Past permit issue leaves local woman homeless

Julie Chagnon
Julie Chagnon sits in her big, sun-warmed kitchen, thinking about her options. Photo credit: Sally Smith.
Posted on: November 9, 2022

“Is there not a better way to do this – with a little humanity perhaps?”

Julie Chagnon just put large new windows in the small brick building on William St W in Smiths Falls that she purchased in 2021. It stands immediately beside the Assemblies of God church.

Now she looks from the inside out into the light, and, when she’s there, revels in the brightness and warmth.

But she’s not there very often because the Town of Smiths Falls has taped an eviction notice on her front door. In other words, she can’t reside there until everything is ‘fixed’.

And there’s a lot to ‘fix’, according to the Town.

She has been ordered to: “Immediately secure the portion(s) of unsafe building from any and all unauthorized entry, and clean and disinfect and repair the premises in a manner acceptable to the Town of Smiths Falls….

So that means a whole lot of stuff, including: obtaining permits, finding an architect and an engineer, contacting the health unit, making sure work designated by the Town to be done is completed to the satisfaction of the Town, making sure both electrical and mechanical services are in good nick, giving copies of work done to the Town…and anything else that may be required by the Chief Building Official. There was a very short time frame to get things done; the eviction notice went up September 13 with compliance demanded by October 1.

“So I started on some work,” Julie says, “but learned I had to cease and desist from David Sutherland, Chief Building Official, until I obtained a building permit. That’s when I discovered I couldn’t obtain a new permit because an earlier permit existed….a permit  that was opened in 2014 and never inspected and never received an occupancy permit to live here or run a business…ever.

“Had I known I would never have bought the place. It wasn’t posted on the door.”

So…she’s homeless. She can’t sleep in her own home, can’t live there over winter, will have to turn the water off and the heat down to minimum to keep her cat warm.

How long will this go on? If her battle to win back her house is settled out of court, she could be back in by spring, she says; if, however, she has to litigate, it could take two or three years.

There are many who will say it’s for her own good…and this is so, if only she had known before she bought the building, put in the windows, landscaped the front lawn, buried her small dog there.

At the moment she’s living a block-and-a-half away with a young family. She keeps an eye on her home from afar, keeps the outside tidy. Many of the vegetables she picks from her front garden are contributed to the Food Bank, the others she gives away. There’s been more than one night she’s spent in her van, and that’s okay in this weather. But winter’s coming…

She moved in knowing “there were certain things I had to do” but “didn’t realize the severity of this.” When all is said and done it could cost as much as “$400,000 to get it finished.”

In saner moments, after a good night’s sleep, after a long walk, Julie admits the craziness of it all has “allowed me to appreciate things I have all the more,” but it also makes her “want it even more. I long to shower there, enjoy the windows, sleep there…

Her mantra? “One day at a time, one breath at a time, 10 minutes at a time…”

Article by Sally Smith

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News

5 thoughts on “Past permit issue leaves local woman homeless

  1. Paul LAbel;le

    Shouldn’t the realtor who sold the house be held accountable? The previous owner? The town for not following up on the 2014 permit? The bank?

  2. S. Michaelis

    I find it amazing that the town suddenly has issues with this propert. When the previous owner had the property the town went out of their way to accommodate them. Bylaws were changed to provide the then commercial enterprise free on street parking in the neighborhood. Why was a commercial food preparation business allowed to carry on with no action from the town to enforce building codes. There a number of properties in the town that have been vacant for more than 10 years that are left to deteriorate and become hazards not to mention them being broken into and used as flop places for a variety of nefarious uses. As an example you need not look very far to find such a property within a block of her house at Main and George. It’s been vacant for more than 10 years. When the wind blows peices of it are blown off. It’s been unsuccessful boarded up numerous times the latest attempt being just this week.
    I think the town should rethink its priorities here and try to work with this home owner and assist her in being able to correct the issues with the property she has obviously taken pride in and wants to improve her property. Maybe going after all the derelict properties left vacant by owners who obviously don’t care would be a more productive use of the building standards people.

  3. Nancy

    I would like to contact Sally Smith the author, or with Julie Chagnon. A friend and I want to try to help.

  4. Aline A. Levesque

    I find this so unfair when Landlords in Smith Falls do not fix their buiildings or apartments!! On top of that the realtor if she used one did not do their job!! My house was staged to the hill and even the inspector I used did nothing, I fixed what I could and I do not understand what they are doing to her… SF should be ashamed and they do it all the time even with water bills!! So SAD

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