On May 12th, the Township of Muskoka Lakes Planning Committee debated the merits of several important changes to two by-laws designed to protect what is special about Muskoka – our trees and our shoreline. 

Following a survey which garnered over 300 responses, staff recommended several changes to the Tree Conservation By-law and the Site Alteration By-law. We support the following significant improvements:

  • Increase the area subject to the by-laws on residential waterfront properties from 200 feet from the water to 300 feet, and all of small islands. Currently, property owners can clearcut their land behind 200 feet from the shore and unfortunately several are starting to do so. Increasing the area under control is particularly important for stormwater management and views from the water in areas of steep slopes. There’s no change to what you can build on your land – it’s just that more land will be subject to review and controls because of impact on lake health and water quality.
  • Prohibit pre-clearing of a site before permits and approvals are granted. This language, if enforced with meaningful sanctions, will prevent exactly what happened on Sugarloaf Island on Lake Joseph and has happened in numerous other locations. 
  • Trees that are diseased may be removed without a permit, but the Township may request an arborist report confirming they were diseased. This is in reaction to several properties where owners have removed multiple trees between their cottage and the water, suggesting they were diseased, whereas no neighbouring trees seemed similarly afflicted. 
  • Dead trees and trees dangerous to structures and people can still be removed without restriction or a permit. Director Pink clarified this for Mayor Harding several times during the May 12th Planning Meeting when the Mayor suggested otherwise. 
  • Require sedimentation control measures and provide for the ability for the Township to require a Sedimentation Control Plan and/or a Tree Preservation Plan as part of a complete Permit application.
  • Increase maximum fines for infractions from $10,000 to $100,000 and allow the Township to levy set fines of $1,000 for minor infractions. The hope is to encourage by-law adherence.

Please ask Planning Committee to pass these by-law amendments during this term of office. There are several great changes that will allow better control over tree clearcutting and more effective enforcement on waterfront properties, without being onerous for property owners. 

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For more details on the by-law amendments, visit engagemuskokalakes