Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com

GRAVENHURST — A couple of controversial Lake Muskoka waterfront developments are before town council Tuesday at the town hall.

One is an older resort application on Taylor Island and one a more recent seven-storey “Starboard” condo project on Cherokee Lane.

Both are huge.

Glen Echo Muskoka Developments Inc. wants to redevelop the former Glen Echo Lodge on Taylor Island on Lake Muskoka and it now down to density after receiving zoning approvals, Mayor Heidi Lorenz said this week.

Their proposal is to build 14 resort units (various sizes up to 3,000 ft.²), a staff accommodation building and a common building and pavilion on 502 feet of waterfront shoreline (761 feet is cited by the applicant) on approximately 4.5 ha (11 acres).

The other is at the Muskoka Wharf where Lorenz said it will be for information purposes only for all the councillors on the planning committee and the public.

The Wenonah II and the Alexander retirement home going up in Gravenhurst frame the site of a proposed seven-storey condo and commercial development at the Muskoka Wharf, which is before a town planning council meeting Tuesday afternoon for public comment and information only.

The Rosseau Group (TRG) wants to build additional condos (between 135-151) from its original proposal, considerable commercial space for a micro brewery and 50 new boat slips along with much more parking.

The proposal is in keeping with the original official Muskoka Wharf development plan that sees the waterfront property already zoned for mixed commercial and residential use.

TRG wants to combine four land lots on two acres and a five-acre water lot in front.

All of it would be next to the Segwun and Wenonah ships and just below the new Alexander retirement home underway overlooking it and the Muskoka Steamships Fleet.

This black and white Rosseau Group rendering from its application shows its proposal for 135-151 residences, a micro brewery and 50 boat slips next to the Segwun and Wenonah on Lake Muskoka.

Gord Locklin, who lives on the ridge above near the Lookout, is among is expressing concerns. He’s been encouraging neighbours to follow what’s going on and has been sharing what he knows of the process that first publicly emerged in July 2021. And he has shared with them his fact sheet, information that he says he found on the town website, of what he knows of changes newly proposed by TRG.

The proponents, who own the Muskoka Springs water company farther up on Bay Street, have lowered the height by 3.5 metres to 30 metres.

Among them are increases to the number of residential units now up to 135-151 (one and two bedroom) from 129-145; a residential parking increase to 153 from 125; more visitor parking 39 compared to 25;

See the application on the town’s website at: https://www.gravenhurst.ca/en/services-and-info/starboard_application.aspx

A look at it says study reports suggest seven endangered or threatened species at risk; and boating traffic “over capacity” from a summer 2021 study.

TRG’s plan is to provide an extension of the Muskoka Wharf, which is already zoned for mixed residential and commercial use.

Melissa Halford, director of community growth and development, called it an “exciting project.”

But she said staff had not passed on a recommendation to council. “It will be up to council what they decide to do.”

She said the public meeting, Feb. 28 at 3 p.m., is information only and an opportunity for the pubic to hear the proponent speak.

A public meeting does not require prior notice of your intention to speak.

Halford said interest in the proposal is increasing now with notice of the public meeting since TRG’s first official proposal in April 2022. Its plan first came to council light in July 2021 with a Zoom meeting.

The latest changes to TRG’s application include a number of increases in condos and parking. And a 3.5 metre decrease in height to 30 metres (98.4 feet), enough for seven storeys.

She said all of the most up-to-date information is on the website, including new technical reports and peer review studies.

Among them are reports by RiverStone Environmental Solutions, of Toronto, on behalf of TRG.

One key environmental peer review of the application by Brent Parsons, senior aquatic scientist for Hutchinson Environmental Sciences Ltd. of Bracebridge notes seven endangered or threatened species associated.

The report says: “Following review of the aerial photography and our on-site assessment, seven (7) endangered or threatened species have the potential to use features in the location of the subject property based on the habitat-based approach: Spotted Turtle, Blanding’s Turtle, Eastern Hog-nosed Snake, Barn Swallow, Little Brown Myotis and Northern Long-eared Myotis. Features with the highest potential to provide habitat for species at risk on the subject property were associated with the shoreline wetland and forest communities.”

Two acres of land and five acres of water lot are part of the homes and waterfront site council will consider Tuesday afternoon for a large development at the Bay.

Another study submitted by TRG to the town by RiverStone was on boating traffic around the Segwun and Wenonah II ships and the Muskoka Wharf.

They measured the number boats in two areas — one day in late summer 2021 (Saturday Aug. 21) and three days the first week of September (Wednesday Sept. 1, Friday Sept. 3 and Saturday Sept. 4).

In part it said: “The most active day for boating in southern Muskoka Bay was Saturday September 4th with over 800 boats crossing the centre line in each of the two (2) areas. The second busiest day was Saturday August 21st, with over 700 boats passing the centre line of each area.”

The report also noted an OPP marine boat was present during all three days of the Labour Day weekend study.

A boating traffic study looked at Gravenhurst Bay inside and outside Greavette Island.

That boating report goes on to state: From the analysis of the Period Count data, RiverStone found that: Boating traffic within Area A of Southern Muskoka Bay was over capacity at various points throughout the day on all the study days (Figure 2). On September 21st Area A was over capacity 15 times with 3 instances being almost double the available area. During September 1st Area A was over capacity 4 times, September 3rd was over capacity 6 times and September 4th was over capacity 11 times throughout the day • If boats were required to reduce their speed in Area A as we propose, boating traffic would still exceed capacity in some instances but both the frequency and intensity would be reduced (Figure 3). Implementation of speed and use restrictions in Area A would reduce the periods over capacity from 15 to 6 times throughout the day and reduce the amount over capacity during each period substantially. • Boat traffic did not ever exceed capacity in Area B on any day (Figure 4).”

However, it says with speed controls new traffic could be accommodated.

The development would be at the end of Cherokee Lane, off Bay Street, and where former mayor Hugh Bishop’s home is now. It is beneath the Alexander retirement home presently being built  to overlook the Muskoka Wharf.

Neighbours like Locklin aren’t the only ones closely watching the application of the large development.

The Friends of Muskoka, “a group of dedicated volunteers who came together in 2017 to oppose residential subdivisions at waterfront resorts in Muskoka” says on its website that it has concerns about its height, adequate parking and the number of boat slips proposed.

The Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) was more specific.

It says on its website that it told the previous town council in November 2021 that the proposed development:

  1. Does not compliment, support or enhance the original objectives of the Muskoka Wharf development.
  2. Does not comply with the recent Muskoka Wharf Revitalisation Plan.
  3. Detracts from, not enhances, the most significant symbol and major attraction of Muskoka, the historical Steamship operations.
  4. Urbanizes or obliterates the last natural shoreline in the bay.
  5. Creates additional boat traffic in an already dangerous bay.
  6. Does not have realistic plans for parking, or viability of commercial units.
  7. Does not enhance or protect the natural environment or character of Muskoka.

This same developer is responsible for the Legacy Cottages development on Lake Rosseau that was opposed by the MLA.

The L-shaped condo building, above, shows an extension of the boardwalk path up to Lookout Park. Below it shows the slips where boats would be double parked on a pier extending out the same length as where the two ships dock.

The Rosseau Group, which owns the Muskoka Springs water company farther up on Bay Street, has bought a couple of other adjacent properties on Cherokee Lane in the past couple of years.

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