Muskoka Lakes council passed a marina application despite expressing doubts about if the property will be used as a commercial marina.
Muskoka Village Harbour, formally known as Troy Cove Marina and located on Skeleton Lake was applying to council to build extra staff housing on the property. Village Harbour also plans to rent out several housekeeping units on the property as well as operating a commercial marina.
Stephen Fahner from Northern Vision Planning was presenting on behalf of the owners of Village Harbour. He stated that the development would be similar to the Lakeshore marina in Gravenhurst. Lakeshore has six housekeeping units that are actively rented out, which according to Fahner, subsidizes their marina operations. Fahner stated that Lakeshore has staff housing and that Village Harbour is looking to do the same thing.
Several councillors expressed concern that the Village Harbour was not going to be operated as a marina.
Councillor Peter Kelley expressed concern that the development’s main function was not as a marina, but as a cottage rental facility. Kelley said he had been viewing the company’s website and saw no mention of a marina, instead he saw rental listings for cottages. Kelley asked how municipal staff could monitor this development to ensure that the potential staff quarters weren’t used for renting purposes.
Township Director of Planning David Pink said that defining a main and accessory use can be subjective. Pink said that there should be some information on why the website makes no mention of a marina but added that the bylaw is written specifically for a marina.
“The way we’ve crafted the bylaw, it’s clear that the marina use will have to be operated,” Pink said.
Pink says that town planning staff have defined a marina as having dockage, boat storage, potentially boat sale and boat repair. According to Pink unless the marina was minimized to the extent that the development was clearly a resort, then the municipality would have limited options.
Councillor Allen Edwards wanted assurances that the majority of docking spaces were reserved for island residents on Skeleton Lake. He stated that in order for him to support this development 80% of the docks must be reserved for island residents and that it must offer traditional marina services.
“As long as it’s a marina, I can support it,” said Edwards.
Councillor Mazan was also worried that the definition of marina was too broad. She stated that she thought the development as currently described sounded closer to a landing due to the lack of services provided. Mazan was concerned that the Marina would not be selling gas, she highlighted her experience growing up on an island and the importance of having access to those services.
“I’m going to do what I can currently to protect the commerciality of this marina. There’s only two on this lake and it’s a critical resource,” she said.
Fahner responded that the owner of Village Harbour has said he will be running a marina. He said that the owner should be given a chance to fulfill his commitment.
“I think you at least have to give him an opportunity to do what he says he’s going to do and that is the operate a Marina,” he said.
Fahner said that he was concerned that council not supporting the proposal because they wanted a strict definition of a marina could do, might in the end force the marina to close. He also highlighted that no other marina in the municipality has pledged as many docking spaces for island residents. Fahner went on to say that the current proposal before council was about staff housing, something that according to another local marina was beneficial to its operation.
Edwards added to concern over the marina closing that delaying the marina would be detrimental to residents of Skeleton Lake who need the marina for this season.
“We’re going to totally screw, and I’m sorry for saying that word, a lot of people on Skeleton Lake if we put this business on hold.”
Mayor Phil Harding agreed, stating that the loss of this marina would be detrimental to Skeleton Lake residents.
“There was significant concern on Skeleton Lake that this marina would cease to exist. And there would be a number of water access only properties displaced that couldn’t be managed by the other single marina on the lake,” Harding said.
After rewording the bylaw and agreeing that 32 of the total 40 docking spaces were to be reserved for Island residents’ council approved the application. To ensure that the property remained a marina the approval said that new staff dwellings were permitted only at times when a marina is in operation.
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