Concern over “floating homes” spreads on Georgian Bay

Add Tiny Township to the list of Georgian Bay municipalities raising concerns about floating homes that skirt environmental and boating regulations. As reported here, the township (largely rural but politically dominated by cottagers west and north of Penetanguishene) has taken note of floating container conversions and is coming at the issue in part from the perspective of waterfront property owners using them to get around environmental restrictions. Councillor Gibb Wishart is quoted at a recent committee of the whole meeting saying: “Many saunas have showers. And when they find that the municipality says: ‘You need to get rid of some of your accessory buildings,’ and they say: ‘Okay, we’ll take the sauna and put it on a floating accessory’; suddenly you’ve moved the shower out onto the bay. And you can bet your life they don’t catch that grey water.” Apparently, Gloucester Pool Cottagers’ Association, based at Port Severn, had flagged the problem of shipping containers appearing on waterway docks, and the issue had been brought up at the annual meeting of the Federation of Ontario Cottagers Associations (FOCA).

Georgian Bay Township seems to have had the authority to bar cottagers from adding floating residences to their properties for some time. Zoning by-law 2014-75 (consolidated June 2017) states “no person shall use or attach any in-water boathouse, barge, marine vessel or any other floating structure or building used for a dwelling unit in any Residential (R), Shoreline Residential (SR), Shoreline Residential Island (SRI), Open Space (OS, CL & LS), and/or Environmental Protection (EP, NSC & NSI) Zone or appurtenant to such zones.”

Not everything in the council’s discussion is accurate. Tiny’s public works director said he understood a vessel can only remain at anchor for 30 days before having to move, when, as I discuss on my anchoring rights page, the limit is 21 non-consecutive days within a 100-meter radius. I previously mentioned the province’s invitation for the public to comment on current regulations. How widespread the problem actually is remains hard to say, although Tiny’s public works director told the council meeting: “It is a concern, and we’re seeing that growing concern, as councillor Wishart talked about, up in Georgian Bay Township where – I’ve seen it myself – where people just take something, tie it to shore, leave it there all summer long.”

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