SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF –
Update: On Wednesday, January 3, the Grey Highlands Committee of the Whole recommended that their planner prepare a bylaw for nine trailers on the Hawthorn Cottages and Camping property on Lake Eugenia. Although pleased with council’s decision and the work of Councillor Cathy Little in brokering this latest compromise, owners Jayne and Brian LeGree remain dissatisfied and vow to continue to pursue the approval of all 13 sites in their application.
A change of zoning application brought a large crowd to a public meeting Sept. 25 in the Grey Highlands municipal offices in Markdale.
The meeting was set to hear comments regarding an application made by Brian and Jayne LeGree, owners of Hawthorn Cottages and Camping in Eugenia.
The meeting room was packed as comments were heard from all stakeholders both in support and in opposition to the proposal which makes a request to change the zoning of the property, allowing for the operation of 13 campsites. The application was made at the recommendation of the Municipality of Grey Highlands (MGH) staff to comply with a 2004 change made to Grey Highlands' municipal zoning of the property, which overturned its previous allowance to operate as a campground. Although the business has undergone many changes of ownership over the years, the operation of the campgrounds on the site predates the 2004 zoning change. But knowledge of the zoning restrictions placed on the property prior to the LeGrees' purchase in 2011 were questioned by some who came to speak in opposition to the application.
Gary Gingras, current owner of Cedars of Lake Eugenia Cottage Resort which is adjacent to the campgrounds property, explained that he had abandoned his own interest in the Hawthorn Resort listing prior to the LeGree purchase because of the zoning issue discovered during due diligence. At that time, he switched his interest to Cedars Resort which he eventually purchased.
People in support of the application estimated that the site has been maintained as a campground for approximately 70 years, although perhaps not serviced without interruption during the whole of that time. The LeGrees have operated the site as a campground ever since they took over ownership and maintain that it is a vital component of their livelihood.
Hawthorn Cottages and Camping is a well known resort located on the southeastern shore of Lake Eugenia. In fact, many current as well as past visitors to the campgrounds attested to its amenities which include friendly owners and clean, well maintained facilities. Some of the other features of the business include fishing, boat rentals and beach access, although waterfront activities are shared by cottage renters in any of seven recently upgraded cabins on the adjacent property also owned and operated by the LeGrees.
From comments available on the Grey Highlands website, the Grey Highlands Building Department recommended on September 13 that the proposal should be limited to partial servicing, meaning hydro and water only with all waste water pumped regularly by a licensed sewage hauler. Currently, Wilton Sanitation is contracted to perform that service as there is no septic system on-site to handle the 13 campsites. Grey water is also managed in the same way with the use of holding tanks on the property. Hydro upgrades were also recommended to bring the electrical system into compliance with code.
Ron Davidson spoke on behalf of Brian and Jayne LeGree during the meeting, indicating that the LeGrees would comply with the recommendations of the Building Department, should their application be approved.
Also from comments available on the Grey Highlands website, MGH staff have weighed into the debate with a recommendation that the application be approved based on the limited development supported by an MGH Official Plan review, including allowance for golf courses, marinas and convenience commercial businesses.
However, there were several concerns expressed by ratepayers regarding servicing and utilities, some of whom resided either adjacent to or within a short distance of the campgrounds. Their concerns stem from the proper disposal of waste water and sewage at the site.
Nancy Matthews, president of the Lake Eugenia Property Owners Association (LEPOA) referred to a Grey Sauble Conservation Authority (GSCA) report on the matter which she alleged gives a poor review of the campgrounds proposal. The LEPOA is a non-profit group which concerns itself with the quality and stewardship of the lake and its watershed. The report was not available to the public at the time of the meeting.
Many people opposed to the application reiterated that the matter was not an indictment of the LeGrees who by all accounts have been good and law abiding citizens. It was also noted that the LeGrees as well as their seasonal campers contribute to the local economy and volunteer at local community events.
A final report will be prepared by MGH staff to be released on November 6. Members of the public may continue to comment on the application until that date. The GSCA report is expected to be released to the public forthwith.
The complete application is available on the MGH website.
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