The Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association (MRA) has reviewed the Engage Muskoka Survey requesting public input for a proposed new site alteration by-law. The TML implemented site alteration and tree preservation by-laws in 2008 to preserve the natural features of shoreline property. Over the past decade plus, the number of permits issued to allow alterations has been a smidgen above absolute zero. The MRA believes the TML currently has the tools in place to address concerns regarding tree removal and terrain alterations, but they are rarely used. Furthermore, the tools are in place to prosecute the very few irresponsible contractors or owners who violate these by-laws.
We would also point out that the TML can currently exercise significant control over how a property is developed via the Building and Planning Acts, zoning by laws and site plan control.
The TML Engage Muskoka Surveys have always solicited citizen input, but have never started by defining the problem or its impact on the citizens or the environment etc. The MRA would encourage the TML to define the problem at the beginning of any survey and why additional regulation is required to affect a solution that makes the Township a better place. The MRA feels it is a waste of human capital and taxpayer dollars to formulate regulations that are “knee jerk” reactions to isolated or very rare infractions, such as the recent alterations to Sugarloaf Island. This is especially troubling when the TML currently has the mechanisms to address many of these issues.
The MRA sees no quantifiable improvement, real or imagined by increasing the site alteration setbacks from 200 to 300 feet. In Urban or Community Centres very few properties have the luxury of having 200 feet for a set back. We suggest the status quo be maintained for all properties including islands.
A 15 foot setback would not comply with fire regulations for wildland fires, which like to see 100 foot setbacks. In addition, buildings could be structurally compromised by large 60 or 70 foot trees falling on buildings during an ice or wind storm, not to mention those damaged by disease or lightning.
The MRA would prefer patios not be regulated. The TML currently allows decks, dock and boat houses in excess of 200 square feet at or beyond the shore. In addition, many properties have native rock considerably in excess of 200 square feet that serve as patios right to the waters edge. Concerning the proposal to have a minimum spacing of 2 inches between patio stones and have them dry laid, is in our opinion nano- management. Gaps of this size are trip hazards that the MRA believes are litigation lotteries waiting for a date when the Township pays out.
The MRA does not believe driveway widths need to be regulated. Property owners usually don’t construct paved multi- lane driveways; it costs too much money. Driveways near a cottage or multi vehicle garage need to be significantly more than 15 feet wide. Let the property owner decide. If you must regulate driveways we suggest it be maximums for paved coverage near homes, garages and on steep hills.
The MRA sincerely hopes that Council and Staff will seriously consider our comments before crafting any by-law.