Check with Local Bylaws Before Doing Muskoka Renovations
Any project at home is exciting, whether you’re building a new deck, installing a new fence, or even just doing some tree removal, there’s nothing as exciting as making your property perfect. This excitement makes it very easy for homeowners to overlook some of the necessary steps that inevitably come with the job, including checking local bylaws and filing the proper paperwork.
Skipping these steps is never a good idea, and can put a major damper on your home improvement projects, incurring significant fines and even forcing you to reverse much of the work you’ve done. In order to avoid these penalties, it’s important that you check with local bylaws before commencing any work on your Muskoka home or property.
A recent cautionary tale: Township of Muskoka Lakes building bylaws
Muskoka home and cottage owners can learn from a recent news story which saw a number of property owners and contractors in Muskoka Lakes charged after failing to check with local bylaws before removing trees and altering landscapes. As a result, a number of Stop Work Orders were issued to the parties, and they could even face charges of up to $320,000. For context, the Tree Preservation Bylaw in Muskoka Lakes clearly states that:
- (a) No person shall injure or destroy a tree within 15 metres (50 feet) of a navigable waterway for those lands designated as Waterfront in the Township Official Plan and within 7.5 metres (25 feet) of a navigable waterway for those lands designated Urban Centre or Community in the Township Official Plan;
- (b) No person shall injure or destroy a tree within an area zoned Environmental Protection (EP1) in the Township’s Comprehensive Zoning By-law;
- (c) No person shall injure or destroy a tree in an area zoned as a Scenic Corridor or Scenic Area in the Township’s Comprehensive Zoning By-law within a distance of 100 feet from the front lot line
- (d) No person shall injure or destroy a tree on land where a permit is required to do so, unless such permit has been obtained in advance
Had the homeowners and contractors simply checked with the Muskoka Lakes bylaws before starting work, they would have noticed the Tree Preservation Bylaw and could have planned accordingly for the landscape alterations.
Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding stated that the problem of failing to comply with township bylaws has become all too common, and that homeowners across the township can face serious fines for failing to check and comply with them. He added that the 2021 budget has accounted for increased bylaw enforcement. It’s clear that these homeowners are being made an example of in the hopes that other property owners will think twice before kicking off a project without the proper permission.
Better to ask for permission than forgiveness – not the other way around
It’s never a good idea to waste your own time and money. While it might seem like the quicker, more convenient option, the “do it now, ask for forgiveness later” mentality can cost you a great deal of time, money and effort.
The amount of effort it takes to look up local bylaws and fill in the appropriate paperwork to obtain the appropriate permits is minimal. You don’t want to start a home improvement project only to have a Stop Work Order issued, a fine levied, and then having to tear down all your hard work.
Be aware that Muskoka bylaws exist for a reason, and all home and cottage owners in the Muskoka region are expected to follow them. Before you get too excited about that upcoming deck or dock construction, hot tub installation, private road work, or any other project, be aware of these bylaws and building permit requirements. You should also be ready to answer to bylaw officers and other authorities who may make an appearance during your build.
Don’t become a cautionary tale
Spare yourself from becoming another cautionary tale and do the work ahead of time – it’s never the most fun part of a project, but you’ll be thanking yourself for being proactive and ensuring that everything is okay to proceed before launching any work on your property. Whether you’re building, renovating or altering your property, there may be bylaws which dictate what you can and can’t do, and it’s expected that you comply with them regardless of their popularity.
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