2016 Planning/Building Information

1) Township Contacts and Information

(705) 538-2337 / 1-800-567-0187

Director of Development Services – Nick Popovich, npopovich@gbtownship.ca x 232


general inquiries – building@gbtownship.ca x 6

Chief Building Official – Dave Fedoriw, dfedoriw@gbtownship.ca x 240


general inquiries – planning@gbtownship.ca x 2

Manager of Planning – Gordon Dickson, gdickson@gbtownship.ca x 224

The Township is short staffed in their Planning Department.  They were able to fill the reception position a while ago, but filling the Senior Planner position has been more challenging.  The first round of interviews resulted in a suitable candidate, who unfortunately chose to take a job elsewhere.  The second round of interviews has resulted in a candidate who should be starting in early August.

So of course, it has taken and will take longer to provide services including process various applications.  Please be patient and courteous with Township staff while they function as best they can under the circumstances.

Your Land Use Planning Committee is available to help explain Township zoning by-laws and discuss issues while you develop your plans for building/renovation or other activities on your property.  Members of the committee are Patsy Cross, Stoney McCart, Bob Duncanson, Michael and Diane Leuty and Michael Williams.

Valuable information can be found on the Township website, but also on Madawaska’s website under Planning & Building

Topics in last year’s 9 nuggets were:

  • Introductory land use planning information
  • Buildings less than 10 square metres
  • Docks
  • Decks
  • Shoreline activity area and natural state shoreline area
  • Boathouses
  • Accessory buildings, structures and uses
  • Walkways and breezeways
  • Dark sky lighting


2) Minor Variance

Four tests are considered in evaluating a minor variance.  These four tests should also be considered when you are planning any building or land use activity which does not require a minor variance.

1. Is the variance minor?
Not minor if too large or too important – determine the extent of the impact on neighbouring properties in the immediate and general area. Issues of privacy, views, compatible with the established built form and character of the neighbourhood

2. Would the granting of the variance result in a development that would be desirable for the appropriate development or use of the applicants land or building?
The test of desirability includes consideration of the many factors that can affect the broad public interest as it relates to the applicants property and accepted planning principles and the existing pattern of development

3. Does the variance requested maintain the general intent and purpose of the zoning by-law?
The purpose of the zoning by-law is to implement the policies of the Official Plan.  The by-laws try to put measurable components to the policies which guide building and land use activities.  In some cases these hard numbers may not be achievable. For example, sometimes the configuration and topography of the land makes achieving setback distances challenging.

4. Does the variance requested maintain the general intent and purpose of the Official Plan?
The Official Plan provides the policy context for land use planning – setting goals, objectives and land use policies. This is where the consideration of the vision, goals and objectives of our plan should take place.


3) Site Alteration and Blasting

Our Official Plan states as one of the objectives under Sense of Place:

“To prohibit landscape changes through blasting and the placing or removal of fill that would alter the landscape of the area;

Other specific policies:

“New lots must have sufficient potential for boat access without blasting or significant shoreline alteration”

“A development site can be provided that is generally level and does not require blasting or the placement or removal of fill or significant alteration of the natural vegetation in any manner”

“Blasting shall generally not be permitted above the water within 20 metres of the shoreline. Minimal blasting may occur beyond 20 metres from the shoreline provided that any work supports the goals and objectives of the Official Plan and subject to Township By-laws and that all blast rock shall be removed from the shoreline. “

Site Alteration By-Law 2014-72 prohibits and regulates the placing or dumping or removal of fill in shoreline areas and land zoned Environmental Protection (EP) and Open Space (OS).  Shoreline area for Go Home is the area of land between the existing water level and 20 m setback from the high water mark (177.4 C.G.D.)

Minor landscaping is allowed, however there can be no significant altering of the grade or topography which increases the flow of surface water to neighbouring lands or adjacent waterbodies.

Blasting By-Law 2003-29 regulates blasting along the shoreline of Georgian Bay waterfront properties within the Township of Georgian Bay. Blasting permits are generally required and notification and reporting requirements are specified.

By-Law 2011-64 amends the blasting by-law for Cognashene with fewer notification exemptions, more restrictive shoreline blasting and specifies site evaluation and satisfactory blasting reports.  The Board has requested the Township for an amendment to By-Law 2003-29 for Go Home Bay based on Cognashene’s amendment.


4) Legal Non-complying Lots, Buildings and Structures

There are specific rules around legal non-complying lots, buildings and structures. 

