Norfolk increases allowable height in resort areas
More and more “cottages” in Norfolk County look like this three-storey home on Cedar Drive in Turkey Point. Given current trends, Norfolk County has increased the allowable height for cottage properties along the lakeshore to 9.1 metres from 7.5 metres. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER
The era of the humble, ramshackle cottage is slowly but surely fading in Norfolk County.
For decades, many cottages were little more than a roof over top a place to sleep, wash up and prepare basic meals. Roughing it in summer was part-and-parcel of lakeside living.
But cottages have since become larger and more elaborate. Indeed, some look more like monster homes in the Greater Toronto Area than they do lakeshore retreats.
Norfolk council acknowledged this last week by increasing the allowable height of seasonal residences in the Lakeshore Special Policy Area.
The latter includes Turkey Point, Long Point, Fisher’s Glen, Avalon, Booth’s Harbour and Normandale. At its Oct. 24 meeting, council increased the allowable height for cottages in Norfolk’s official plan from 7.5 metres to 9.1 metres.
Windham Coun. Jim Oliver represents Turkey Point, Fisher’s Glen and Normandale. He says council acted on an emerging consensus in the affected communities that bigger is better.
“Most people in Turkey Point feel nine metres would be adequate,” Oliver said Wednesday. “Some want it higher.”
Norfolk has been under pressure lately to increase the size of cottage properties.
Over the past two years, there have been 14 minor variance applications from Turkey Point and Long Point to exceed the 7.5-metre limit. Applicants want comparable treatment with Norfolk’s hamlets and urban areas where the cap on maximum height is 11 metres.
A number of important consequences flow from increasing the allowable height.
The new limit means many cottage owners will be a position to add a new storey or build a new cottage with a much larger floor space.
Expanded cottages can accommodate more guests. This has implications for traffic, parking and septic systems in areas that are about one metre above lake level.
Cottage owners also have to consider that a neighbour’s expansion or construction project might cut off their sunlight or obstruct their view of the lake. This in turn could impact property values.
Some also worry that monster cottages nestled among traditional structures will negatively affect a neighbourhood’s appearance and character.
Turkey Point cottage owner Phil Dickie, of Kitchener, said as much in a letter to the county objecting to the 9.1-metre expansion.
“We have already had to contend with a neighbour who purchased three adjacent cottage lots, tore down the structures and rebuilt a grandiose home,” Dickie said.
“That may be eye-catching but definitely would look more fitting on a large lot in the Muskoka area. By allowing the proposed height increase, it will open the door for a lot of potential tear-downs and three-storey rebuilds just to gain a better view of the lake. If that is allowed to occur, the result will be the loss of that cottage feel that makes this community unique.”
Oliver counters that the trend along the Norfolk lakeshore is toward larger cottages with more amenities and a larger floor area. Many cottages these days, he said, cater to expanding, multi-generational families that have a tradition of family get-togethers at the lake.
“Fact is people are adding second storeys to their cottages,” Oliver said. “That’s the reality of 2017.”