September 7, 2022

The Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association has long been an advocate for the preservation of the dark sky and the minimization of transient light pollution.

We agree that it is necessary to periodically update by-laws to reflect changes in technology and compliance patterns that have been observed during their life span. In other words, is the by-law achieving its’ intended objectives?

The MRA would like to make a few comments and suggestions for councils and staff’s consideration:

  1. While the MRA understands that there is a desire to standardize monetary penalty maximums in all Township By-laws, we feel fines quoted for non compliant fixtures that can rapidly be replaced are not in the same league as clear cutting an island and should be adjusted accordingly.
  2. Many external lights in Muskoka are used for safety and security purposes i.e. hydro outages and walking on pathways at night. Our reading of the Sec. 129 of the Municipal Act indicates the Township cannot regulate hours of operation.  The MRA believes the Township should exempt lighting for these purposes but encourage minimum usage. Some, which by their, nature need to be visible from a distance, like blue bubbler lights.  However, wattage and the use of motion detectors or timers to minimize light pollution and conserve electricity should be encouraged for all lighting.
  3. We would encourage the Township not to regulate decorative seasonal lighting (Christmas Lights). The MRA considers this recreational lighting and hours of operation cannot be set by the Municipality.
  4. The use of low wattage solar lights in gardens and walkways should be exempted from regulation in this by-law.
  5. The MRA finds it interesting that the grandfathering of existing luminaires prior to 2014 has been included. It was our understanding that these needed to be replaced under the current by-law before 2024.   We believe this is a reasonable change that saves taxpayers from extra expense.  However, the MRA would encourage the use of energy efficient bulbs and the use of timers or motion detectors to minimize their usage.
  6. The MRA supports the standardization of blue lighting on bubblers throughout the township, however, transient snowmobilers from other areas might be more accustomed to red and amber lights denoting danger and caution.  Hopefully this is not going to be a litigation risk to the Township.  The MRA believes legal guidance is required along with input from the Ontario Snowmobile Association.
  7. Egress of interior lighting has long been a concern to the MRA, especially with the growth of large glass walled cottages and now boathouses. However, the MRA does not endorse the concept of regulating the egress of interior lighting.  This ultimately will prove to be a “Pandora’s Box” for the Township to regulate, including types of window coverings, types of glass, etc.  The MRA would suggest that this be controlled via building permits and site plans much the same as dark sky lighting is today.
  8. We agree that special more restrictive lighting restrictions are needed in close proximity to the Torrance Barrens Conservation Reserve.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input on the proposed update to the Dark Sky By-Law.

Liz Denyar – President, Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association