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Grey County Reads

December 26, 2021

Top 10 stories of 2021: #7

Top 10 stories of 2021: #7

Fire tragedy in Eugenia

BY SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF — Looking back on 2021, it's been a busy year in southern Grey County. Often, we wish the news could sometimes give us all a little break and take a holiday once in a while. The next story in our top 10 countdown is one of those chronicles we wish we didn't have to report on.

In August, Eugenia residents Ted and Ruth Turner were devastated by the loss of their home to fire. Residents of the area for 30 years, the couple were suddenly thrust into homelessness. But within hours of the fire, members of the local community rallied to support them.

Turner house after the fire

Jayne and Brian LeGree offered to help them and let them stay in a donated trailer on their Hawthorn Cottages property until they can find more permanent accommodation. Valerie Quackenbush set up a trust account for the Turners and donations of clothing and essentials were fast-coming from concerned neighbours and businesses. Money collected was used to purchase some much needed items like clothes, food and pet supplies.

On August 6, as the couple tried to relax outside their new temporary home at Hawthorn's Cottages, a Grey Highlands Bylaw Enforcement Officer showed up to investigate a neighbour's complaint about the donated trailer taking up space on the LeGree's property.

municipal bylaw enforcement officer at Hawthorn's Cottages property

Following a storm of criticism on social media, Grey Highlands CAO Karen Govan reported that the municipality was "stepping back for compassionate reasons" and would not be pursuing enforcement of the bylaw that prevented the Turner's temporary residence on the LeGree property.

The Grey Highlands municipal bylaw states:

No person shall, in any Zone, use any travel trailer, motor home, mobile home, park model trailer, truck camper, truck, bus, coach, streetcar body, railway car body, or similar structure of any kind, for the purpose of a residence. No such structure shall be considered a dwelling unit, or be used for human habitation, whether or not the same is mounted on wheels or other form of mounting or foundation.

Despite the municipality's retreat, bad feelings about the situation continued to be aired on social media. Many people remained angry with the municipality and the complaining neighbour who may or may not have been aware of the nature of the trailer’s occupancy at the time of the complaint.

But many local residents were also surprised that according to the bylaw, friends or family are also prohibited from occupying any camping vehicle or structure on their own properties. Although the matter was resolved for the Eugenia fire victims, the bylaw still stands, not only for Grey Highlands, but the regulation exists in many other local municipalities too. It is also a common feature of property and planning act bylaws across the country.

Some municipalities in Ontario have attempted to amend their rules against temporary accommodations in residentially-parked RVs and trailers but neighbours are often split on the subject.

Revisit the original stories:

Tragedy befalls Eugenia couple as fire destroys their home

Is it illegal to camp in your own backyard or driveway?


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