees, and regulatory requirements viewed as obstacles to growth. The problem? The new rules, mainly aimed at Ontario’s urbanized southern region, could also have far-reaching ecological consequences. The changes could affect the agricultural band surrounding the Greater Golden Horseshoe, as well as more rural regions, including the lake and recreational districts whose health depends on a range of environmental protections, from watershed conservation to rules governing phosphate loads in lakes. In particular, the new bill removes barriers to sprawl, significantly curtails the ability of conservation authorities to protect watersheds, and eliminates third-party appeals of development applications, such as those from cottager groups. Municipalities across the province will find their planning departments facing increased pressure from the building industry to process development applications. And, as Martin-Down points out, the municipalities in rural areas are simply not equipped to handle the volumes; many don’t even have a professional planner on staff. Planners and conservation authority officials have been studying the proposed laws since they dropped, and many say that it will be months before they have a firm understanding of what’s been put forward and how it fits into other reforms that have been set in motion, such as allowing more development in the Greenbelt around the GTA. But most agree that the act’s main impact will be a downloading of services onto ill-equipped municipalities, the neutering of the conservation authorities, the removal of opportunities for individuals to raise concerns about developments, and an erosion of standards that protect source water and limit flooding. “I think it puts more of a burden on the municipality,” says Anthony Usher, a planning consultant who has advised many cottage associations, owners, and developers. He adds that the Bill 23 changes, as well as other planning policy reforms coming out of Queen’s Park, place a far greater onus on landowners and community associations to monitor what’s happening with their municipal councils. “Every one of those changes underlines the importance of local political action.” Under the proposed new rules, the conservation authorities will no longer be allowed to provide municipalities with feedback on development applications, as has been common practice for almost two decades. Instead, it will fall to municipal planning departments to monitor any environmental risks. Some conservation authorities have provided that kind of analysis to municipalities on a fee-for-service basis, often paid by the developer, so the fiscal burden for carrying out these kinds of studies now shifts to local councils—and by extension, taxpayers—which often don’t have the staff or in-house expertise to do environmental impact assessments. Furthermore, the government is proposing changes to wetland classification, and some may no longer qualify as provincially significant ecological zones. Nonetheless, they remain important environmental areas that could now face development pressure, says Tim Lanthier, the chief administrative officer of the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority. “They’ve put things into the act that expand the powers of a minister to override any regulations through a zoning order, so the stage has been set,” he says, adding that he knows of several wetlands and habitat zones within Grey Sauble’s catchment area that could be endangered. “Certainly there are some wetlands that are in contentious development areas that could be at risk.” Usher points out that for wetlands, which help prevent or mitigate flooding and erosion, that are not designated as provincially significant, “the conservation authorities currently have some leverage to try to protect or influence their protection.” He says that if the changes pass, it will be solely on the municipalities to decide whether or not a wetland should be protected. “The conservation authorities will have little input on the planning process—they’ll be told they have to basically stick to protecting floodplains and pointing out hazard lands, and that’s it.” The proposed changes will also significantly diminish the role of conservation authorities in protecting communities from flooding, agrees Terry Rees, the executive director of the Federation of Ontario Cottage Associations (FOCA), which has been working in recent years with Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry officials on an improved flood strategy. “We know from the insurance industry and the financial sector that we need to be much more diligent about where we allow people to build, and that includes keeping people away from natural hazards and watercourses,” he says. “Having less oversight and having more permissive building may lead us to having buildings and communities and infrastructure that are going to be at risk.” Mark Majchrowski, the chief administrative officer for Kawartha Conservation, agrees. He points out that all this is happening at a time when cottage and rural districts, as well as conservation authorities themselves, have seen increased tourism. That dynamic will only increase with urban intensification. “Green spaces are pretty important for development, and a lot of people flock to conservation area property,” he observes. “So conservation areas are an important element of our infrastructure as a whole.” Martin-Downs agrees: “If the pandemic told us anything, it is that people need a place to go for a walk.” Another element of Bill 23 involves the suspension of third-party appeals and the elimination of the requirement to hold a public meeting—a move that seems aimed at restricting the ability of homeowner groups to slow development applications with appeals to the Ontario Land Tribunal. Under the proposed law, the OLT will no longer hear third-party appeals; if residents have concerns about a development, they’ll have to persuade the municipality to make an appeal on its own (which may not happen). In lake areas, says Usher, very few applications make it to the appeal stage, and fewer make it to the OLT; most are approved by municipalities or resolved through negotiations between the parties. But by removing the right of appeal, he predicts that developers—both large and small—will have far less incentive to try to work out some kind of compromise with their neighbours. Usher adds that there will be an indirect impact with the removal of the right to appeal, which raises the stakes for the municipal planners. “What does that mean for cottagers and for cottage associations that have lake plans and so on? Now, the municipal council is really the only decision-making point and the only check in the system.” From her vantage point, Deborah Martin-Downs says that the new rules— which come hot on the heels of previous waves of planning reform laws promulgated by the Ford government—will merely make planning less predictable for residents, more costly for the municipalities, and riskier for the environment. “Confusion,” she says, “will reign for quite a while.” John Lorinc writes about cities, climate, and clean technology. Follow cottagelife.com for updates on this story as it develops.

