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Fire destroys Bourbon woman’s home, zoning board says no to temporary home

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 7:25 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - A woman in Bourbon, Indiana says after her house burned down she’s been living out of a trailer on her property.

Neighbors complained to the zoning board, and a member of that board says she’s violating zoning codes.

I spoke with that woman and she says her house burned down back in May and the insurance company she uses actually provided the trailer that she is living in. She said the zoning board came out to pay a visit and says that trailer needs to go, but she doesn’t know where to go.

“We’re just temporary out here in this camper it’s not permanent until we get the house built,” Suzanne Afolabi says. She lives in the temporary home with her husband and grandson.

She is waiting for her insurance company to give her money for a new home here. Her house on the property caught fire back in May and it’s a total loss. Neighbors complained to the city, and now the zoning board wants this temporary home out of here.

“He came out and told me that I couldn’t be here but I could get a variance and it would be no problem,” Afolabi says.

However, it is a problem, the board didn’t grant the variance. I called Chuck DeWitt who sits on the zoning board and he says the trailer is actually a recreational vehicle (RV) and cannot be a permanent home due to zoning codes. Suzanne feels the city is just kicking her while she’s down, and the stress is taking it’s toll.

“Stomach flu from being upset, literally my hair has really grayed from this. I’ve had depression. I mean you lose a home you’ve lived in for 56 years,” she says.

She adds that she grew up in the home and took the property over and raised a family. An electrical fire in the attic took that all away. She says the city is now trying to get her out until a new home is built. The zoning board has agreed to revisit the variance issue and formally vote on October 11th. Suzanne tells me that others in the area have campers on their property and she’s being targeted unfairly. The zoning board is looking into that matter.

“You’ve got to be fair. If you’re going to do something do it for everybody, and it is small town which in some ways are good but in other ways we’ve got to...our town councils, our zoning boards, they have to quit favoritism and they have to stop taking rumor. They need to find fact,” Afolabi says.

Chuck DeWitt with the zoning board says it’s unlikely that variance will be granted, but we’ll know for sure at that October 11th meeting.

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