Photo: Hawthorn Cottages and Cabins at Lake Eugenia
BY SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF — Brian and Jayne LeGree are going to take one more stab at opening their campground sites at Hawthorn Cottages and Cabins at Lake Eugenia. This comes after many years of legal wrangling, public debate and friction between the LeGrees and many of their neighbours.
In October of 2018, their fight to keep their campground alive, seemingly came to an end when an appeal to overturn the refusal by Grey Highlands Council to issue an operational permit for their 13-site campground was dismissed. However, some light opened up for the embattled couple in August of last year when Director of Building and Planning Services, Michael Benner presented an amendment to the municipal bylaw that would recognize resource-based recreational uses in site-specific locations.
Nicknamed the camping bylaw, the proposed amendment allowed for campgrounds within Open Space zones. Any application to rezone a property within the municipality to allow for resource-based recreational use would be assessed on an individual basis and could be subject to additional environmental or community impact studies, also given adherence to certain size and conditional restrictions.
"Now that the municipality has camping in the official plan, we are trying one last time to try and get (our campground) back open," said Jayne LeGree, who added, "People were unaware that we were shut down and very upset about it." With that, the LeGrees have submitted a new zoning amendment application which will be discussed at an upcoming MGH public planning hearing, along with several other planning applications.
Under the revised bylaw allowance for recreational use, Brian LeGree is confident that his campground meets all of the new requirements to move forward. "We have always complied with, and passed all health and safety inspections," said LeGree, citing their history of strict adherence to safe water handling practices. "There is zero pollution in the areas of the zoning amendment application. All effluent was always pumped out by Wilton Sanitation and grey water was regularly removed from the site, so there should be no concerns," he added.
Since coming to the area in 2012, Brian and Jayne have invested heavily in the business. Now in their eighth year, the LeGrees remain optimistic about their place in the community, despite receding somewhat from active engagement, since troubles began for them in 2017. "The last few years have been a strain on us," said Jayne who is buoyed by continued support from many friends and previous campground customers. "We've had hundreds of calls from people wanting to camp at our resort this year and last," she said. "But we have to turn them away."
Jayne and Brian LeGree in 2018.
Brian concurred, "Campgrounds are necessary for tourism and for the local economy. We hope that even more campground applications will come to the municipality." He said that many local retailers have noticed a lack of business since the campground was closed at the end of 2018.
To help with the cause, their daughter, Valerie Quackenbush has helped distribute a Facebook campaign, reaching out to friends, residents and visitors to support the reopening of the campground. In her message, she implores people to attend the public planning hearing at the Municipality of Grey Highlands (MGH) building in Markdale on February 24 at 6:30 pm. "Please come out and support Hawthorn's Campground (but) if you are not able to make the meeting, please send in a email of support for Hawthorn's Campground to email@example.com," she asked.
Following the meeting on February 24, the public will have 20 days to appeal the matter, but according to Brian's understanding of the process, objectors must back up their appeal with sound evidence to dispute the application. He remains confident that there would be no credible basis for appeal now that recreational use has become part of the municipality's official plan.
To follow the course of events leading up to the latest application, visit these South Grey News stories in chronological order:
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