Friends of Port Carling
Protecting the Hub of the Muskoka Lakes
Friends of Port Carling

Your 2013 Recap: Where We Are Now

Happy Labour Day! We hope you've had a great summer.

Time for an update on the Hanna's Landing situation. Or, Is This Really Going to the OMB Again?

As most of our members know, we have been using email to communicate with you this year in a timely manner, rather than this more public website. If you wish to join our mailing list, or update your email address, please contact us at friends(at)

Because of the detailed nature of this update, it will be presented in two parts.


The activity this year began in March, when Hanna's Landing Inc. submitted an application to the Township of Muskoka Lakes to have their property rezoned as the first step to creating their proposed resort community /subdivision. They also requested that their application be circulated to other stakeholders (e.g., the District of Muskoka, fire department, board of education) for comment.

The May 21 Planning Meeting

The application was considered by the TML Planning Committee on May 21. At that meeting, both Rick Spence of Friends of Port Carling  and Anne McCauley of the Muskoka Lakes Association delegated to Council, arguing that the developers' plans were too sketchy to be approved.

The application submitted by Hanna's Landing contained no hint as to what they intend to build where. It merely consisted of "zones" (high-density, medium-density and low-density), as well as waterfront green space, all as approved by the 2011 OMB decision. At least one councillor dismissed these zones as mere "blobs" on paper.  

The "knoll" (above), the high tree-topped hill overlooking Mirror Lake that we support being preserved as a township park, was also marked as residential. The plan did not depict the proposed commercial zones nor the township's 5% parkland designation.

(Also alarming is that the applicant's proposed zoning in the "low-density zone" would have produced the smallest lots in the history of the Township, with a minimum area of just 5500 sq. ft.)

Even the township planner's staff report indicated that it would be preferable if a more detailed "plan of subdivision" or "plan of condominium" had accompanied the application.

Anne McCauley challenged the committee: “If you don’t feel confident, don’t circulate to the District and other agencies, as they won’t know enough to give meaningful comments back.” (How could the Fire Department., for instance, comment on a plan that included neither road widths nor building heights?)

In the end, the Committee (which includes the entire 10-person council) agreed that it did not have enough information to approve the application for circulation. Councillors asked for more details, such as the phasing schedule of the development, plans for attainable (affordable) housing, location and size of public and private roads, waterfront lot sizes, dockage, more clarity around the number of units expected to be built, impact on nearby lands, and so on. "We need to bring the whole work back," said Mayor Alice Murphy.

Committee chair Brad Burgess agreed, saying, "This development doubles the size of Port Carling, and is precedent-setting. We are not prepared to push forward. We need clarification ahead of time."

The committee agreed, by a vote of 8 to 2.

(Those who voted against requesting more information from the developers: Don Furniss and Ron Brent.)

June 2013

Hanna's Landing delivered a revised map to Council in June. It was dated May 30, so it's not as if they spent much time on it. The map provided a little more information around location of public and private (i.e. narrower) roads, number of units, and some (undefined) protection for the knoll. But it was a long way from the detailed information that the Councillors had asked for. It was still blobs on a map.

Download your own copy of this plan here: June 2013 HL Zoning Plan

A meeting was held between the developers and the Township on June 3. Based on that meeting, Hanna's Landing president Jeff Goldman sent an emailed letter to Mayor Alice Murphy on June 6, striking a conciliatory tone. He wrote: "We fully appreciate that there is a prescribed process to be followed in bringing the rezoning to fruition and that a number of outstanding matters require further clarification."

In this letter, Mr. Goldman addressed a number of concerns, including his willingness to put a park on the knoll. To save the Township the expense of creating and maintaining this new park, he also offered to have Hanna's Landing retain ownership of the knoll, but under a "No Development" designation that would preserve it as a significant natural landmark. While we worry that land under private ownership is more vulnerable to future policy changes than public lands, Friends of Port Carling appreciates Mr. Goldman's gesture.

