Community or land use planning involves managing land and resources to promote the most desirable social and environmental outcomes.
The land use planning process balances the interests of individual property owners with the wider needs and objectives of a community. The outcomes have a significant effect on a community’s quality of life https://www.ontario.ca/document/ontario-municipal-councillors-guide-2018/10-land-use-planning.
The Planning Act is the basis of Ontario's land use planning system. It provides the approach and defines the roles of key players (the Province, municipalities, etc.). All decisions made under the Planning Act must be consistent with Provincial policy statements. The most recent is the 2020 Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). The PPS provides requirements and guidance with respect to managing growth and resources such as water, natural heritage and cultural heritage.
Official Plans are documents created by municipalities (e.g., upper-tier municipalities like Muskoka District and lower-tier municipalities like Gravenhurst) to implement land use policy at the local level. Official Plans must be consistent with the PPS. All planning decisions (e.g., approvals of new development) must be consistent with the PPS, conform to any local Official Plan(s), and comply with local Zoning By-laws. For any development application that does not meet the above criteria, a planning application is required to amend the Official Plan or the Zoning By-law. All amendments must still be consistent with the PPS and conform to the intent and purpose of the Official Plan.
There are many situations in land use planning when a local Official Plan may not be specific enough to make planning decisions which reflect the social and environmental values or vision of a small community, neighbourhood or district. Municipalities may create Secondary Plans to enact more detailed policies within these communities.
The Gravenhurst Official Plan and Zoning By-law govern land use decisions within its municipal boundaries, meaning that the policies that apply to Lake Muskoka (for example), also apply to the Muldrew Lakes. The Muldrew Lakes are long and narrow lakes (as opposed to a large and open Lake Muskoka), with shorelines remaining in a largely naturalized state. The policies within the Gravenhurst Official Plan and Zoning By-law may be entirely appropriate for making planning decisions on the Muldrew Lakes in some cases, but not in others.
The first phase of the project sought to determine whether the policy in the Gravenhurst Official Plan and Zoning By-law is sufficient to manage lands and resources on the lake (according to the community's vision and values), or whether additional Muldrew-specific land use policies are required.