What to Expect When Encountering Cottage Variances

As you begin the design-build process of your cottage rebuild, you may discover that your existing cottage sits too close to the water, in which case it is designated as a legal non-conforming building. If you need to expand your cottage to accommodate your family more comfortably, a minor variance may be required.

A minor variance is a request to gain relief from setback issues, such as allowing you to rebuild the same distance from the water that your current cottage is, or expansion issues that may be plaguing you. Minor variances are also sometimes required for issues concerning side lot setbacks, rear lot setbacks, overall expansion allowance, height restrictions, and building to property coverage ratios.

While the general rule for water setbacks in Haliburton County is 66ft (20m), it is important to remember that all municipalities each have different rules. Even the rules within the municipalities in Haliburton County — Dysart et al, Minden Hills, Highlands East, and Algonquin Highlands — aren’t the same.

When a minor variance is applied for, it is publicized in the local papers and letters are sent to neighbors within five hundred feet of your property. The application then goes before the committee where your representative presents your case. Anyone who opposes the proposed changes are given a chance to speak their peace on the matter as well. A reprieve from some by-laws can be granted, all can be granted, or sometimes none. A knowledgeable and determined representative is essential in the presentation of your circumstances.

It is important to know that no minor variance scenario is the same. There are always elements that differ in every minor variance case that could lead to different outcomes.

Cedar Winds is well experienced and has represented many clients during the minor variance process, the following case being an example:

Original Cottage

Size: 1100 sq. ft.

Distance from lake: 60 ft.

Height: 11ft. legal height

Distance from road: 7 ft.

New Cottage 

Size: 1900 sq. ft.

Distance from lake: 50 ft.

Height: 19 ft. legal height

A minor variance was applied for to gain relief from three separate by-laws that would allow the clients to build the new cottage the same distance from the water as the existing deck (50 feet from the high water mark), to expand the cottage to exceed the allowed twenty-five percent, and for a height increase of more than seven feet.

Cedar Winds were successful in receiving permission to perform each of these variations to the new build on the property.

If you have any questions about whether your rebuild plans would involve a minor variance, call Cedar Winds today at (705) 457-3744.

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