Limited Site Controls for Lake Simcoe

I wrote a while ago about some applications I noticed for a ‘minor variance’ to zoning of properties along the shore of Lake Simcoe. Theoretically, the Lake Simcoe Protection Act designated a 30 metre setback for environmental purposes. However, in practice, existing developed properties are exempt. Owners can obtain a zoning amendment from a local Committee of Adjustment for a price.

Shortly after my article, Town Council passed a Shoreline Development Interim Control by-law, which applied to 30 vacant shoreline properties. Council has now adopted an Official Plan Amendment No. 16 to revise the Site Plan Control Bylaw. This would come into effect after its approval by the County of Simcoe and replace the Interim Control bylaw. While it applies only to the same 30 vacant properties, the bylaw clarifies that: 

  • “single-detached and semi-detached dwelling areas abutting the Lake Simcoe shoreline are not exempt from Site Plan Control”
  • offshore buildings and structures associated with a shoreline property may be subject to Site Plan Control
  • “One or more bylaws may be adopted [separately] to designate specific areas and provisions of Site Plan Control”, specifically including lots abutting Lake Simcoe

This Official Plan amendment was supported by the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) and predictably opposed by a corporation that had already submitted an application for a building permit. The LSRCA noted that it would:

  • Ensure that development will occur in a comprehensive and integrated manner
  • Help protect key natural heritage and hydrologic features
  • Provide a means to maintain vegetation protection zones along Lake Simcoe
  • Allow for the establishment of Site Plan Agreements to be registered on title
  • Act as an interim means of development control prior to the establishment of a Shoreline Management Plan and associated Development Permit System

The Town’s amendment is supported by the Planning Act which specifies that planning authorities must have regard for “the protection of ecological systems, including natural areas, features and functions” and the Provincial Planning Policy which states “the diversity and connectivity of natural features in an area, and the long-term ecological function and biodiversity of natural heritage systems, should be maintained, restored or, where possible, improved.”

Surprising to me, the existing “Town’s Zoning By-Law specifies that 50% of the waterfront yard of a property abutting Lake Simcoe must be maintained as a natural vegetation area”. But staff admit that they have “faced challenges in enforcing this provision.”

The bylaw exempts:

  • properties within a designated Urban or Village settlement
  • properties that have submitted an application for, or received a building permit
  • properties that do not contain Key Natural Heritage Features and Key Hydrologic Features as defined in the Lake Simcoe Protection Act
  • government nfrastructure projects