Other issues discussed in the letter include:

* the number of units (about 404, with some reduction to come based on setback sizes, parking requirements and other issues) (Keep in mind that the previous council's plan offered 600 units.);

* docking;

* commercial uses (intended now is a "clubhouse" close to the water for the use of Hanna's Landing residents, and a convenience store closer to the highway near the entrance to Hanna's Landing);

* the appearance of the waterfront buildings (more detailed sketches would follow agreement between developers and the township on the lot frontage; they would be made available at the public meeting required to receive public input into the rezoning application);

* building heights (Hanna's Landing proposed that a maximum height of 50 feet "would be worth consideration" if the Township required a firm limit).

We were largely pleased with the moderate and collaborative tone of this letter.

We were less pleased with Mr. Goldman's refusal to provide more details of the sorts of buildings and building styles they intend to build. Hanna's Landing, he said, believes that "to provide a detailed plan for a community  that will take many years to evolve is not practical, credible or representative of prudent business planning. Frankly, we do not know how Hanna's Landing will look in 2020 when it is still in the midst of development."

We find this pretty thin soup. Elsewhere in his letter, Mr. Goldman speaks of first-phase construction beginning as soon as Spring 2015. The company's reluctance to present more detailed drawings at this time, as well as possible ranges and options now being considered for the rest of the development, is not credible nor representative of consultative community-building.
Click to read the full letter:
Jeff Goldman Letter June 6

Sadly, communications seem to have broken down from there. We have heard that the developers' planner went on holiday in July; Mayor Murphy was highly impacted by a death in her family; and the distractions of summer in Muskoka seemed to affect all parties.  As a result, Hanna's Landing submitted substantially the same presentation to Planning Committee in August as it had in May. You could hardly expect the result to be any different.

The Outcome

Watch for our upcoming detailed report on the August 16 Planning Meeting.

Quick Summary, for those who can't wait:

Dissatisfied with the lack of cooperation from Hanna's Landing, the Planning Committee on Aug. 16 sat down and began setting its own policies for the property. When they realized they didn’t have enough time (their meeting had already lasted five hours), they decided to schedule a special meeting in September to finish the process.)

The developers thought this process inappropriate. Harsh words were exchanged during the meeting. Mayor Murphy said she was feeling "bullied" by the developers' behaviour.

A week later, the developers informed the Township that they were appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board to take over the rezoning application. Their contention: that the Township committee had failed to respond to its application in a timely manner, as required by the Planning Act.

An OMB case is not the only potential outcome. This process could also lead to more discussions and a possible pre-hearing settlement. More details to follow.

Note: If any principals in these events have a different interpretation as to how these events unfolded, or errors to correct, your comments are welcome. Please leave a comment below or email rick(at)
We strive to make these accounts error-free.

When Santa Claus Came to Town

Off season is high season in Port Carling this year! Congrats to the organizers who put on a successful Santa Claus Parade this year - hopefully it's the first of many.

Hundreds(!) of people lined the streets to see 25 floats pass by, all beautifully lit and decorated. There was a festive atmosphere, accentuated by all the merry goings on afterwards at the Community Centre.

Thanks to the Lions and the Fun Store for contributing hot dogs, hot chocolate, cookies to decorate and games for the kids!

NIght parades are tough to photograph, but the pix below will give you an idea...

Parade Organizers Cathy Duck and Jean-Ann Baranik, with unidentified elf.

Community Garage Sale Saturday, Sept.1!

The long weekend is fast approaching, and so is the 4th annual Friends of Port Carling community garage sale. Proceeds go toward paying off our OMB costs.
Bargains are guaranteed at this event, being held this year on Saturday, Sept. 1, from 8 am till noon. Once again we're setting up our tent at 2 Joseph St., at the scenic eastern entrance to Port Carling!

If you have gently used goods to donate, please call Sandi at (705) 765-3314.

Hope to see you there!

Make it a Date: Victoria Banks, Aug 19

Get your tickets now for Victoria Banks’ very first hometown show!

