MAHC board appoints new directors

Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare is pleased to introduce three new Directors, appointed earlier this month to the Board of Directors following a recruitment drive this summer.

Rhonda Lawson joins the Board for a one-year term, bringing a wealth of board experience from for-profit and not-for-profit corporations. Ms. Lawson is a corporate executive who currently heads up her own human resources consulting firm.

Michael Walters has also been appointed to a one-year term as a board director, having served as a community member on the board’s Strategic Planning Committee last year. Mr. Walters is the Executive Director for the Georgian Bay Treatment Centre and has an extensive background in mental health.

Moreen Miller joins the Board for a three-year term with professional experience from the aggregate sector. She has also served on advisory boards for mining and aggregate, as well as land and watershed stewardship.

In addition, two new community members have been appointed to standing board committees. MAHC is pleased to welcome Linda Walsh and Adam Hutton to their community member role, joining Betsy Rothwell, Gordon Horne and Richard Augustine.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I am excited to welcome these new members who bring the Board to our full complement,” says Board Chair Evelyn Brown. “We have a dedicated group of talented volunteers with diverse skills and I am looking forward to working with them.”

The Board of Directors is a 17-member skills-based, volunteer body with 12 elected directors. The Board plays a key leadership role in setting policies and visioning for the hospital and provides oversight of the delivery of health care in the communities that we serve. Learn more about the Board of Directors on our website.

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Matt Richter kicks off Green Party campaign in Bracebridge

Local Greens kick off Matt Richter campaign; second in polls at the start for Parry Sound-Muskoka

Published May 8, 10am: Parry Sound-Muskoka Green Party of Ontario Candidate Matt Richter, his campaign team and supporters kicked off the 2014 election campaign last night in Bracebridge.

This is Richter’s third campaign as the Green Party Candidate for Parry Sound-Muskoka and he shared with the supporters and reporters in attendance that he is “excited to get on the campaign trail to hear what really matters to the people of Parry Sound-Muskoka and ensure their voice is heard at Queen’s Park.”

Matt Richter, Green Party
Matt Richter speaking to supporters last night

The Green Party has shown great momentum during the past two campaigns and in the 2011 election Richter had the second highest percentage of the vote for a Green Party candidate across the Province. And in a riding projections poll yesterday, the Greens were shown to be running second in Parry Sound-Muskoka with the Liberals and NDP just a point or two behind, respectively.

Last night Richter reviewed the party policy and priorities on education, sustainable energy, creating and supporting jobs and protecting our food, water and natural resources.

“The Green Party is committed”, he said, “to politics that are not about catering to special interests or back door deals, but rather about engaging in transparent and fair processes and supporting the needs and interests of Ontarians.”

Green Party volunteers
Green Party’s Stan Hunter and Matt’s eldest son, Sam Richter, greeting volunteers just before campaign launch last night

The official campaign launch happened at 6pm at the new campaign office at 200 Manitoba Street, Unit 4, across the street from Oliver’s Coffee. It will be open daily.

To contact Matt Richter or find out more about the Green Party of Ontario’s Platform, visit or email with comments and questions.

Yesterday, PC Norm Miller was first to officially open his campaign headquarters on Taylor Road in Bracebridge. The NDP will announce its candidate on Saturday and the Liberals may reveal their candidate on Sunday.

Related Articles:
Moose FM, May 7: PS-Muskoka Green Party Matt Richter launches campaign in Bracebridge

Moose FM, May 7: Norm Miller Campaign Launch


Distracted Driving Campaign Starts March 8 and so does March Break: Be safe!

OPP Asking for Public’s Help with Distracted Driving Campaign starting March 8 and a reminder: It’s March Break!

Updated March 7, 11am: The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is reminding the public that the annual school Spring Break starts today in many of our areas.

Chief Superintendent John Tod, Regional Commander of the OPP Central Region is reminding the public that with March Break starting, “there will be many children playing in areas during the day that we are not used to seeing them. Please watch for children at all times.”.

