A decision on The Canadian Race Boat Hall of Fame was delayed for a second time by Muskoka Lakes Council on Thursday.
The proposed museum and attached event centre to be located on Muskoka Road 118 between Bracebridge and Port Carling has met consistent opposition from local residents. A proposal for the development went before the Muskoka Lakes Planning Committee in May and was deferred until a traffic study could be completed.
There has been vocal opposition to the hall of fame from local property owners. Several spoke to council, expressing their concerns focusing on dangerous traffic conditions, noise, potential pollution to nearby water areas changing of local character from a quiet cottage community and the late hours of operation.
Councillors were divided over the issue and voiced a wide range of concerns. Many councillors shared those concerns
“There are people living and working in the area and have families. And I can tell you that any noise that happens after 11 o’clock is certainly disruptive to people with families with young children, and having to get up to go to work,” said Councillor Donelda Hayes.
The developer Murray Walker said that there is no more need for time and deliberation, that the proposal should be voted on at the meeting.
“I think that we’ve reached the point where you’ve received all the information and it’s really the time for the planning committee to decide if they really want this kind of an important attraction in Muskoka,” Walker said.
An element of contention was when the traffic study, which was requested at the May committee meeting, was completed. The traffic study is to determine if the new development would create unsafe road conditions on Muskoka Road 118. Those in opposition point out that the traffic in May during the Covid 19 pandemic is not an accurate reflection of summer traffic levels and not an accurate assessment.
Several councillors stated clearly that as the development currently appeared, they would not support it.
“I do like the idea of a race boat museum. I do like the idea of having an event center, but I’m not convinced yet that this is the particular area to put it,” said Councillor Hayes
“At this point I will not be supporting the event centre,” said Councillor Gordon Roberts
Mayor Phil Harding said that he did not believe the wrong location argument was valid.
“I hear a lot that we, this is not the appropriate location. I guess I struggle with what is the appropriate location. And, you know, we don’t have technically an event center zoned anywhere, or defined anywhere within the municipality, so there’s always going to be a change, and somebody is always going to comment negatively to that,” said Harding.
He went on to say that the traffic concerns could and would be worked on if needed.
“In the future, if a turn lane needed to be there then I’m sure we will be putting in a turn lane, but I just don’t see it as a big issue. And again, only because the district has chimed in and I’ll tell you, they are extremely vigilant at protecting the residents of everyone in Muskoka from a traffic perspective,” Harding said.
Harding’s biggest issue with the development was the request to use eight percent of the lot, which is over the five percent allowed by a municipal bylaw. He suggested moving a storage building off-site and working with township staff to find other ways to get the lot usage down. He also suggested creating a new site-specific bylaw to limit the noise after 10 p.m.
Walker said that he was willing and open to working with staff to make the project work.
“I’m happy to sit down and discuss it,” Walker said.
It was decided that the application would be deferred to the next planning committee meeting for municipal staff and the developers to discuss possible changes.
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