As our members are aware, LOBA appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) regarding the decisions of the Lake of Bays Council and of the District of Muskoka to approve the reduction of minimum waterfront back lot size from ten to seven acres, in the Township of Lake of Bays Official Plan. The appeal was heard from September 12 to 14. The Decision of the OMB was released on Tuesday evening and our Board has reviewed it with our legal counsel. A copy of the Decision can be found
Regrettably it is not the decision we were hoping we would achieve. It is an extremely short decision particularly considering the extensive evidence that was called and the very thoughtful evidence of our five witnesses which clearly demonstrated that there was no need or basis for the change in back lot sizes and no planning evidence to support Council's decision. It would appear that the OMB Member simply believed not many back lots have been created in the past, nor would be created with the smaller seven acre lot size. The OMB Member also appears to have given a great deal of weight to the environmental policies that exist in the Official Plan for the Lake of Bays and believed that those policies would protect both the environment and preserve the character of the Lake of Bays.
Unfortunately the OMB Member did not seem to give weight to the important issue that the potential number of lots that could be created would exceed the 20 year supply horizon stipulated by the Provincial Policy Statement of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) which is supposed to apply to all municipalities in the province. Although this limitation is mentioned in the Decision, the OMB Member does not explain how the reduction in back lot sizes can be approved in light of this limitation. We expect this will be a very troubling aspect of the Decision for MMAH.
LOBA brought this appeal because the change to back lot sizes was made without any studies to evaluate the impact of the change, the number or location of lots that could be created, and the servicing impacts; and against the advice of the Township's planning consultant, the Township's staff planner, the District's planning staff and advice from MMAH. There was no evidence presented to the OMB that contradicted these facts. The concern of our membership was overwhelmingly related to the long-term potential impacts of such lot creation permissions on the character of the waterfront area and on direct environmental degradation related to increased forest fragmentation near the waterfront areas.
We have reviewed the Decision with our legal counsel who has advised that there are two possible avenues to appeal the Decision and that the chances of an appeal being successful are good. However, if successful, the result would be that the Decision would be overturned and a new hearing would be ordered which would result in additional costs to LOBA. As a result our Board is not in favor of proceeding with an appeal of the Decision.
There are significant development applications looming on the horizon for Lake of Bays. LOBA will continue to advocate that sound planning that reflects the vision of the Township of Lake of Bays and that respects and preserves the unique environmental qualities that our members value, be the foundation to new development.
As always, we welcome feedback of members on these matters and if you would like to discuss this further, or are interested in becoming more personally active in supporting our work please contact us at