What are floating accommodations?

Any watercraft that is supplied and equipped for overnight use is considered a floating accommodation, including:

  • barges with a cabin
  • floating cottage (units built on rafts versus a hull)
  • houseboats
  • larger vessels with sleeping quarters

It is evident that changes are happening on Ontario’s waterways. The use of waterways by watercraft has grown to include floating accommodations which can accommodate longer stays, similar to those of a cottage. Some of the common concerns about floating accommodations include:

  • logistics for emergency services
  • need for building permits
  • time and length of use
  • potential for limiting access to public lands and waterways
  • increasing environmental impacts on waterways
  • property tax considerations
  • wastewater management

Notice of Public Meeting

Zoning By-Law Amendment, Floating Accommodations

In response to a report from MHBC Planning at the November 15, 2023 Planning and Development Committee meeting, members directed staff to update the Township’s Zoning By-law to establish provisions for Floating Accommodations. A virtual Public Meeting will be held on February 21, 2024 at 9:00 a.m. to allow for public comment on the amended draft Zoning By-law.

Meeting details

Township of Severn will be holding a virtual Public Meeting as part of the Planning and Development Committee meeting utilizing the Zoom application on Wednesday, February 21at 9:00 a.m. to consider the following Zoning By-law Amendment under Section 34 of the Planning Act, R.S.O. 1990.

Details of proposal

Applicant: Township of Severn
Application No: Z-23-07
Location: Applies to all lands within the Township of Severn
Concurrent applications: None

How to participate

All are welcome to attend the meeting or to provide verbal or written comments. All comments will form part of the public record including all verbal submissions made during the Public Meeting. 

This meeting is being held virtually. Members of the Planning and Development Committee will attend the meeting by Zoom only. 

Options for public participation in the meeting include:

  1. submitting written comments to the Planning department by email or regular mail
  2. contacting the Planning department by email or by phone at 705-325-2315 x246 to register in advance for the Zoom meeting for active verbal participation
  3. watching or streaming the meeting on our Council portal or our YouTube channel

If you feel you are unable to participate by one of the above methods, please contact the Planning department to discuss additional options.

Purpose and effect

The purpose of the proposed Zoning By-law Amendment is to update the Township’s Comprehensive Zoning By-law 2010-65 to establish provisions to regulate Floating Accommodations using provincial regulations and definitions. 

The following is a summary of the changes proposed:

  • Section 1 Administration and Interpretation
    • clarify that the Zoning By-law applies to all lands, islands, watercourses, and navigable watercourses within the Township
  • Section 3 General Provisions:
    • explicitly state that floating accommodations are not “Shoreline Structures” and are a prohibited use in any zone
  • Section 11 Definitions:
    • revisions and additions to various existing definitions together with new definitions including Boat, Boathouse, Camping Unit, Floating Accommodation, Marina, Vessel, and Watercraft Equipped for Overnight Accommodation

Additional information

Additional information relating to the Zoning By-law Amendment is available for inspection on weekdays by appointment between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at our Administration Office (1024 Hurlwood Lane, Severn). Please contact the Planning department to schedule an appointment.

View the full Notice of Public Meeting

Staff contact

Monica Chambers
Administrative Assistant, Planning 
Phone: 705-325-2315 x246
Email the Administrative Assistant

Mail and courier

Mailing address: Township of Severn, PO Box 159, Orillia, Ontario L3V 6J3

Courier address: 1024 Hurlwood Lane, Severn, Ontario L3V 0Y6

Who regulates floating accommodations? 

Regulation of use is a complex issue involving all levels of government:

Transport Canada


  • oversees navigable waterways, watercraft safety, and defines the requirements regarding vessels and the accompanying need for licence and registration
Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources, and Forestry (NDMNRF)




  • must consider environmental concerns, impact on local residents, and enforcement of municipal by-laws where the Township has jurisdiction, including noise complaints
Parks Canada - Trent Severn Waterway (TSW)


  • in addition to water management Parks Canada - TSW regulates and governs lands within their jurisdiction through a permitting process

What laws currently regulate floating accommodations on waterways?

Ontario Regulation 161/17 

O. Reg 161/17 regulates the type of structure or things that may be used on public lands, as long as the conditions in the regulation are followed.

Structures include 'camping unit' had been defined as:

  • a structure or vehicle that may be used for camping purposes or as an outdoor accommodation and includes a tent, trailer, tent-trailer, recreational vehicle, camper-back and any watercraft equipped for overnight accommodation.

O. Reg 161/17 was recently amended to clarify that floating accommodations cannot be placed or used for outdoor accommodation or camping purposes on public land covered by water. Ontario Regulation 326/94 was also amended to make the same clarification for non-residents camping on public land in northern Ontario.

Both amending regulations were filed with the Registrar on June 20, 2023 and are effective as of July 1, 2023.

 Public Lands Act
The Public Lands Act provides for the creation and management of restricted areas by the Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources, and Forestry in parts of Ontario without municipal authority. In a restricted area, permits from NDMNRF are required undertake specific activities, whether this occurs on Crown or private lands. Activities that require a permit from MNR are identified in the development plan or guidelines that refer to each restricted area. 

Other information

Request for municipal comments

In 2022, the NDMNRF asked municipalities for their input on “camping” on waterways and the use of floating accommodations on Ontario’s public lands. The Township of Severn submitted comments in response to this notice. Although no regulatory changes were proposed at that time proposed these comments submitted by Severn may help to inform future changes which would then be subject to a public consultation process.

Who can residents contact to voice their concerns?

The majority of the waterways in Severn are under the federal jurisdiction of Parks Canada. These include:

  • Severn River including Gloucester Pool and Little Lake
  • Maclean Lake
  • Otter Lake

Residents who would like to submit comments or voice their concerns can contact Adam Chambers, Member of Parliament for Simcoe North:

Main office – Midland

504 Dominion Avenue
Midland, Ontario
L4R 1P8
Phone: 705-527-7654
Email: adam.chambers@parl.gc.ca


575 West Street South
Suite 12
Orillia, Ontario
L3V 7N6
Phone: 705-327-0513


Adam Chambers, MP
Parliament of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6* 

*Mail may be sent postage-free to the Ottawa parliamentary address.

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