Highlands East chief building official Laurie Devolin said what happened in Muskoka a decade ago now appears to be happening in Highlands East when it comes to building activity.

She made the comment when presenting a 10-year building activity report to a Feb. 8 council meeting.

Her annual comparisons and statistics indicated that while there were not substantial jumps in the number of permits issued from 2012-2021, the construction values increased considerably.

For example, 174 permits were issued in 2012, worth a little over $10.4 million. In 2021, there were 216 permits, with a construction value of just under $43 million.

Coun. Cec Ryall noticed the nuance. “The actual number of permits that are being issued, although it’s higher, it’s not that much higher so I’m going to assume for the sake of argument that the value of the properties is what’s driving the numbers,” he asked Devolin.


She said there were a lot more dwellings, including permanent dwellings and cottages, as well as some significant additions.

“It seems that what happened in Muskoka a decade ago, everything is moving in this direction,” she said.

“So, there’s a lot of planning for people taking down old cottages and building new ones, people wanting to move here for retirement, making cottages into their permanent dwellings, so lots of work required to do that.”

She noted COVID-19 had driven up material costs but it was also a case of higher-end construction.

“The little 700 sq. ft. house and 400 sq. ft. cottage just isn’t the norm anymore. We have significantly increased the value of what’s being constructed in Highlands East, so that drives the construction value up.”

Ryall then asked Devolin if she foresaw any challenges with service delivery.

Record-breaking building activity around County

She said in 2021, her department was taxed around the volume of work that came in, but they have good systems in place.

“I don’t foresee there being any issues with service delivery at this point, we’ll see how it goes along, as it gets busier in summer,” she said.

In the report, Devolin also indicated that building inspections were fairly even over the 10-year period. It was about the same for zoning compliance letters and total building infractions and files resolved.

When it comes to septic permits, between 2014-2021, there was a marked increase. In 2014, there were 68 permits issued, while in 2021 it was 123. The number of inspections climbed to 255 last year, from 71 in 2015.

So far in 2022, she said there’s been lots of permit applications for building and septics. They’ve already issued two building permits and “have a few in the wings.”

She noted the construction value is also considerably higher, already at just under $2 million for the new year, compared to just over $27,000 this time last year.

“It looks like it’s going to be another busy year for us.”

A bit of a boom

Meanwhile, Dysart’s chief building official also provided an update to his council at a Feb. 8 meeting.

Karl Korpela said 2021 was a record-breaking year for development in the township, with 607 building permits being issued throughout the year and new construction values soaring to more than $98 million.

Korpela said those numbers had much to do with the number of new seasonal residences being built on area lakes in the past 12 months.

“People are building substantially larger cottages. Before, we would usually see one or two monster cottages go up in a year, this year there’s been a lot of them,” Korpela said. “People are spending money here in Dysart, and that’s not a bad thing.”

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