There are many buildings in our community which were legally built years ago or before our community plan and by-laws were codified in the Township official plan and zoning by-laws which do not conform to current size and height restrictions.  Reconstruction is possible if there is no increase in height, volume or gross floor area and no reduction in front, side or rear yard setbacks.

Other legally sized buildings may be sited too close to the water.  There are provisions for expansion of legally existing dwelling which do not comply with front yard setback.  This expansion cannot further encroach on the front yard and the size of expansion in gross floor area, width or height depends on the existing encroachment of the 20 metre setback from 177.4 metres C.G.D.  The expansion cannot exceed the zoning restrictions.

5) Official Plan – An Introduction

Our community plan was passed as Amendment OPA14 to the Township Official Plan in 2006.  With the development of the new Official Plan (adopted by Council in 2013) several sections of our community plan were applied Township wide and moved out of our Go Home Bay Waterfront Community Policies section (F.5.7).  The sections now addressed at the Township level encompass our concerns for the natural environment including wetlands, fish habitat and wildlife habitat in Resources (Section D).  Our concerns for built form guidelines and shoreline structures including sleeping cabins and boathouses are in Section F.3 (Waterfront Land Use Policy).  Issues of development permit by-law and site plan control are encompassed in Section I (Implementation and General Policies).

Zoning bylaws only go part way in defining regulations to support official plan policies.  The more qualitative values are difficult to reduce to a set of dimensions and distances and are sometimes lost in consideration of development and its impact on our community plan vision.  This is where community conversation and discussion are so valuable to understand how each of us can contribute in support of these qualitative values.

Our community policies commence with 3 statements about vision and 5 goal areas, each with several objectives.  The 3 vision statements define the boundaries of our shared vision and describe what we value and wish to see going forward into the future.

1) The Go Home Bay Waterfront Community covers approximately 6,000 hectares of land, islands, and water centered by the Madawaska Club lands and community and as shown on Schedule E to this Official Plan.

2) The Go Home Bay Waterfront Community is a community that values the remote wilderness landscape comprised of windswept and undeveloped islands, exposed granite, very low density, very low intensity of cottage development, and a long history of stewardship in preserving and protecting this unique Cultural Heritage Landscape.

3) The vision for the Go Home Bay Waterfront Community is of a remote waterfront community that respects and preserves the unique features that comprise the wilderness Georgian Bay landscape by ensuring that new development and redevelopment respects the overall goals and objectives for the area. The vision for the Go Home Bay Waterfront Community also foresees very limited new lot creation, modest new waterfront development and redevelopment that protects the fundamental features of the area’s unique “sense of place”, protection of the natural environment, and careful management of change and development in the area over the life of this Official Plan.  


The 5 goals areas are:

1) Natural Environment
2) Sense of Place
3) Built Form Guidelines
4) Water Quality
5) Water Access Community

Each of these goals will be presented in subsequent nuggets.


6) Official Plan Goal - Natural Environment

To protect and preserve the significant Natural Heritage Features and Areas and ecological functions within the Go Home Bay Waterfront Community.


i) To ensure that the protection of significant natural heritage features and their associated ecological functions take precedence over the development of such lands; 
ii) To ensure that a thorough understanding of the natural heritage, including the values, opportunities, limits and constraints that it provides, guides land use decisions; 
iii) To minimize changes to the Water Quality of Georgian Bay resulting from human activity; 
iv) To ensure that new development will not have a Negative Impact upon the critical functions and processes of Georgian Bay and to require the use of best environmental planning practices; 
v) To prohibit the loss or fragmentation of Wetlands, Fish Habitat, Muskoka Heritage Areas and the habitats and ecological functions they provide; and
vi) To encourage improvements to the natural landscape and natural heritage through rehabilitation and sensitive land stewardship.


Natural Heritage Features and Areas – Means features and areas, including significant Wetlands, significant coastal wetlands, fish habitat, Significant Habitat of Endangered Species and Threatened Species, Significant Wildlife Habitat, and significant Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest, which are important for their environmental and social values as a legacy of the natural landscapes of an area.

Concern for the environment is more generally applied across the Township in policies and by-laws related to protection of species at risk, wetlands, wildlife habitat, fish habitat and colonial and migratory bird nests.

The zoning by-laws related to septic systems with minimum setback of 30 metres from 178.3 metres C.G.D. and minimum elevation of 1 metre above 178.3 metres C.G.D.  provide specific regulations for our community over and above the Ontario Building Code requirements.


