Modular Homes Builder Challenges Discrimination from City Officials in Zoning Case

Despite urging from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to protect modular home manufacturing, Gainesville city officials turn their backs

By Karen Pressley
profitablewords@msn.com

GAINESVILLE, GA – The CEO of Building Systems Network, Grant Smereczynsky, has been understandably referred to lately as a “rebel with a cause” by his growing number of supporters for his efforts to exercise protection provided by Georgia state law for modular home builders.

While BSN’s CEO is trying to level the playing field for on-site builders and modular home builders, he is coming up against discriminatory rulings which have resulted in one option: Smereczynsky is down to fighting City Hall. It seems BSN has been ruffling the feathers of certain Gainesville officials by attempting to remove prohibitions and arbitraries on zoning ordinances that continue to stop BSN from building modular homes in certain residential areas occupied by site-built homes.

Meetings with City officials recently have not yet resulted in retraction of the March 31, 2005 revocation of permits for construction of two BSN modular homes in an R1 zoning district. Yet, Georgia law and rulings from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs prohibit local governments from restricting an industrialized building from a zoning district based solely on the fact that it is not built “on site.”

State Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs Mike Beatty addressed Gainesville Mayor George Wangemann in a letter dated March 31, 2005 about this point, in response to the City’s revoking of two of BSN’s permits.

Commissioner Beatty stated that industrialized housing (modular homes) enjoys non-discriminatory siting protection under Georgia law and DCA rulings that “manufactured” housing (also known as mobile home construction) does not. Commissioner Beatty also stated that while the right of zoning and site development is reserved to local governments to apply the DCA’s regulations, “they must be reasonably and uniformly applied and enforced without distinction as to whether such building is manufactured offsite or built onsite in a conventional manner (DCA emphasis added.)”

The Commissioner advised Mayor Wangemann that “the City of Gainesville may be taking action inconsistent with Georgia law and our Department’s Rules related to the siting of industrialized buildings” and strongly recommended the City reconsider its position.

BSN encountered a similar issue in 2003. Commissioner Laura Meadows of the DCA issued a letter on January 14, 2003 describing the Industrialized Buildings Act (O.C.G.A. 8-2-2 Part 1) that requires industrialized or modular buildings to be built to the standards and adopted by the DCA for the state of Georgia. Buildings bearing the DCA insignia (approved by meeting state codes) must be allowed to be constructed. She said, “Therefore, construction of Industrialized buildings is substantially the same as a ‘site built’ building.”

Despite the Georgia law and DCA rulings prohibiting discrimination against modular home building, Gainesville City officials have opted to ignore those statutes and instead, enforce local zoning ordinances that stop BSN from finishing their two systems-built homes. The City’s prohibition violates the Uniformity Clause, Article III, Section IV, paragraph V (a) of the Georgia Constitution of 1983.

Smereczynsky has challenged the City’s discrimination against modular homes by appealing their rulings to a higher legal authority.

The value of modular homes is even recognized at a federal level. After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported, “Relatively minimal structural damage was noted in modular housing developments. The module-to-module combination of the units appears to have provided an inherently rigid system that performed much better than conventional residential framing.” This full report can be obtained from FEMA by calling 800-480-2520 and requesting publication number FIA-22, item 3-0180.

Smereczynsky is an award-winning modular homes builder, honored with three first-place awards in the national Building Systems Council 2003 Excellence in Marketing & Model Home Design Awards for his commitment and contributions to the systems-built industry. He said, “The biggest challenge posing my industry is lack of public education in the evolution of home construction technology.” The industrialized or modular built home is different from what it is perceived to be by those who are not yet informed. “Innovative construction technologies have emerged faster than public education about them and zoning modifications to accommodate them.”

In addition, incorrect language in local zoning ordinances fails to distinguish a modular (industrialized or systems-built) home from a manufactured home (mobile home). This has caused confusions in rulings, despite the fact that Georgia law and the DCA have provided clear language on these subjects.

“People who choose to block modular home building are simply uninformed about the process itself,” he said. “Not only are modular homes built to the same building codes as traditional site-built housing, but they are required to bear the DCA insignia for adherence to codes and quality standards. They are constructed from the same materials, and they are built under superior quality control with over 300 inspections done during the construction process.” And, they are built in a controlled environment, not subject to adverse weather conditions like site-built homes. There is reduced waste in materials, and these cost savings are forwarded to the homeowner. “Homeowners enjoy superior benefits from systems-built homes, including equivalent or greater appraisal value,” Smereczynsky said.

In late January, 2006 BSN’s newest luxury, 6,800 square foot model home, “The Homestead,” was set on its foundation in Hall County by Professional Building Systems, one of BSN’s foremost construction facilities. The Homestead is appraised at $695,000. Smereczynsky invites officials and the community to observe the completion process (interior and exterior finishings) as part of his efforts to educate the public on modular home construction technology and trends.

For more information about Georgia modular homes, or for directions to the Homestead, go to the web site at www.bsnhomes.com or email them at bsnbuilder@bsnmail.com. Smereczynsky invites you to call BSN for further information at 770-888-2761.

Related Articles:

House Showdown Court Case Draws National Attention

City Unfairly Prohibits Industrialized Housing

Builder won't accept defeat in legal battle Company vows to continue fight to build modular home

Modular Homes Builder Challenges Discrimination from City Officials in Zoning Case

Panel rejects rezoning for prefab home

Industrialized housing battle heats up over a modular home

Industrialized home earns another 'no' from Gainesville

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