Muskoka Lakes Council recently approved a zoning bylaw which brings the proposed Race Boat Hall of Fame closer to fruition.
The boat museum has been in front of council since May of 2021 and has faced an uphill battle. Developers have been working with council, municipal staff and local residents to carve out an acceptable plan.
The proposed museum, which is planned for a site of Muskoka Road 118, needed approval from council to exceed the maximum lot usage. Since the development would be in a rural commercial zone, a municipal bylaw dictates that development cannot exceed 5% of the total lot. The original proposal would have used 8.1% but negotiations between the developers and staff brought that down to 5.45%, which while stile above the bylaw was accepted by council.
Several residents have been opposed to the project. While most say they support the boat museum, the contentious issue has been the attached event centre. This concern was key to drafting the current bylaw which defines the museum as the main permitted use and the event centre as an accessory use.
Concerned residents spoke to council last year over concerns about the event centre, negative environmental impact and potentially dangerous traffic volume.
Residents Olga Fleming and Peter McKenna were on hand Wednesday to give their final objections.
Fleming focused on environmental concerns and specifically how climate change has increased the likelihood of flooding. She also said the development would be better suited for a different location.
“We say again, the site is not suitable for having an event venue attached to it … please find a commercial area more suited to this dream of yours. Thank you,” said Fleming.
Mckenna said he supported the development but wanted to ensure that it was done properly. He questioned studies done by the municipality on traffic and environmental impacts.
“I don’t believe the Township is investigating these serious matters properly,” Mckenna said.
Muskoka Lakes Director of Planning David Pink responded that qualified members of municipal staff have concluded that the development meets Ontario Building Codes. He also said that the District of Muskoka also supports the recommendations by staff.
Councillors in support of the development still wanted last minute minor amendments to the zoning approval. Councillor Frank Jaglowitz wanted the zoning approval to specify that if space were to open up near the Race Boat Hall of Fame, that the development would be limited to its approved lot usage. Jaglowitz also wanted the maximum lot size to be more clearly stated.
Councillor Susan Mazan wanted potential controls but, on the development, to ensure that it was meeting its septic and water quality commitments.
Councillor Gordon Roberts was opposed to the bylaw approval saying that he supported the museum but that the attached event centre was a different matter.
“What I’m not supportive of is the Event Center and the impact on the character of the area,” Roberts said.
Roberts requested the bylaw approval to specific to the Race Boat Hall of Fame and attempts to change the development to anything else would be prevented or brought back to council for approval.
Councillor Glenn Zavitz spoke in support of the development and his willingness to agree to changes to ensure its approval.
“I want to move this forward. I’ll say yes to whatever we need to do to get this thing on the dance floor,” Zavitz said.
Council voted six to three in support of the bylaw and its additions. Councillors Roberts, Nishikawa and Hayes voted against.
With the passing of the zoning bylaw the final matter needed for the passing of the museum is the approval of the site plan, which is expected to be put to committee and council next month.
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