Photo of - More Homes Built Faster Act Accelerates Threat to our Shorelines

More Homes Built Faster Act Accelerates Threat to our Shorelines

The Ontario government recently introduced Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, a long-term strategy to increase housing and provide attainable housing – but it also includes a proposal that will significantly impact farmland and natural areas from the protected Greenbelt. Bill 23 means sweeping changes to the province’s natural heritage and land use planning legislation and policy, and would amend many laws (e.g., the Planning Act, Development Charges Act, the Ontario Heritage Act, Ontario Land Tribunal Act, the Conservation Authorities Act), to allow the build of 1.5 million homes in the next 10 years. The West Carling Association is deeply concerned about what these changes could mean for you and the preservation and protection of Georgian Bay. Bill 23 would remove and weaken environmental protections and cut out the public from meaningful involvement in land use planning and decisions affecting their communities. Eliminating these key democratic processes and environmental protections make it easier for developers to build what they want, where they want, and when they want. If implemented, the proposed changes would: Remove 7,400 acres of valuable natural areas and agricultural land from the Greenbelt. Destroy key land use planning processes that Ontario municipalities, conservation authorities and residents need to protect, manage, and plan for climate-resilient ecosystems and communities. Remove requirements for a municipality to provide notice or hold public meetings on draft plans of subdivisions. Remove your right to appeal ANY planning decisions (e.g., Official Plans, zoning by-laws, minor variances) – such as Morlock Island. Only the applicant and public entities will have the right to appeal. Eliminate site plan control on residential properties with fewer than 10 homes – otherwise, most shoreline properties in the Township of Carling. Remove or weaken environmental protections of our wetlands and natural heritage. What you can do: Fill out this form – this will go to your local MPP, Premier Ford, Minister of Natural Resources & Forestry (Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP), and Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing Message your MPP via Ontario Nature https://ontarionature.good.do/bill-23/email/ Email our MPP Graydon Smith directly Smith@pc.ola.organd Minister Steve Clark Steve.Clark@pc.ola.org telling them you support the position of the MLA (letter), or Submit your own letter to the ERO under the posting for ERO-6162  

Photo of - Cottage Life: Carling settles with owner over cottage built without permit

Cottage Life: Carling settles with owner over cottage built without permit

Township of Carling settles with former Tokyo Smoke CEO over cottage built without permit BY ANDREW CRUICKSHANK PUBLISHED IN COTTAGE LIFE: NOVEMBER 15, 2022UPDATED: NOVEMBER 17, 2022 A dispute over a controversial cottage built on a Georgian Bay island has finally been resolved. On Nov. 7, the Township of Carling, a three-hour drive north of Toronto, entered into a settlement agreement with Alan Gertner, the owner of an in-progress cottage on Morlock Island. Gertner, the former CEO of Tokyo Smoke, a lifestyle brand with ties to cannabis, started construction on the cottage in the fall of 2020 without a building permit. As part of the settlement, Gertner will be allowed to keep his cottage where it is but has lost building permissions for other structures on the island and will have to pay for all staff time that went into negotiating the outcome of his cottage. Gertner bought the three-acre island in 2018. At the time, a small, 1960s cottage sat on the property. In 2019, Gertner applied for and received two building permits from the Township of Carling. One permit was for a 49-square-metre sleeping cabin, and the second permit allowed for a 17-square-metre enclosed porch to be added to the existing cottage. In the fall of 2020, Gertner determined that the enclosed porch couldn’t be added to the existing cottage due to its structural condition. Instead, he broke ground on a new cottage on the opposite side of the island without applying for a building permit. Contractors started work on the new structure, building it within 4.6 metres of the waterfront, violating Carling’s shoreline protection bylaw, which stipulates that all new builds must be 20 metres back from the waterfront. In December 2020, Gertner applied for a building permit for the new cottage without telling the township that construction had already started. When the township discovered how close to the water Gertner planned to build, Carling’s planning department said that a survey of the property needed to be conducted to see what kind of impact the build would have on the surrounding ecosystem before a building permit could be issued. Soon after, the township started receiving complaints from neighbouring properties about a cottage going up on Morlock Island next to the water’s edge. The township’s chief building official, Naythan Nunes, visited the site in May of 2021 and found contractors working on a structure that had already been framed and roofed. He issued a verbal stop-work order to the contractors, who complied. All work on the property froze and the township fined Gertner for building without a permit. The township didn’t release the fine amount, but under Ontario’s Building Code Act, an individual who builds without a permit can be fined up to $50,000 for a first offence. In the meantime, the township debated whether to grant Gertner a building permit with an amendment to the township’s official planning act, allowing him to keep his cottage in its current location. If the township decided not to grant the amendment, Gertner would have to pay to relocate his cottage 20 metres back from the water. This process extended into the winter of 2021/2022. During this time, Gertner negotiated with the township to allow his contractors to put up the cottage’s siding to protect the interior from the elements. The township agreed, but let Gertner know that there was still the possibility the cottage would have to be torn down, making the siding a gratuitous expense. In late January 2022, the township held a council meeting to allow Gertner to plead his case while also hearing from neighbouring property owners about their thoughts on the cottage. The neighbours were unforgiving. Most speakers said the township should not grant Gertner the amendment, voicing concerns that the decision could set a dangerous precedent, convincing others that they could also build without a permit. During his opportunity to speak, Gertner apologized to the community for betraying their trust by building without a permit. He did, however, point out that from an environmental perspective, his cottage was in the best location on the island. Gertner’s lawyer, Michael Cook, expanded on the argument, noting that the cottage damaged minimal vegetation and didn’t impact fish habitats or any endangered species in the area. Council deferred its decision on the permit until an outside professional planner could draft a report on the impacts of the build. Gertner said he would also have an outside planner conduct an assessment. In July, council reconvened to decide the fate of the Morlock Island cottage. John Jackson, a planner based in Parry Sound, recommended that council deny Gertner’s application for a building permit, stating that the cottage is unlawful. “The appropriate requirement is to have the owner remove the offending structure,” Jackson wrote in his report. After listening to Jackson, council was quick to deny Gertner’s application. Unwilling to tear down his cottage, Gertner filed an appeal with the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), which adjudicates on matters of land use and planning in the province. But before an OLT hearing could be scheduled, Gertner’s lawyer sent the township’s solicitor a settlement agreement on October 21. After careful consideration, the township agreed to the settlement, allowing Gertner to keep his cottage. In a statement, the township said that it agreed to the settlement because all other structures on the island were legal, the planning report showed that construction of the new cottage caused no negative environmental impacts, and there was concern that Gertner’s OLT appeal would succeed. The township’s solicitor also pointed out that Carling had granted permits to builds in the past that were less than 20 metres from the water without a site-specific official plan amendment. “Carling Township Council, after much deliberation, careful review, and extensive discussions with the Township Solicitor as well as the Solicitor’s internal planning staff, has come to the decision that it was in the Township’s best interest to enter into a settlement agreement with the owner of Morlock Island,” the township said.

