Docks and boathouses go hand-in-hand when thinking about shoreline environments. These structures act as the bridge between the land and the water. They are often the central gathering place for many summertime activities. However, these structures alter the natural shoreline environment and can lead to the degradation of water quality, which is why the Ministry of Natural Resources wants to get involved and why you would need their consent, as the boat house is on Crown Land i.e. it is over the water which is beyond the property border of the cottage.
In some parts of Muskoka, you can build a new boathouse and in other areas new boathouses are not allowed, but if the cottage already has a cottage it may be considered “Grandfathered In”, meaning that the structure existed before the by-laws came into effect and thus it is legal despite being in contradiction to the present by-laws.
The rules are different in each municipality, with sleeping quarters allowed on the big three lakes in Muskoka Lakes Township but only one storey ones allowed across Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Huntsville.
As a result, different rules apply to boathouses that are on the same lake.
Boathouses in Bracebridge are allowed to go out 15 metres from the shoreline, and docks can extend 20 metres. The height is measured from the average high water levels to the roof and can be 4.5 metres to the mid-point of the roof, and 6.7 metres to the peak of the roof. Depending on design this could then be a single or double story boat house.
Gravenhurst requires that 75 per cent of the shoreline remain in a natural state.
There are different regulations in Muskoka Lakes Township, depending on the lake on which the boathouse is being built. On a Category One lake – lakes Joseph, Muskoka, and Rosseau – single and two storey boathouses are allowed. Two storey boathouses are only permitted on a property with a minimum of 300 feet of frontage and located on the three lakes.
Muskoka Lakes is the only municipality in Muskoka to permit a sleeping cabin as part of a boathouse.
The Township of Lake of Bays zoning bylaw regarding boathouses is a bit different than in Huntsville. Lake of Bays base their construction of a boathouse on a sliding scale, the more frontage on the lot the bigger the boathouse you are allowed to construct.
All lakes in Lake of Bays permit boathouses, but there are regulations in terms of size. As well, no kitchens, bedrooms or fireplaces are allowed to be built in the boathouse.
Check with the local planning committee of the applicable council for up to date and specific information.