The entertainment music superstar (hey, she was the Canadian Country Music Association’s Female Artist of the Year in 2010) is playing in concert in Port Carling on Aug. 19 at the Community Centre. If you haven’t heard her sing before, you're in for a treat. And we just learned that she has been nominated for the CCMA’s Female Artist of the Year again!

Victoria is a daughter of Paul and the late Nora Dodington, community pillars and long-time supporters of Friends of Port Carling. The Dodington family last year put on a sold-out concert as a fundraiser for our association, so we hope you will support Victoria this time around.

At this special concert, you’ll get more than one Dodington for your money. According to her latest press release, Victoria says:

“I am so excited to play my very first show in Port Carling! My hometown molded me as a songwriter, and this show is going to go back to my roots in more ways than one. Some of my family members will be sharing the stage with me, and we’re going to keep it simple, acoustic, and heartfelt – weave some tales and make some magic.”

Share the magic by buying your tickets now. Tickets are on sale at Auntie Doodie’s Antiques, at 61 Joseph Street in Port Carling, or online at:

It’s a guaranteed good time.

A little more background on Vicki if you're still not sold:

Canadian Country Music’s CCMA 2010 Female Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year Victoria Banks will be celebrating yet another Female Artist of the Year nomination this year with a performance at the Port Carling Memorial Community Centre on August 19th.

The BMLSS graduate has built a celebrated career in Nashville writing songs for the likes of Sara Evans, Jessica Simpson, Johnny Reid, Terri Clark, and Doc Walker. Since she stepped into the spotlight to release her own records, she has chalked up her own series of national radio hits, as well as tours with Reba McEntire, Lonestar and Randy Travis.

Two days after her Port Carling tour, Victoria will be opening for Wynonna Judd. Catch her here while you can!

Come meet the Mayor!

What’s going on in the Township? How is the new council trying to make things better in Port Carling and Muskoka Lakes?

Come meet the Mayor on Saturday and find out for yourself.

Friends of Port Carling is pleased to hold an "open house" this Saturday with Mayor Murphy.

A Toronto-based financial executive and Bala cottager, Alice was elected on a “reform” platform in October 2012. Since then she has led her council in a continuous series of reforms that include professionalizing the budgeting process, holding the line on spending, settling major lawsuits left behind by the former council, and producing a new strategic plan that puts the environment first.

On Saturday, July 28, Mayor Murphy will be meeting with members of Friends of Port Carling at the Port Carling Community Centre. Our Open House will run from 10 a.m. to 11. Come early and bring all your questions!

Note: this Open House is not a public meeting. It is for members and documented supporters of Friends of Port Carling.
Questions? Please call Rick Spence or Sandy Tozer Spence at 765-6017.

FPC asks District of Muskoka to put the environment first

This is a copy of the letter sent to the District of Muskoka by Friends of Port Carling on May 28, 2012, commenting on the District Official Plan Review.
The Official Plan sets out a municipality's planning and development priorities for the next 20 years. It is important that people who care about the future of Muskoka, especially its natural and cultural environment, pay close attention to this process as it unfolds.


Samantha Hastings, Director of Policy and Programs;

Summer Valentine, Manager of Planning Projects,

District of Muskoka

By email:


May 27, 2012

Friends of Port Carling is pleased to participate in the revision of the District of Muskoka Official Plan. As an issues-based ratepayers group with some 200 member families in the Port Carling area, we have several concerns:

  1. We were pleased with the visioning exercise undertaken the by the District planning department two years ago. We hope that the findings from that extensive effort will be used robustly and consulted often to help guide staff and council’s deliberations. Some 2700 Muskokans participated in that exercise, and they were largely in agreement on several key principles:

  • Environmental Protection: Most participants identified the natural environment as Muskoka’s key asset and recognized that it should be protected for future generations to enjoy. Special attention was given to water quality.