Outdoor enthusiasts are also being cautioned to use caution as milder weather is in the forecast and this will no doubt compromise the quality of snow and ice conditions. “Although winter is still very much upon us, safety and planning ahead should be always an important component of any outdoor activity in the coming days and weeks as snow and ice conditions can start to change hourly,” adds Tod.

And drivers, remember that the OPP’s Distracted Driving Campaign is continuing and that Distracted Driving has become the number one factor in motor vehicle related collision deaths. Inspector Dom Beckett, Manager of the OPP Central Region Traffic and Marine Unit is asking motorists to “please keep your eyes and attention focused on the road; that is where it needs to be ALL the time. Distracted driving related deaths can be reduced if drivers change their behaviour and pledge to always reach for safety and not for their phone”.

OPP Distracted Driving Campaign starts March 8

Release from OPP Posted Mar. 3, 10.38am: Irresponsible driver behaviour has the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) concerned about the fate of many road users this year as officers prepare to launch their next campaign against Distracted Driving (Mar 8-14).

2013: Distracted driving caused more deaths than impaired and speeding drivers

In 2013, distracted driving fatalities surpassed both impaired and speed related fatalities in fatal motor vehicle collisions investigated by the OPP.  A total of 78 persons died in distracted driving related collisions compared to 57 impaired driving deaths and 44 speed related deaths last year.

“When you consider the overall impact of these 78 fatalities last year and the 325 other distracted driving victims who have died since 2010, the number of people these irresponsible drivers have had a profound and devastating impact on is in the thousands,” said OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, Commander of Traffic Safety and Operational Support.

“Everyone, from the victims’ families and friends to the police officers who attend these horrific collision scenes and have to notify next-of-kin, knows the emotional impact of one life lost to this senseless driving behavior trickles down to so many people who, sadly, through experience, know how badly this behaviour needs to stop,” he added.

The OPP recognizes that the only way to stop people from dying in distracted driving related collisions is to raise awareness of how serious the problem is and to have everyone make a firm, lifelong commitment to helping the police and safety partners eliminate it altogether.  According to the OPP, it can be done.

“Over and above every driver pledging to never text or talk on the phone, pledge to be a good passenger and speak up if the driver in your car is using his/her phone or engaged in other forms of distraction.  Pledge to regularly encourage your friends and family to not be distracted while driving,” said OPP Chief Superintendent Don Bell, Commander of the Highway Safety Division. “Even though our campaign only runs one week, make this a year-round commitment because it is a fail proof way to help us eliminate the tragic deaths that occur every year because of distracted drivers,” added Bell

March 18: fines jump to $280

The OPP is reminding motorists that on March 18, 2014 the current distracted driving fine of $155 will jump to $280 (this includes the increased $225 fine plus a $50 victim fine surcharge and $5 court cost).

The OPP’s Distracted Driving Campaign runs from Saturday, March 8 to Friday, March 14, 2014.  During that time, the OPP will be doing its part to eliminate the threat of distracted driving through its own awareness raising efforts and focused enforcement of distracted driving laws throughout the province.

The OPP is asking Ontarians to show their support during this important campaign.  Go to the OPP’s Facebook page and/or follow them on Twitter and let them know how you plan on helping to eliminate distracted driving on Ontario roads. The OPP will highlight some of your entries in a campaign wrap-up news release following the campaign.

Muskoka Lakes budget passed, offers matching dollars for hospital

Valentine’s Day budget includes 2.75% increase to annual levy, held last year funding amount for Chamber, and offered compromise for hospital ask

Posted Mar. 2, 2014: The Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce will be getting $18,000 to help fund its operations again this year again from the Township of Muskoka Lakes. It was the last item discussed by Township Council before it passed its Valentine’s Day budget.  Council also heard a delegation about the need for funding by the South Muskoka Memorial Hospital.

The Mayor thanked all Council for working to get the budget passed – the earliest budget confirmation date of Council’s term. The 2014 Budget includes a 2.75% increase to the annual levy. The majority of the increase will be achieved naturally through new growth and assessment phase-in, so the actual tax rate will only increase by 1.04% or $1.01 per $100,000 of assessed residential property value.

