Muskoka Lakes Council will be keeping a watchful eye on a certain property in Windermere. This week council heard a request to downzone the property located at the corner of Rostrever Road and Windermere Road (Part Lot 27, Concession 9) for fear of what may be allowed there in the future due to its RuC1 commercial zoning. Current owner Fred Aitken bought the property off of Margaret Irwin Miller, who in a letter to council this summer stated that she had let Aitken know she would not sell the property to him for any new commercial purpose. In her letter, she described the location, which had been the site of the Old Dairy as a “lovely rural corner” and that “had Mr. Aitken been more forthcoming about his plans, we would not have agreed to this sale.” In her letter, Miller stated Aitken had maintained he wanted to build a house on the land. After he bought it, he proposed to build both a house and four mini industrial storage units there. Aitken tells the Moose it was his intention to lessen the impact of the commercial zoning by proposing the storage units as opposed to the more extreme development the zoning allows for, such as a marina, garage, etc.
In August, his rezoning request was shot down by council in a 9-1 vote after local neighbors opposed it. This week councilors were told there are now two businesses operating on the property – both a repair type business and a contracting business – which aren’t allowed under the current zoning. The current zoning is still of concern to residents, as it potentially allows for an auto service station, convenience store, gas bar, marina, private club and restaurant. But instead of putting a hold on the property, councilors decided to keep things status quo. Due to the public concern, the plan is to now keep a watchful eye on any future development proposals there. Mayor Alice Murphy went as far as to suggest making the road a scenic corridor to help better protect the feel of the area. Such a designation would mean any business there would have to be set back further from the roadway. Windermere resident Ted Britton who had asked for the down zoning, told council that in 1987, the Township arbitrarily applied the current zoning to the property which the former owners, the Millers, were unaware of. Britton said commercial taxes had never been paid for on the property while the Millers owned it. This week Aitken told council he’s been told its “not normal practice to downzone a commercial property.” “I do not see any reason why the commercial zoning should be taken away,” he added. In a Registrant’s Disclosure of Interest covering the acquisition of the property, Aitken had cited his interest in the property as “personal interest” and not commercial. Aitken tells the Moose there has been no site plan or building permit applied for throughout this whole process.