Muskoka Lakes council met for the first time to review the first draft of its official plan.

“The official plan really guides all development within the township of Muskoka Lakes for the next 20 to 25 years,” Mayor Phil Harding explains to the newsroom. He says they’re normally redone every couple of decades with amendments made in between to ensure it’s kept up-to-date. The most recent amendment for the township’s current plan came in late 2014 as the residential development in Port Carling called “Hannah’s Landing” was being done. Harding says that was the 40th amendment made to the plan.

For the new plan, he says environmental protection will be a “cornerstone” for council. “We need to protect our water quality,” Harding says. “That is the cornerstone of our economy.”

He believes that if the water quality takes a turn for the worst, it would “certainly” mean we would lose people in Muskoka. 

The process began about a year ago when a committee was formed to look into what direction the new plan needs to go in. Harding explains they put forward policy directions, that were eventually used to form the draft plan that was looked over by council on Monday. He says the committee looked at where Muskoka Lakes wants to and needs to go. 

According to the summary of the draft plan, there are “extensive” policies on the waterfront, rural, urban centre, and community area land use designations. “What was highlighted to council on Monday was the cumulative impact of all of these changes – if they were all to be implemented – would be quite significant on the development or development of people’s property,” Harding says. He adds that some may be scaled back because they might not be working towards the “ultimate goal” which Harding says is to continue to redefine, enhance, and protect Muskoka Lakes.

More meetings are scheduled to take a deeper dive into the plan, including public meetings. Harding says they aren’t sure yet when the public meetings will be. 

He says the plan isn’t likely to be passed until late 2021. The first draft of Muskoka Lakes’ official plan is available on the township’s website.