Before voting to approve the budget, Council heard from Chamber Manager Jane Templeton who requested funding be maintained to the Chamber – and Council agreed. Templeton had stepped in for Chamber President Walter Moon to ask the Council to hold its contribution, which she says is a fee for service, including marketing the Township, to the $18,000 the Council provided in 2012 and 2013.   Township provided $20,000 until 2013 when it cut Chamber funding to $18,000.  This tie Council wanted to trim that down to $15,000, a 25% reduction during the term of the current council.

Those cuts will have broad consequences for the services the Chamber provides to support business and economic development in Muskoka Lakes and a deeper cut will be felt by Township Council as well, said Templeton. Not only does the Chamber run annual and monthly events and information sessions, two seasonal Farmers Markets, the Bala Santa Claus Parade and produces visit information guides and more for the good of the entire township, Templeton explained that many services are also provided that directly support the Township. She pointed to the operation of a year round office and visitor information centre in Bala, a seasonal visitor information centre in Port Carling, free advertising via the Visitor Guide and by direct emails to the Chamber database for everything from Township job fairs to public meetings on Township issues.  The chamber provides representation of Township at Cottage Life Show, promotes businesses at Ontario Winter Games, participates in Fed Nor programs for the development of initiatives that increase tourism visitation, trade and commerce, and job creation.

Councillor Furniss responded,  “I can’t believe how much work the chamber does – it’s incredible”.  In a discussion later in the day, Council agreed unanimously to hold funding to the Chamber at the $18K instead of trimming it back to $15k.

As a result of maintaining current funding, Templeton reports that the Board of Directors as well as chamber members are very pleased that they are able to continue with the initiatives and mandates they are presently providing.

Council offers to match hospital donations

An amount of $9,000 was also put back in to the budget to potentially go to South Muskoka Memorial Hospital in Bracebridge. Council agreed to a funding option presented by Chief Administrative Officer Chris Wray in which members of the public would be free to donate to the hospital through the Township and the Township would match those donation dollars equally up to an amount of $9,000 – potentially raising a total $18,000 for the hospital, which needs help to pay for equipment, a cost not covered by the province.

Budget highlights:

  • Total levy of $8.4 million will allow the Township to conduct all of its operational duties, including summer and winter road maintenance, recreational programs, planning and development, as well as all administrative tasks.
  • $530,000 has been allocated for reconstruction of Beatrice Townline Bridge #2.
  • $25,000 has been earmarked to establish a reserve for future inclement weather impacts.
  • Staff – including firefighters who are considered part-time employees – will receive a 1.5% pay increase (a recommended pay scale change for firefighters wil undergo further scrutiny before a Council decision)

One item noted as a concern by Councillors Don Furniss and Allen Edwards during final budget discussions was the draw down of Township reserves. Since the present Council took office in 2010, reserves have been depleted by $715,202.

At the end of December, reserves were estimated to be $5,367,500. How does that compare to previous years? Total reserves (obligatory and discretionary) at year ended:

  • December 31, 2010: $6,082,702.
  • December 31, 2012: $5,801,015
  • December 31, 2013: estimated at $5,367,500



Gold Morning Muskoka!

Team Canada Wins Again! We did it in One-Two-Three!

Posted February 23, 9:17am: It’s still the best game you can name, and we own it at the Olympics.

Sidney Crosby, Team Canada captain, Sochi, Gold Medal Game
Crosby’s a guy you can count on! Goal 2! Photo Credit: Canadian Olympic Team Official Web Site

Canadians rose early this wintry morning to watch the big Olympic hockey finale (before the ‘final’ finale of the Closing Ceremonies) and were not disappointed. Team Canada won over Sweden, 3-0.

Team Canada AC Jonathan Toews started his team off in the first period with the first goal. Then it was Captain Sidney Crosby’s turn in the second.

And in the third? It was Chris Kunitz of Regina scoring Canada’s third goal in the third period, and then, with ten minutes to go, a penalty call against Canada had us all at the edge of our seats. After all, anything can happen, right? While the Swedes played hard, it was not to be a nail biter comeback like that by our Canadian women’s team (arguably amongst the most exciting hockey games ever to be played and watched. Ever.).