7) Official Plan Goal - Sense of Place

To protect and preserve the significant sense of place of the Go Home Bay Waterfront Community, which is defined by its unique grouping of landscape elements – the exposed shoreline and windswept granite rock, the windswept pines and trees, the largely undeveloped archipelago of islands – the isolated and wilderness setting, the historical and continuous record of low density development and low intensity of built form, and the preservation of the natural vegetation of the area. Together, these form a significant Cultural Heritage Landscape on Georgian Bay.


i) To protect the unique Character of the Go Home Bay Waterfront Community from inappropriate development; 
ii) To limit the density and intensity of development in the Go Home Bay Waterfront Community in order to protect the visual and aesthetic qualities of the area and to protect the natural wilderness Character of the area; 
iii) To protect all of the individual elements of the Cultural Heritage Landscape that have created a distinctive Character to the area that is more than the sum of its constituent elements or parts; 
iv) To protect the fundamental components of the physical landscape, such as the exposed rock shores and windswept pines, that form the physical basis for the sense of place; 
v) To prohibit landscape changes through blasting and the placing or removal of fill that would alter the landscape of the area; 
vi) To maximize tree preservation in the Go Home Bay Waterfront Community; and
vii) To promote the retention and maintenance of natural shorelines, as well as the restoration of natural shorelines wherever possible.

Cultural Heritage Landscape – Means a defined geographical area of heritage significance which has been modified by human activities and is valued by a community. There are three (3) types of cultural landscapes; designed, evolved and associative. It involves a grouping(s) of individual heritage features such as structures, spaces, archaeological sites and natural elements, which together form a significant type of heritage form, distinctive from that of its constituent elements or parts.

While these objectives are addressed in zoning by-laws of lot area and frontage, minimum setbacks, building and structure dimensions, and shoreline development, much of this requires support in a qualitative way.  Self-assessment and community discussion can contribute to a greater understanding of ways to honour our cultural heritage landscape.   Site alteration and blasting by-laws also help support these objectives.

8) Official Plan Goal - Built Form Guidelines

To protect the Character of the Go Home Bay Waterfront Community as a low density, low intensity wilderness cottage area by regulating the size and height of new cottages and additions and renovations to existing cottages and sites, and providing clear guidelines respecting docks, boathouses, sheds, and other accessory buildings and structures.


i) To protect the low density wilderness Character of the area by extending appropriate development standards (minimum frontage and area) to the whole Waterfront Community; 
ii) To permit, but limit, the size of new or expanding cottages with the purpose of protecting the established Character of the area while providing for flexibility in design concepts for landowners; 
iii) To promote building design and development techniques that lessen the impact of the building on the landscape;
iv) To utilize building materials that reflect naturally available materials such as wood and stone;
v) To limit the number, length and size of docks in the shoreline area with the intention of protecting the visual Character of the shoreline;
vi) To establish policies to regulate the nature and form of shoreline structures to preserve the natural shoreline Character; and
vii) To establish policies with respect to the size and location of accessory structures.

Character – Means the collection of built, cultural and natural heritage attributes that define a given area. Such attributes can be historical in nature, can have evolved over time, or can be based on modern built form and land use patterns. Character is not static, but rather evolves over time, adapting to new circumstances and/or new planning policies. Each Settlement Area and Waterfront Community may have its own character.

These are the objectives that are most commonly regulated in the comprehensive zoning by-law.  How these regulations are implemented at a particular site can have a significant impact on achievement of the qualitative objectives. Discussion within the community may raise awareness of ways to build which can better respect the character of our community.

9) Official Plan Goal - Water Quality

To ensure that all new development and all planning approvals maintain or enhance the quality of the waters in Georgian Bay by implementing best management practices for shoreline development.


i) To protect the Water Quality of Georgian Bay and all the channels, bays, and coves that comprise the waters of the Go Home Bay Waterfront Community;
ii) To require the use of best management practices for shoreline development including for the redevelopment of existing properties; and
iii) To promote the retention and maintenance of natural shorelines and shoreline vegetation, as well as the restoration of natural shorelines wherever possible.


10) Official Plan Goal - Water Access Community

To preserve the Go Home Bay Waterfront Community as a water access only Coastal Waterfront Community in order to protect its Character as a wilderness landscape area.


i) To work with the private Marina operators to ensure that there is an adequate supply of commercial Marina boat spaces for continued access to the Go Home Bay Waterfront Community;
ii) To encourage the Ministry of Natural Resources to consult with the local cottage association(s) (currently the Madawaska Club of Go Home Bay) and the Township of Georgian Bay with respect to the provision of any form of Crown or public road access to the area; and
iii) To work with and encourage the Federal Government to maintain and improve the provision of navigational aids on Georgian Bay in order to provide safe and well marked boating access to the area.