Frequently Asked Questions About Planning

What types of services does a planner offer?

If you are building new, or re-developing, a planner can provide you with best possible solutions for the use of your lot. Planners can recommend the types, size, and location of the buildings you want to construct, or re-build, to suit your individual needs. If a planning application is needed, they can prepare all the required documentation and represent you at township council and committee meetings.

We have decided to renovate our home. Do we need a planner?

Property and home owners would be wise to consult a planner prior to making renovation and rebuilding plans. The zoning bylaws in Muskoka are becoming increasingly stricter and more complex. Find out what you can do before you start, and what you may be able to do with the help of a planner, to achieve your ultimate goal even if it doesn’t immediately comply with the zoning bylaw.

What services does a planner provide regarding condominium and fractional developments?

A professional planner most often coordinates the entire development project. Planning a fractional ownership or condominium development is guided by both provincial legislation and local zoning by-laws. The property location, size and proximity to amenities and services as well as the housing and tourism market all influence the decision making and planning process. A planner can assist with designing the layout of the property and the provision of on-site services and amenities and drive the process through the local planning authorities.

I have been told I need to apply for a variance. What is this and can you help me?

If you want to change the use of a structure, or build or re-build a structure that does not conform to the Zoning By-law provisions, there are two methods available to legalize the proposal. An application can be made to “amend” the Zoning By-law or “vary” the Zoning By-law. The key to determining the most appropriate method of obtaining compliance is whether or not the non-complying issue is “minor.” If the change will result in little or no impact, a minor variance (or variance) to the By-law is sought. A minor variance is considered by a Committee rather than full Council, and is less cumbersome and expensive. A professional planner can assist in determining the best approach and act on your behalf to achieve a successful result.

We are looking to purchase two lots beside each other. My realtor suggests that my husband purchase one lot and I purchase the other, and that we consult a planner regarding our future development options. Why would this be necessary?

As set out in the Planning Act, when two adjoining lots are in the same ownership, they automatically merge in title, unless the lots are within a Plan of Subdivision. Once merged, it requires a planning application to separate them. Your development options may be better if the lots are separate, and they may not. A professional planner can look at the existing development together with your future plans and take you through any required planning process to ultimately achieve your cottage property goals.

Is there any difference between not complying and not conforming to a zoning by-law?

Absolutely. If you have been told that your property is “Non Conforming” that means that the “use” of your property doesn’t conform to the use of the land permitted in the by-law for the zone in which your property is situated. If you have been told your property in “Non Complying” that means that one or several of the zone requirements are not being met. For example, your dwelling may not be setback from the shoreline as far as required by the zoning by-law. In either case, the use or the non-complying element is recognized as legal as long as it existed before the zoning bylaw came into effect. Consulting a professional planner can assist you in determining by-law conformity and compliance and assist in appropriate development of your property.

Are structures such as gazebos and saunas part of our dwelling for zoning by-law purposes?

No, not necessarily. Structures such as gazebos and saunas are an “accessory” to your dwelling. They are not stand alone uses. If they are attached to, or contained within the dwelling, they would be considered as part of the dwelling for by-law purposes. Otherwise, as free-standing structures, they have separate zoning by-law requirements for most provisions such a height and lot coverage. They also have specific set back requirements.