  • Controlled Growth: Participants wanted Muskoka to grow smarter and more sustainably in the future, particularly along shorelines. Many different labels were given to growth that is perceived as poorly planned, which should be avoided in Muskoka, including “urban sprawl”, “over-development”, “over-crowding”, and “urbanization”.

  • Protection of Character: Usually defined as small-town or rural type development nestled within a natural landscape, participants wanted the character of Muskoka, both in built form and community values, to be protected, with its heritage and history acknowledged and preserved.

(Note: the above are all direct quotes from the District’s 2011 document, Muskoka Moving Forward: Visioning for the Future.)

Friends of Port Carling support these values and initiatives. While they sound like motherhood, we note with dismay that these values have not always been sufficiently articulated or observed in many planning and development decisions in the District and its component municipalities. With this Official Plan, we need to move from lip service to the environment to full service: “Putting Environment First” in everything we do.

We are pleased that the council of the Township of Muskoka Lakes has adopted that very term – "Environment First" – and we urge the District and its component municipalities to embrace this concept as well. Economic development that degrades Muskoka’s natural and cultural environment is not sustainable, in any sense of the word, and will only destroy value here, not create it, in the long run. 

    2. Official Plans are based on economic data and forecasts of all kinds. Some turn out to be accurate, some turn out to be false. No one has a perfect crystal ball; mistakes will happen. However, we think it is essential that when the  District knows that it is making decisions on flawed data, it must correct that before compounding the error by making investment decisions based on bad numbers.

Friends of Port Carling believes this is the case with the 2008 Growth Study (the Watson Report). Its vision of gung-ho growth in Muskoka’s seasonal and permanent population proved totally unfounded over the past four years; Statistics Canada’s 2011 census figures showed several of our municipalities have been losing residents, not gaining them.

Plans based on bad data can be very costly. If we upgrade our public services or expand our boundaries for population growth that does not occur, we waste our financial resources and destroy precious natural resources. The Watson report’s growth figures have proven to be grossly inflated, so we urge the district to undertake another, and hopefully more neutral, growth study in order to determine how much growth Muskoka will really see over the next 20 years and where it is likely to go. Only bad decisions can come from bad data.

    3. Finally, we strongly support the District’s intention to produce a new second-home study to investigate future trends in cottaging. The previous second-home studies have been very useful, and the new economy of the new decade requires an update to make sure we are responding to real market needs.

We thank you for the work that has been put into the OP revision so far, and look forward to engaging in this exercise with you.

Please keep us informed of meetings and significant developments related to the OP review process.

Rick Spence


Friends of Port Carling

For more on the OP review process, click here:
For more on the results of the Visioning process, click here:
To read the Watson report, click here:

New Township strategic plan has the right stuff

We like what we see of the Township of Muskoka Lakes’ new strategic plan.


It features many positive "qualitative" goals, and good objectives and metrics for attaining them. The bottom line is that they’re promising better government, more public consultation, and an economic/environmental philosophy of “environment first.”

Click here to download the Plan.

Some of the planned changes are evident in a section (on page 3) that contrast the current state of affairs with the Township’s new vision. For instance, look at the plan’s stance on Township planning, development and enforcement:

Current Status: Two-tier system transitioning from rural to recreational-based economy, with impact on Official Plan, zoning and enforcement

Vision: Cohesive and thoughtful regulatory environment focusing on shoreline public access and preservation, water quality and waterfront density.

Similarly, on the environment:

Current: Certain watershed protections in place but long-term vulnerability

Vision: Cohesive and thoughtful regulatory environment focusing on shoreline public access and preservation, water quality and waterfront density

And under Financial & Corporate Management:

Current: Transitional reporting from municipal fund accounting to compliance with Public Sector Accounting Board (PSA)

Vision: Efficiencies maximized and Township and District taxes fairly allocated for funding of current and long-term services with PSAB financial statements and budgets prepared on an accurate and timely basis

The new overall vision of the Township is
"To respect, maintain and enhance our Muskoka."

