After a long process, the Ontario Land Tribunal approved the development of Langmaid’s Island on South Portage Road, Lake of Bays.
Thirty-two building lots and two waterfront landings are set to be built on the island. Here is what you need to know.
In 2017, Langmaid’s Island Corp. (LIC) bought the island for development purposes. Nevertheless, the Lake of Bays official plan lists the site as a natural heritage area.
LIC filed three requests for amendments to zoning bylaws to develop the site in 2018. The situation escalated to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), which held a public hearing to decide on the island’s future.
Lake of Bays Association (LOBA) and Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation (LOBHF) were parties to the OLT appeal process.
“The process had two stages: first, the three-week hearing in 2021 resulted in the decision to approve the development. A second hearing was scheduled to finalize the plan of subdivision, which falls under the authority of the District of Muskoka,” LOBA and LOBHF wrote in a newsletter.
On July 6, 2023, OLT approved the draft plan of subdivision subject to restraints.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF THIS PROJECT?
The west and north sides of the island are close to the land, where a number of cottages form a community. Developing the zone will have an impact, said LOBHF president Judith Mills.
“The community will be impacted with increased boat traffic, construction noise and barging plus increased car traffic on South Portage Road,” she said. “Additionally, the view from the shore will change considerably with the addition of large cottages and boathouses.”
Despite the project’s consequences, LIC will issue a letter indicating they will endeavour to protect the community from the inconvenience caused by construction.
The tribunal reported it worked to bring both parties to settlement after a lengthy process.
“As evidence was presented, through the parties in opposition to the proposed development, adjustments were made to the planning instruments to accommodate those concerns,” the document of the final decision reads.
According to the document, the tribunal found the proposed development meets all the requisite planning policies of the province, Muskoka and Lake of Bays, and represents good planning.
OLT said they expect both parties to work together in becoming long-term stewards of the conservation areas defined on the island.
“The tribunal hopes that the applicant and the foundation will continue to work together to determine an appropriate legal mechanism for the foundation to become the long-term stewards of the conservation areas defined on the Island,” the document reads.
HOW IS THE COMMUNITY FEELING ABOUT THE PROJECT?
Thirty-two new families will soon be part of the Lake of Bays community and some residents already have a stand.
Anne Charette’s family has been a part of the area’s cottage community since 1928, making her the fourth generation enjoying the landscape. Although she says she does not consider herself an “eco-warrior,” she did mention the importance of the environment in the area.
“While there certainly are some large, imposing new buildings and developments around Lake of Bays, it is nowhere near the level of what is happening to the west of us,” said Charette. “There is great value in preserving our lake’s shoreline and keeping the few open and currently undeveloped spaces as they are.”
Charette said there must be a balance between development and the environment.
“I think we must make concerted efforts to keep development at a minimum and that doesn’t mean there can’t be new development at all,” she said. “There must be less emphasis on the size and scope of new buildings, and more on preserving shorelines, natural forests and old growth.”
LOBHF and LOBA said in a statement the Lake of Bays community should welcome the new families and lead by example, so they become good stewards of the lake, too.
Julian Orlando Chaves is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Huntsville Forester. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Julian Orlando Chaves , Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Huntsville Forester