Congratulations to all Canadian Olympians. Like the hash tag says, #WeAreWinter.

Team Canada, Bracebridge
Crowd counts down at Boston Pizza Bracebridge

Where were you at 7am this morning? Muskoka News Watch welcomes your comments on this and your other favourite Olympic moments (think Dara Howell!).

Courtesy of Meghan Eidt at Boston Pizza in Bracebridge, here’s a video of the crowd cheering on Team Canada early on in the winning game. Click here to view YouTube video.

Next:  Get ready to cheer on Graeme Murray of Gravenhurst in Paralympic Sledge Hockey. The Paralympics in Sochi start March 7.

Team Canada, hockey, Sochi, Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews
Team Canada AC Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks) gets first goal in first period.

Related articles: Dara Howell of Huntsville takes Gold at Sochi, Muskoka News Watch


Muskoka Olympian Dara Howell takes Gold in slopestyle

Dara brings home the Gold, Kim Lamarre, Bronze, in slopestyle event: Their wins give Canada even greater lead at Sochi

February 11: 8am: “I think that’s the best run I’ve ever done,” an ecstatic Dara Howell told reporters after her winning slopestyle run in the finals, held 4am this morning. Over a Dara Howell Feb 11hundred people gathered at the Muskoka Ski Club at Hidden Valley Highlands ski area to watch Dara, including many generations and relatives of the Howell family. Dara posted an 88.8 on her first run in the semi finals that started at 1 am and in her final run, she scored at 94.2

What’s Up Muskoka reporter Chris Occhuizzi was there with the emotional crowd. Read his account here in The Toronto Sun

Not only are Muskokans swelling with pride and Canada thrilled to have such a strong lead now in the overall media count, there are many other reasons why Dara’s win is so poignant and resonates across the Canada and the world of freestyle skiing. Sarah Burke of Squamish, B.C. trailblazed the sport of freestyle skiing and fought long and hard to have the event included in the Olympic Winter Games. She was a favourite to win gold at these games but her dream was cut short when she died in 2012 after a training accident in Utah. Skiiers who wanted to honour Burke by wearing Sarah Burke stickers on their helmets were told by the International Olympic Committee that the stickers would not be tolerated as they would be considered a political statement. Burke’s mother, Jan Phelan, was at the Sochi slopestyle site to see Burke’s legacy in action.

In an interview with CBC after today’s win by Dara, Huntsville’s hometown girl spoke about Burke:  “Earlier this week I said I wish a Canadian would win a gold medal, and it would be for Sarah. To be that person, I didn’t expect it and you work so hard for it, it’s truly amazing. I know she would be proud and happy and I just want to keep pushing this sport and pushing myself and doing what I love to do and I know she would honour that.”

Dara Howell has started off an exciting and historic day for women in sport. As well as the first slopestyle event, the first women’s ski jump competition also takes place in Sochi today.

ORIGINAL POST January 29, 2014: Midnight start won’t stop Huntsville from cheering on Dara Howell

Olympic cheerfest starts Feb. 10 at Midnight at Hidden Valley; Dara’s slopestyle events begin at 1am

Posted January 20, 5:40pm:  It’s not often we get a hometown girl realizing Olympic dreams and we can all cheer on slopestyler Dara Howell from the comfort of the Muskoka Ski Club on February 10.

The only catch is that her freestyle ski event will be happening midnight our time. So grab a nap and some java and join the crowd at Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area to cheer this talented 19-year-old on. The ski area has issued an invitation for those who want to join them in watching Dara make her bid for Olympic Gold in real-time.

Schedule of Dara’s Olympic Events:

Slopestyle, freestyle skiing, Muskoka, news about Muskoka, Dara Howell
Dara Howell of Huntsville competing in Olympic Slopestyle event
  • Ladies’ Slopestyle Qualifiers start at 1:00 a.m.
  • Ladies’ Slopestyle Finals start at 4:00 a.m.

