Real Estate

If I have an existing cottage on a waterfront lot, can I tear it down and build a new one?

I’m in the Township of Smith-Ennismore-Lakefield in the County of Peterborough. If I have an existing old cottage on a 50-foot waterfront lot, can I tear it down and build a new one?

—Sheila Porter, Stony Lake, Ont.

Sure, bring on the bulldozer. But, depending on where the current cottage sits on your lot, you may need special approval to put version 2.0 in the same spot.

Setback provisions in Ontario say a cottage needs to be 100 feet from the high water mark, and all new structures must comply. However, on Stony Lake, this requirement varies from township to township when it comes to a renovation or a rebuild, says Bryan Weir, director of planning for the County of Peterborough.

In your case, if your current cottage sits less than 100 feet from the water—and you don’t want to move the new one back—you’ll need to get a minor variance from the building and zoning department, says Jeannette Thompson, planner with the Township of Smith-Ennismore-Lakefield. You’ll also need approval from the Otonabee Region Conservation Authority, which reviews construction proposals within the setback.

Your new cottage will have to conform to zoning bylaws and, to get a building permit, you’ll need additional approvals from, for example, the local health unit, which will inspect the septic system. To find out exactly what’s required, call your building and planning department.


Published in the June 2011 issue of Cottage Life.