It’s not often that the council chambers in Gravenhurst are packed for a Planning Council meeting but, then again, it’s not often a project as large as The Rosseau Group’s (TRG) “The Starboard” comes up either.
The Feb. 28 meeting saw a long chain of concerned residents, as well as multiple in favour, speaking about the development during the two-and-a-half-hour meeting. Most of those who spoke said, in part, the project is too big, too tall, and doesn’t fit with what’s already in place at the Wharf.
On TRG’s website, the development is described as “a luxury real estate development located in the heart of Muskoka, within the charming town of Gravenhurst on the shore of Lake Muskoka. The development will offer residents a serene and picturesque lifestyle, surrounded by the natural beauty of the region.”
It’s proposed to be built on Cherokee Ln. at the Muskoka Wharf. The proposal includes a seven-storey condominium building, a microbrewery, and a handful of boat slips.
A re-zoning by-law and by-law to change Gravenhurst’s official plan would both be needed for the project to move forward.
Stefan Szczerbak, senior planner with Planscape, spoke on behalf of TRG and explained since hearing concerns from the public and through meeting with town officials, they’ve reduced the height of the mixed-use building by 30 metres, added a second level of underground parking, and realigned the two-storey boathouse to “follow the shape of the shoreline.”
Melissa Halford, Gravenhurst’s director of development services noted that prior to her report being submitted to council last week, she received 16 letters in support of the application and one against it. After the report was published, she said “more” came in, but didn’t say how many. However, she pointed out there were letters on both sides of the coin.
The first person to speak was Liz Lundell, representing the Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA). She criticized what she called “inconsistent” reports from the applicant.
Lundell said one report from the town says there will be a maximum of 151 units in the condo, however, a report from TRG says there will be 165. One of the boat docks is listed in TRG’s proposal as being 107 metres, but the town says it will be 130 metres.
“We’re attempting to respond to numbers that seem to be in a state of flux,” she said.
While she said the MLA isn’t against developing the property, what they are concerned about is that the proposal would “dominate” the area and take away from the lake “they all share.”
John Miller, president of the Muskoka Steamships and Discovery Centre, said while he has had conversations with representatives from TRG, he’s still concerned about how the proposal will affect parking at the centre, which is only steps away from where the development will be.
“Our business is different from retail and others at the wharf,” he explained. Miller said they need parking close by since they operate a cruise ship business and can’t afford to have customers spending lots of time looking for an open spot to park.
Miller said TRG has been supportive of dedicating lot 10, which is based in front of the Discovery Centre, strictly for their use between May and Nov. every year.
Eric Daly, past president of the Gravenhurst Chamber of Commerce, was one of the few that spoke in favour of the proposal.
“I find the project extremely well laid out,” he said.
A topic of concern has been the environment and if TRG is doing enough to take care of it. Daly said he believes they are. He added they need new businesses in Gravenhurst and believes this proposal will “significantly” contribute to the town. “This is the single best proposal we’re going to have for a long time to, I won’t say revitalize the town, to vitalize the town,” he said.
Halford explained staff will not be making a recommendation about the next steps for the project yet and no decision was made by council on whether or not to allow the project to go forward. Mayor Heidi Lorenz added that will happen at a future Planning Council meeting once staff is able to sift through the new information that was brought up during Tuesday’s meeting.