Local ‘Cheer Dara On’ Details:

  • This is a FREE family-friendly event.
  • Time: From midnight February 10 to 5am February 11.
  • Where: Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area, Members’ Lounge
  • What: CBC Olympic coverage will be on the big screen; there will be activities for kids (make a sign to cheer on Dara!), and complimentary snacks. A cash bar will also be available for a limited time.

RSVP not required, but if you plan to come, organizers ask that you please join our Facebook event page by clicking here (or email if not on Facebook).

Organizers suggest you wear a Dara Howell shirt (available at Algonquin Outfitters), and sport Olympic colours (red, black & white!) and/or Olympic mitts to show your support.

Photo provided by Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area and Canadian Freestyle Ski Association.


New Muskoka Watershed Chair and exploring the link between environment and economy

How environment can drive economy focus of February 6 event; Muskoka Watershed Council welcomes Dr. Peter Sale as Chair; Robert Bateman to be keynote speaker for Muskoka Summit on the Environment

New Chair for Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC): Marine ecologist and noted author of Our Dying Planet, Dr. Peter Sale, has officially stepped in to Patricia Arney’s

news about muskoka, environment, watershed, muskoka ontario latest news, muskoka watershed council, muskoka news, events in muskoka
Dr. Sale with outgoing Chair Patricia Arney. Photo by Lyndsie McGregor

shoes as Chair of the Muskoka Watershed Council. Arney has completed her two-year term with the Council, which champions environmental stewardship in our region.  The change in leadership happened at the Council meeting held on Friday, January 24, during which Sale presented Arney, a Bala resident, with a certificate of appreciation in recognition of her commitment and dedication. (Arney has been involved with the MWC since 2001 and Sale joined the Council in 2010). Lou Guerriero has also been elected as Vice-Chair. He first joined MWC in 2004 as a representative for the Town of Gravenhurst.

The Environment is Good for Business Event Feb. 6: Do you have to choose between a healthy environment and a strong economy? Experts agree that Muskoka’s economy can serve as a perfect example of how they can go hand in hand. On Thursday, February 6, economic and planning consultant Rob Milligan will explore the opportunities that exist as a result of the environment–economy connection.  Milligan, who is also a member of the Muskoka Watershed Council, is the keynote speaker at the annual Bridges to Better Business event put on by the Muskoka Small Business Centre. It happens at the Rotary Centre for Youth in Bracebridge. To learn more and register, please click here or call the Muskoka Small Business Centre at 706-646-9021 (remember to tell them you read about it here at Muskoka News Watch!). The day also features a panel of businesses with close connections to the environment, and an afternoon series of popular speed mentoring sessions, where attendees can get business advice from experts on a whole range of topics.  For more information or to register for this important event, contact Muskoka Small Business Centre at 705-646-9021 or visit

Plans well under way for 2014 Muskoka Summit on the Environment: Resolving the Environment-Economy dichotomy is also the theme for this year’s Muskoka Summit on the Environment in May. Keynote speaker for this event is renowned Canadian wildlife artist, naturalist and conservationist Robert Bateman. He heads up a great line up news about muskoka, muskoka events, muskoka news, muskoka, environment, summit, watershed, save the bala falls, lake muskokaof speakers who will look at creative approaches to closing the gap between economic and environmental considerations.

So far, speakers for the event include:

  • Robert Sandford, Director of the Western Watersheds Research Collaborative and a leading thinker on the impact of climate change on freshwater resources.
  • Elena Bennett, from McGill University, who studies the connection between ecosystem services and human well being.
  •  Terre Satterfield, an anthropologist at UBC, whose work focuses on culture and justice as they influence environmental values.
  •  Daniel Simberloff, from the University of Tennessee, is a leading terrestrial ecologist and expert on the biology of invasive species.
  • Peter Victor, from York University is an economist who works on environmental issues.

The two-day summit will feature presentations by each of these experts and will wrap up with a panel discussion hosted by CBC’s Paul Kennedy (to be broadcast afterward on Kennedy’s award winning program, Ideas). Registration is now open for the Muskoka Summit on the Environment, happening May 8-9 at the Rene Caisse Theatre in Bracebridge. To learn more, visit the Summit site by clicking here.


