The Future Of Clevelands House: Development Plans Unveiled In Open House Meetings


In an effort to keep the community informed about the future development of the Clevelands House property in Minett, the Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) recently facilitated two open house meetings – in person and online. The events were led by property owner Mitch Goldhar and his team at Penguin Group of Companies.

One hundred twenty community members attended the first meeting at Peninsula Recreation Centre in Minett on Saturday, and 450 people registered for the Zoom meeting on Monday. The purpose was to present the development plans for the Cleveland’s House property and address community questions.

Goldhar described the plans for phase one of the development, which will include 48 rental cabins, shops, restaurants, a marina, a variety of racket sports courts (tennis, squash, pickleball, padel) and other fitness facilities. Phase two will likely involve a boutique hotel with 50 to 100 rooms.

The presentation included images of the proposed development, showcasing cabins, recreational spaces, and the overall village concept. The team expressed their commitment to thoughtful design and engaged various consultants, including architect Niall McLaughlin, to contribute to the project.

Paula Bustard from the Penguin Group provided an overview of the current planning permissions, explaining that when Goldhar purchased Clevelands House, there were permissions for over 4000 units. However, collaborative efforts with the MLA and Friends of Muskoka have resulted in revisions that limit development permissions to 1700 units, with specific details on heights, setbacks, and other policies.

Goldhar – a Canadian billionaire, the founder of SmartCentres and a Lake Rosseau cottager – explained he was not initially in the resort development business and that his acquisition of the property was driven by a desire to prevent uncontrolled development rather than pursue extensive development himself. The focus, he reiterated, is on balancing the needs and enjoyment of the Muskoka community while minimizing environmental impact.

The community was encouraged to ask questions during the open house, with Susan Eplett moderating the Q&A session. The team said that all questions would be addressed and made available along with the recording of the open house on the MLA’s website. Some of the topics discussed were:

Demolition Delayed Due to Bylaw Appeal:

One of the questions revolved around the timeline for the demolition of the existing Clevelands House. Goldhar explained that while the intention is to adhere to new bylaws and regulations, an ongoing appeal has created uncertainty. The appeal must be heard by a tribunal in Ontario before any definitive timeline can be established. The project’s progress is contingent upon the tribunal’s decision, which could potentially impact the approved plans.

Sustainable Practices in Sewage and Water Treatment:

Goldhar addressed concerns about sewage and water treatment, emphasizing a commitment to municipal standards. He outlined plans to build treatment plants that would eventually be turned over to and operated by the local municipality. He stated the importance of adhering to eco-friendly practices and maintaining high standards in sewage and water treatment.

Increased Traffic:

Goldhar assured the community that extensive traffic studies have been conducted. He expects only a modest increase in traffic during phase one and pledged efforts to minimize disruption during construction.

Cabin Ownership:

Regarding cabin ownership, he intends to retain ownership and rent out the cabins rather than sell or timeshare them. He aims to provide a unique rental experience with various cabin sizes and amenities.

Marina Operation:

Goldhar praised the current marina operator, Geordie Newlands, and expressed gratitude for his contributions. However, the fate of the marina’s operation remains uncertain, pending decisions on the redevelopment. Goldhar outlined plans to increase the number of boat slips while being sensitive to environmental impacts.

Staff Housing:

The plan is to utilize existing cabins for staff accommodation during phase one. However, there are future considerations for constructing purpose-built staff housing.

Dark Sky Protection:

Responding to concerns about the impact on the region’s dark sky, Goldhar acknowledged his love for stargazing and assured the community that efforts would be made to minimize light pollution. While lights are necessary for safety, he expressed a commitment to using subdued and environmentally sensitive lighting.

Historical Preservation of Clevelands House:

Clevelands House was originally built in 1869. Due to extensive dilapidation and safety concerns, the existing buildings will not be part of the redevelopment. However, Goldhar hinted at incorporating architectural elements in the new development to pay homage to the iconic structures.

Emergency Services Expansion:

Goldhar expressed the need for improved medical, dental, and veterinary services. As the local community ages, proximity to healthcare becomes crucial, especially during peak seasons. Goldhar highlighted the possibility of having medical, dental, and veterinary tenants in the village, emphasizing the importance of wellness services and even a physiotherapy facility for active individuals.

Long-Term Vision:

The audience also questioned Goldhar about his long-term vision for the project and the possibility of selling parts of the development after completing certain phases. Goldhar said he takes a long-term approach in business and intends to retain ownership of the properties. However, he acknowledged that circumstances might lead to changes, such as selling land for a senior facility. Despite potential scenarios, Goldhar emphasized that any decision to sell would come with additional restrictions to ensure alignment with the overall nature of the development.


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