Community concerns about updates to Starboard Development Proposal
The Gravenhurst community expressed concerns about updates to the Starboard (Cherokee Lane) Development proposal, in the February 28, 2023, Planning Council meeting.
The applicant is currently proposing a seven-storey condominium with mixed uses, two levels of underground parking for the residential portion of the development, and a two-story boat house realigned to follow the shape of the shoreline (rather than out into the bay) that will include 55 boat slips, a restaurant and retail stores.
The lot is four parcels, 9,226 square metres, with water frontage of two shoreline lots, roadside frontage of two shoreline lots, and road frontage of two non-shoreline lots. Access to the property is through Cherokee Lane and Lake Muskoka.
The property directly adjacent to The Muskoka Wharf that is currently mixed with commercial, restaurant, and parking uses.
Studies for the proposed development included Transportation, Traffic and Parking, Environmental Impact, Geotechnical, and Flood Impact.
According to Town staff, the development is consistent and compliant with the Wharf Revitalization Plan.
Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA), Director, Liz Lundell, advised, “There are inconsistencies between the application planning report and By-law amendments…[and] flood impact review.” She added the MLA is concerned “about what we see from the lake we all share,” and the boat house at 130 metres will block access from Lookout Park, and the sugar and yeast waste from the proposed distillery will cause biohazard problems.
Lundell also expressed concerns about the impact of the development on the shoreline regarding the flood plane and fish habitat, and the risk of sediment and corrosion, along with “the absence of commercial parking, and boating safety.”
Representative of the Gull and Silver Lakes Resident’s Association, Joanne Smith, expressed concerns about “the number and scale of exemptions and variances of the plan,” including the height and density of the proposed boat house. She drew attention to the Gravenhurst Plan guiding future development with consideration to “the health and quality of residents and visitors, preserve and enhance and protect the quality of the Town.”
Smith added that the zoning By-laws are supposed to be consistent with the Town Plan. She expressed, “We’re not opposed to the development. We believe the policies must be upheld. In lieu of the variances, we request changes to the proposal be made before granting approval of the development.”
Representative of the Muskoka Bay Property Owners Association, Keith Duncans, said, “The study is unreliable regarding the vessel traffic in the bay… A more representative study should be done in the summer, during peak times.” He added, “The larger the project, the more the silt and chloride with enter the water.”
Some community members spoke up in the meeting in support of the development, feeling the restaurant and shops will provide the opportunity to revive the Town, including bringing more people to the area, such as a younger generation, and offer more attractions to visitors, increasing spending at The Wharf.
Other members raised concerns that included the impact on the wildlife species, including turtles, the building structures obstructing resident views, residents having to live with the long-term impacts, including responsibility of taxpayers should the business venture fail, the impact on the narrows that is already congested with boat traffic, and that seasonal minimum wage jobs such as what would be a result of the restaurant portion of the development doesn’t allow for the type of employment residents need.
A general consensus was that people move to Muskoka to enjoy the peace and quiet, nature and landscapes. Many people have come to the area to retire, which is challenging to do in the midst of the noise from developments of this magnitude and increased car and boat traffic resulting from it. They also fear their property value will decrease as a result of things like shoreline erosion and impact of disrupting and unsafe boating practices.
Town Councillors expressed concerns about the proposed excavation pumping out into the water, and the commercial parking space.
Director of Development, Melissa Halford, indicated that the staff review is ongoing, and issues will be addressed moving forward.