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Back Lot Development- Township of Lake of Bays Official Plan Review

IMPORTANT- PLEASE READ & RESPOND

Back Lot Development- Township of Lake of Bays Official Plan Review

Dear LOBA member:

The Township is considering reductions to the standards that apply to the development of “back lots” which adversely affect LOBA members.

WHAT IS THE ISSUE?
As part of the Township of Lake of Bays Official Plan Review, a reduction in the minimum required size of waterfront “back lots” is being considered by the Township.

A “back lot” is property situated behind a waterfront lot. The Township Official plan currently requires these back lots to have a minimum size of 10 acres and 400 feet of frontage on a year round public road before being granted approval for development.

LOBA understands the Township staff will propose a reduction to the minimum size of these back lots from 10 acres to 7. However, LOBA understands there is not agreement among Township Councillors on the reduction of the size of backlots- some are on record as supporting 5 or even 1 acre backlots. With a lack of consensus on Council on this issue, it is not certain what the end result may be. FOR REASONS INDICATED BELOW, LOBA BELIEVES NO CHANGES SHOULD BE MADE TO THE CURRENT 10 ACRE 400 FEET OF FRONTAGE REQUIREMENTS FOR BACKLOTS.

WHY IS THE REDUCTION ON BACK LOT STANDARDS BEING CONSIDERED?
There is no planning reason for the Township to address this issue. In fact the Township’s professional planning consultant, Glen Tunnock Consulting, has recommended against a reduction in rural and waterfront back lot size (Discussion Paper 2: Lot Size and housing Affordability). However, it is believed that a reason for this may be the idea that smaller back lots may provide an opportunity for more affordable development, although the Tunnock discussion paper indicates this is unlikely.

WHAT IS LOBA’S POSITION?
LOBA’s Planning Committee, Finance Committee and Environment Committee believe that any reduction in the size of waterfront back lots from the current 400 foot frontage/10 acre minimum lot size is not desirable or supportable from either urban / rural planning, fiscal planning or environmental point of views. The reasons for this are as follows:

● There is no planning rationale to support changes to the existing back lot requirements. Any changes to the Township Official Plan should have a clearly articulated and compelling planning basis.

● Development of back lots will compromise the wooded and forested character of the Township of Lake of Bays as back lots are cleared for development.

● Development of back lots will compromise the habitat that is critical for the wildlife, biodiversity and natural ecosystems of the Township by the fragmentation of forested areas. Many materials from the Muskoka Watershed Council (“MWC”) comment on this issue.

Please CLICK BELOW for
June 1, 2015 letter from the Muskoka Watershed Council (“MWC”)
– the MWC’s 2015 Forest Health Position Paper,
– MWC’s 2014 Watershed Report Card
– 2012 MWC’s Paper on Muskoka’s Biodiversity: Understanding Our Past to Protect the Future
– 2011 paper prepared for the MWC on Large Natural Areas by Riverstone Consulting .

● Development of back lots is inconsistent with the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement of the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing which seeks to secure new growth in compact, more easily served settlement areas reducing the need for automobile travel and providing optimum synergy between land use functions. LOBA’s Board is prepared to work with township officials to provide improved local public access to the lakes and to provide new development opportunities for affordable permanent and recreational housing within a sound planning framework.

● Development of back lots could result in increased servicing costs and taxes to the Township for emergency and other services (fire, police, ambulance, school transportation, recreational and senior services) .

● Development of back lots will compromise the natural, rural character of adjacent waterfront properties that is important to LOBA members and could ultimately lead to reduced waterfront property values and undermine the financial base of the Township. At least 77% of the Township’s tax base comes from waterfront properties.

● Development of back lots will compromise the local tourist economy which is the main economic driver of the Township.

The peaceful, natural, rural character of the Township of Lake of Bays is unique and is the backbone of the local economy. This vital character must be carefully protected by sound planning and development and land use policies to avoid unintended adverse consequences.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The Township will soon hold a public meeting to obtain input on this and other proposed changes to the Official Plan. If you are concerned about the back lot issue or any of the other changes it is vital that you make your views known by:

• Writing to the Council of the Township of Lake of Bays. A sample letter which opposes the changes to the back lot standards can be found here. Your letter should be sent by email to the Township Clerk (csykes@lakeofbays.on.ca) with a request that it be distributed to the Members of Township Council, and a copy sent to LOBA (info@loba.ca) ;

and

• Attending the public meeting in person. LOBA will notify you of the date and location of the public meeting.

It is vital that LOBA members make their views known to Township Council before Council takes a decision on this issue.

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