Photo of - MORLOCK ISLAND ONTARIO LAND TRIBUNAL (OLT) UPDATE

MORLOCK ISLAND ONTARIO LAND TRIBUNAL (OLT) UPDATE

Please find attached a press release from the Township of Carling regarding the Morlock Island Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) hearing.   The West Carling Association (WCA) participated in the OLT hearing on November 8, by stating our strong objection to the approval of the proposed bylaw change, which contravenes the intent of the Official Plan to both preserve and protect the unique natural environment of Georgian Bay. Having invested significant time and resources in this matter, we are disappointed to learn of Carling Township’s decision to enter into a settlement agreement with the owner of Morlock Island. Although we are aware there may have been many factors leading to this decision, the WCA is concerned about the outcome and what it could mean for future decisions. We will follow up with the Township on this matter, and continue to monitor issues such as these to ensure Council is taking the necessary steps to prevent a similar situation in the future.  Press_Release_Morlock_Island_OLT_Update_November_8th_2022

Photo of - Presentation: Determining the Effect of Boat Wakes on the Shoreline

Presentation: Determining the Effect of Boat Wakes on the Shoreline

Determining the Effect of Boat Wakes on the Shoreline

Photo of - Reminder: Voting in the Municipal Election

Reminder: Voting in the Municipal Election

Voting for the Municipal Election is open until 8:00 p.m. on Monday October 24. Voting is taking place online and over the phone only. The Township Office will be open to assist with voting until 8:00 p.m. on Monday, and they have a computer and telephone available at the office for anyone who needs access to one to vote. The township has mailed voting instructions and a confidential pin number to any eligible voter's home address. If you have not received your voter letter or you are having trouble logging in to vote, please stop by the Township Office on Monday or contact the office by email at election2022@carling.ca or by phone at 705-996-9181. The election results will be posted to the election page on the Carling Township website shortly after the polls close at 8:00 p.m.

Photo of - Fall Newsletter October 2022

Fall Newsletter October 2022

WCA Fall Newsletter October 2022 Presidents Message – October 2022 Autumn Fest GBA Publishes a Planning Regulations Guide for Members Climate Change: Simple Steps that Can Improve our World GBA Develops a Map of Cell Phone Towers on the Bay My Friend Toughy WCA-Fall-Newsletter-Oct-2022-Candidate-Bios-only Download the entire WCA-Fall-Newsletter-Oct-2022 in PDF format (805 KB).

Photo of - Member Survey Now Closed

Member Survey Now Closed

The WCA member survey is now closed. Thank you to everyone who participated. We will be sharing the results with you at a later date.

View All News

Events

No upcoming events...

View Events Calendar