Update: Hanna's Landing OMB hearing date set for September

OMB hearing about controversial Port Carling development set for September 22; ruling could come long after next municipal election

Update Jan. 22: The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) pre-hearing at the Township of Muskoka Lakes took care of administrative matters quickly this morning. The meeting wrapped up within an hour of its 10 am start time with about 25 people attending. The purpose of today’s meeting was to see what the issues are and to find out who might be involved as a party or participant and to figure out how long it might take to hear all the issues identified. The Muskoka Lakes Association and Rick Spence have joined the Township of Muskoka Lakes as parties to the hearing, each with their own list of issues in regard to Hanna’s Landing Inc, which launched the OMB action by requesting the OMB take over the zoning approval process for its development project from the Township. Parties to the hearing will be expected to make presentations at the hearing which is scheduled for September. A handful of neighbours of the proposed project also asked to be listed as participants so they can be kept informed of the proceedings. Sources say the Township has hired an external planning firm that may have helped produce a list of up to 37 issues (including a draft plan of subdivision) given to Hanna’s Landing officials late yesterday. Muskoka News Watch has requested the issues lists provided to the OMB by all parties involved.  

Hanna’s Landing hopes OMB will take over zoning approval from Township; public pre-hearing of issues starts Wednesday, Jan. 22, 10am

Posted Jan. 19, 6pm: Taxpayers in Muskoka Lakes Township may learn why the Township is refusing to circulate a zoning amendment request about the proposed Hanna’s Landing development on Wednesday. That’s when the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is holding a pre-hearing to uncover what’s caused Hanna’s Landing Inc. to seek help from the OMB — and to learn why the Township has dug in its heels.

Hanna’s Landing is a residential development planned for the former Glenwood Trailer Park on the Indian River in Port Carling, a property that can also be seen from Mirror Lake. The developers promise to provide future housing needs for year-round residents of Muskoka Lakes and for those seeking vacation properties. The OMB pre-hearing is scheduled for this Wednesday at 10am [CORRECTED TIME is 10AM] in the Township Council Chambers and is open to the public.

The OMB holds a public pre-hearing to:

  • identify the issues to be dealt with at the actual hearing;
  • identify parties who want to take part in the full hearing; and,
  • set the date for the full hearing.

Ahead of Wednesday’s pre-hearing, Hanna’s Landing has sent its list of issues to the Township (as well as the District, MLA and Friends of Port Carling as those groups may want to take part in the hearing). As of press time, the company had heard nothing back.

Township Planning Director David Pink confirmed Friday (January 17) that Hanna’s Landing had shared its list of issues to be raised at the pre hearing, and the Township had yet to reply. He added the pre-hearing will try to solidify issues and that he could not comment on anything else at this time.

Muskoka News, news about Muskoka, Hanna's Landing, Port Carling, OMB, Jeff Goldman, Planscape, Muskoka Lakes, Mayor Murphy, Save the Bala Falls, municipal government, Muskoka
Hanna’s Landing and surrounding area

Here’s how the OMB proceedings have come about: Hanna’s Landing Inc.  appealed to the OMB last August after Township council refused to circulate a re-zoning application for its property. Under its regular procedures, the Township  staff would circulate such an application to the public (without intervention by Council) and applicable agencies for comment within a certain timeframe. But Council refused to send it out.

“Our application [for a zoning amendment] was submitted in March 2013, and certified as complete by Township Planning Director David Pink,” says Jeff Goldman, President of Hanna’s Landing Inc. He notes both Pink and the Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) recommended that the application be circulated for comment to statutory agencies and the public (even though the MLA opposed some of what the application contained). Yet Council, under the Mayor Alice Murphy’s leadership, refused to do so, says Goldman. He claims Council has displayed a continued disregard for the advice of its own Planning Director and “flagrant violations of the procedures for processing planning applications as proscribed by The Planning Act.” As a result, he’d like the OMB to take the zoning approval phase of the development over from the Township.

