Township Of Georgian Bay – Official Plan Review, Tree Cutting By-Law and Site Alteration By-Law


The Township of Georgian Bay is a large pristine area of islands, lakes and rivers within the District of Muskoka on Georgian Bay at the entrance to the 30,000 Islands. The Township contains three major settlement areas of Port Severn, Honey Harbour and MacTier. The population of approximately 2,400 permanent residents is complimented by a large number of seasonal residents, which are estimated as 15,958 per the District of Muskoka, representing almost 85% of the Township’s total population.

Project Name and Description

The Township of Georgian Bay Official Plan (2014) is the principle policy document which the municipality uses to express its goals and objectives for the community, identifies significant natural features and guides its physical development and redevelopment. It provides a general policy direction and a land use planning framework to guide the physical, social, economic and environmental management and growth of the Township. In addition to adhering to good planning principles, the Official Plan was prepared within the context of Provincial Policy Statement and the District of Muskoka Official Plan.

The Township of Georgian Bay’s Official Plan has a number of policies within that contribute to sustainability.

This includes the sections:

  • Section C: Strategy for Sustainable Growth – contains policies for managing growth, settlement patterns and community building, and
  • Section D: Resources – identifies that the resources within the Township are valued and it contains policies respecting Natural Heritage, Water Resources, Cultural Heritage and Archaeology, Mineral Aggregate Resources, Areas of Use Limitation, and others.
  • Controls upon vegetation removal are provided through the Township’s Tree Cutting By-law (2014-73) and Site Alteration By-law (2014-72). These policies work together to protect overall forest canopy cover and municipal trees, and contribute to the preservation of the Township’s natural heritage. By-law 2014-73 was created to regulate the protection, preservation and removal of Trees on private property within the Township of Georgian Bay. This By-law applies only to shoreline areas and to lands zoned Environmental Protection (EP) and Open Space (OS). The primary intent of this By-law is to protect and preserve water quality and the visual environment by prohibiting the clear cutting of trees in shoreline areas and lands zoned EP and OS. Trees control sediment and absorb nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen which otherwise could have entered and possibly harmed the water system. By-law 2014-72 was developed to protect and preserve water quality by prohibiting the placing or removal of fill in shoreline areas and lands zoned Environmental Protection (EP) and Open Space (OS), as these lands are significant contributors to water quality as they are commonly comprised of wetlands.
  • Wetlands are nature's water filters due to their ability to remove harmful impurities from water before it enters the main body of a watershed. Further, wetlands are the breeding ground and home for many species of plants, fish, insects, animals, birds and wildlife.

Project Contact (Staff)

Nicholas Popovich

Director of Development Services

P: 705.538.2337 x.232


Date of Implementation

The review was started in 2009, and adopted by the Township on October 21, 2013, and approved by the District Municipality of Muskoka on March 17, 2014.

Project Goals

The update of the Official Plan was undertaken to:

b) Ensure conformity with the District of Muskoka Official Plan,

d) Review and update of existing Township of Georgian Bay Official Plan Policies,

f) Development of sustainable community and neighbourhood plans and design guidelines for the municipality, areas of intensification, and future urban areas,

g) Promote the wise stewardship of the Township’s significant natural and cultural heritage and character,

h) Provide protection for the resources of the Township, and

i) Review and development of sustainable Growth Management and Intensification strategies and policies.

List of Key Stakeholders(if not involved in direct implementation)

Community Members


What was your municipalities’ main reason for moving this project forward? Who was the biggest champion for the project?

Refer to ‘Project Goals’


Summarize 2-3 points of frustration faced with this project, and describe how you or the project team developed solutions to those challenges.

Ensuring a high-level of community engagement and input into the process, as the seasonality of the residents provided some scheduling challenges. This was mitigated by additional communications – both via post-mail and through updates on the Township website.

Financial Considerations

What was the cost of the project? How was the project funded? Internally or externally? If externally, where was the support acquired (i.e., grant program, community donations, multiple methods?

The cost of the Official Plan update was approximately $25,000 and was funded through the municipality.

Measures of Success/Impacts

How has the project helped your municipality or department achieve its sustainability goals? What specific metrics can you share about the impact it has had?

The process was undertaken in four stages which presented both the municipality and the larger community with multiple opportunities to review and comment on the plan – and increased community engagement, which is a priority for the municipality.

Stage 1 - Background Issues and Review of Existing Plan:

  1. Hosted Visioning Workshop (additional public consultation workshops were conducted in Honey Harbour and MacTier to developing a Master Site Plan and Urban Design Guidelines for these two communities),
  2. Reviewed the Township’s documentation to identify issues, principles, and actions that may need to be considered to ensure consistency with the Official Plan,
  3. Reviewed and established new goals and objectives, as needed, for the Official Plan,
  4. Utilized the above goals and objectives, reviewed the existing Official Plan,
  5. Prepared policy option reports, supported by data and statistical analysis, to address such issues,
  6. Reviewed various policy options with the Staff, Technical and Development Services Standing Committee and Council, and
  7. Issues Identification, Discussion and Directions Report.

Stage 2 - Public Consultation

  1. Obtained public and agency input on the draft policy option reports to aid in the proposed policy direction. In addition to the Vision Workshops noted above, two open houses were held in each community (Honey Harbour and Mactier) to solicit public input at the draft policy review stage. In addition, a public input session was held with each water based community (a minimum of 5 meetings were held).
  2. All comments received were reviewed and analyzed for in the preparation of the recommended directions for the Official Plan policies.

Stage 3 - Plan Preparation and Review

  1. A draft Official Plan for the Township of Georgian Bay was prepared based on the internal reviews and the input received by the staff, Technical and Development Services Standing Committee, commenting agencies and the public.
  2. The draft was presented to the Township Staff, Technical and Development Services Standing Committee and the Council of the Township of Georgian Bay. Prior to the statutory process.
  3. A public open house was held to receive comments from the public on the draft document.

Stage 4 – Public Approval Process

  1. Prior to approval of the revised Official Plan by Council, council directed revisions to the draft Official Plan accordingly. The revised draft was presented to the staff, Technical and Development Services Standing Committee and the Council of the Township of Georgian Bay for adoption.
  2. Following adoption by Council, the plan was forwarded to the District Municipality of Muskoka for approval.

Project Rationale (Summary)

Why would you encourage other municipalities to adopt/implement a similar practice?

Although public consultation is required, the plan update was an opportunity to interact with the residents, and ensure their concerns were reflected in the document, and this also offered the community the opportunity to be involved in shaping the design and development of the Township; which is vital to maintain resident involvement and civic engagement in municipal matters.

Municipal Contact Information

Township of Georgian Bay

99 Lone Pine Road

Port Severn, ON

L0K 1S0

P: 705.538.2337


Document Link or Attachment

Official Plan

Tree Cutting By-law

Site Alteration By-law

Type of Case Study

☒ Education and Outreach

☒ Policy Adjustment or Development

☐ Partnerships & Collaboration

☒ Enforcements & Incentives

☐ Implementation of Programs & Services

☐ Facilities & Infrastructure Improvements

Website: Visit Site


99 Lone Pine Road
Port Severn, Ontario, L0K 1S0