The Township Mission Statement puts some action steps around that vision: "Recognizing and respecting the diversity of our residents and economy, we will openly engage the public at every opportunity to achieve our Vision with balance, transparency, sustainability, accountability and fairness."

And when it comes to "Economic Development," the new principle is one that I think most of our members will agree with: "Our Economy is our Environment."

Take care of the unique, fragile Muskoka environment, and the economy of Muskoka will look after itself.

The perfect gift!!

Imagine having the beauty of Muskoka on your wall all year long!

As part of our ongoing fund-raising efforts, Friends of Port Carling have created a beautiful, full-colour calendar suitable for home, office or cottage. It’s the perfect accessory for any wall, and a great gift for birthdays and Christmas (hint, hint). Friends and family near and far can now enjoy Muskoka's scenery all year round!

The photos were donated by five specially selected Port Carling-area artists: Paul Bennett, Andrew Collett, Tim DuVernet, Gerd Harder and John Murden. We thank them whole-heartedly for their support of this project.

(You can preview these awesome images in the photo below.)

Designed and printed on professional paper by Friends of Port Carling volunteers, this calendar will make a beautiful addition to your home and a much appreciated gift. The cost is $20 each plus postage.

Proceeds go to paying our legal and planning advisory expenses. We have been incurring these fees in our work against inappropriate waterfront development. Your support will help ensure a better Muskoka for your children and grandchildren.

You may order as many calendars as you like. Please buy generously!

For more information, or to order, please contact Sandi Allbon at 705-434-9369 (Alliston, Ont.) , or .

Thanks so much for your support.

Community Yard Sale on Sept. 3!

Our third annual Community Yard Sale will take place in Port Carling on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011. Great deals on gently used gear, goods and goodies!
Location: 2 Joseph St., corner of Carr Rd. & Hwy. 118
Time: 8 am till noon.

For more information please contact Sandi Allbon at 705 765-3314.
Proceeds to Friends of Port Carling OMB Appeal Fund.

This will also be a great chance to stock up on some of the beautiful new 2012 Muskoka Calendars produced by Friends of Port Carling. They contain 100% local photographs by terrific Muskoka artists. The perfect gift for cottage friends and anyone in your family! Only $20, with all proceeds going you-know-where.

Plus, we're still accepting merchandise for the sale. If you have gently used goods you’d like to donate, please contact Sandi Allbon at 705 765-3314, or email us at

Here's a shot of eager bargain-hunters at our 2009 sale:

"A night for the Port Carling memory book"

Last night’s Dodington Concert was a creative and critical smash! With a terrific turnout from Port Carling residents augmented by music-lovers from Bala, Bracebridge, Orillia and Toronto, we sold out the Community Centre and filled the air with joyous music.

The 10 performing Dodingtons (and spirited accompanist Doreen Uren Simmons) gave it their all, demonstrating their mastery of many different genres of music: from hymns and spirituals to show tunes, comic songs, country ballads and a hint of early Elvis.

The audience laughed, cried, and tapped their toes along with the performers, through 30 memorable songs ranging from Amazing Grace and The Power and the Glory to George Jones’s Cry Baby Cry, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and Love Will Find a Way.

The Dodingtons earned two standing ovations, for which the audience received two encores – so it was a satisfying evening for all concerned.

As one satisfied guest commented afterwards, “This was a night for the memory book of Port Carling.”

The performance was taped, so we hope that an audio CD will be made available. We’ll let you know if that turns out to be possible.

Special thanks to John Dodington, who fell ill on Friday yet rallied on Saturday to perform and act as master of ceremonies. It should go down as one of the great show-business comebacks of all time!

Thanks to all who made this event possible. Especially to all those fabulous Dodingtons: Paul, Ross and Linda, John and Mardi, Amy, J.D., Leigh, Erin, Andrew and Hannah.  Today you are the pride of Port Carling!

John, Paul, Ross, Linda, Leigh, Andrew, Erin, Hannah and Amy

Our Barbershop Quartet

Amy Solos

Paul in character for the "Cobbler's Song"

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