Township Council heard the request to approve circulation in Planning Committee of the Whole (COW) Meetings held May 21 and August 15, 2013. In one meeting, Goldman says Council took about 45 minutes to try and rewrite the needed rezoning bylaw on the spot.  When that effort failed, Council then called for a second special meeting to rewrite the draft bylaw that had already been vetted by the Township planning department. Goldman says that meeting was never held. He adds the discussion during the public COW meeting raised questions that “came out of left field” from the Mayor and other councilors that he felt were irrelevant to the task at hand. By August 22, there was still no Council decision on the application that was received by the Township more than 120 days before: so Hanna’s Landing appealed to the OMB. (Note: Friends of Port Carling provides its perspective on how those meetings proceeded in a 2013 recap. See References).

In a letter dated August 22, 2013 to Murphy and all Councillors, the lawyer for Hanna’s Landing, Leo Longo, states Council’s actions, when coupled with its continued decisions to ignore advice of its own planning professionals, “undermines our client’s confidence in the inclination and/or ability of Council to deal with its application in a fair, objective and competent manner.”

This is not the first time Hanna’s Landing has been an issue in front of the OMB. Before the last municipal election in 2010, the MLA and Friends of Port Carling opposed part of the Township’s and District of Muskoka’s Official Plans that expanded Port Carling’s boundaries for properties (an expansion that would demand any future development to be on District sewer and water). The expansion of Port Carling’s eastern boundary also included the area proposed for Hanna’s Landing, a development the Friends of Port Carling oppose. A third appeal came from Hanna’s Landing itself as the District of Muskoka had approved less of an expansion than was sought by the developers.

Sidebar: Just prior to Murphy announcing her candidacy for Mayor in Summer 2010, Murphy also tried to launch a fourth appeal of the Official Plan. Her concerns were in regard to the proposed hydro development at North Bala Falls, but the OMB dismissed her application to appeal as there was no evidence of any previous objection. (See MNW article about proposed Zoning Bylaw overhaul that highlights importance of registering objections before bylaws are passed. Revisions to that zoning bylaw are being discussed tomorrow, Jan. 20, 2014, and Council has said it hopes to pass the bylaw in early 2014).

In August 2011, the OMB upheld the Official Plan (and boundary expansion), paving the way for Hanna’s Landing to move ahead. Murphy, along with the MLA, called the OMB ruling a victory as it also left a door open for further consultation and broader participation in plans for the Hanna’s Landing development.

The OMB decision required that the parties (i.e., The Township, District, Friends of Port Carling, MLA and Hanna’s Landing) through their lawyers and planners collaborate to finalize some technical details for the boundary expansion area.  “Unfortunately”, according to Goldman, “Mayor Murphy inserted herself into these discussions despite our objections. She was instrumental in introducing requirements for the site that were beyond the scope of the initial OMB hearing. and the discussions became deadlocked resulting in a second OMB Hearing in Toronto in November 2011.”

Mayoral intervention may have backfired

Goldman says the results of that November hearing upheld the positions taken by Hanna’s Landing on all matters. The OMB decision also made it possible for the number of residential units at Hanna’s Landing to grow from the original expected 250 to a minimum 295 (agreed to by the Township in those 2011 meetings) and to possibly more than 330 — an increase that will likely not sit well with those opposing the development in its entirety. That change, say some observers, begs the question about whether ongoing intervention by the Mayor and Township has backfired for those in the community who would prefer to curtail the size of the development. The OMB has essentially granted the developer with more flexibility: making the situation worse rather than better in the eyes of those who oppose it. Wednesday’s pre-hearing may provide insights into whether Hanna’s Landing will get the support it wants from the OMB.

MNW Readers, if interested, MNW has compiled a timeline of events regarding the Hanna’s Landing issue from the beginning OMB appeals to today. Click here to read that timeline. We look forward to feedback if any verified dates are missing.

To comment on this article, please use the Submit Comment form below. Please remember, we need at least a first name and email to know that you are a ‘real’ human. Only your first name will appear unless you request otherwise.


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