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

By RICK LAVENDER
The Times

modular home
Tom Reed - The Times
Gainesville cited the owner of this modular or industrialized home in Waters Edge subdivision Friday for violating zoning code. The citations were the latest exchange in a legal battle between Building Systems Network and the city.

A Hall County Superior Court judge has dismissed the latest appeal aimed at allowing an industrialized home in Waters Edge subdivision. But the owner of the lot and unfinished home suggested the legal fight is far from over.

For Grant Smereczynsky of Building Systems Network and his attorney, the next round may be in Gainesville Municipal Court.

The city cited the Gainesville company with two counts of violating zoning code Friday. The code allows industrial or modular homes, which are built in factories and pieced together on-site, only in multifamily, agricultural-residential and residential-office districts.

Waters Edge off McEver Road Extension is zoned residential-1.

Smereczynsky maintains that federal and state law, which bars zoning based on whether buildings are assembled on a lot or in a plant, are on his side.

"I just can't go and move the house," he said. "So we're not just going to let it go away."

Neighbors have said they fear the house will undercut property values. Smereczynsky said the building, which he said is stronger than a site-built home, has been appraised at $375,000.

On Dec. 12, Superior Court Kathlene Gosselin dismissed Building System's appeal, siding with a request by the city.

The company had wanted Gosselin to reconsider her June decision that denied a judgment in Building Systems' favor and disagreed that the zoning restriction was vague.

But the December decision hinged on the lack of a transcript from a June hearing, a lack Building Systems' attorney should have "clearly" noted in his appeal, Gosselin wrote. She called the delay of "several" months "inexcusable."

Smereczynsky said the ruling was made on a technicality and he blamed City Attorney James "Bubba" Palmour III.

Attorney George Butler II, who had taken up Smereczynky's case since the June hearing, said the plan is to appeal the latest decision and possibly also target the code as unconstitutional because it runs afoul of state law.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs has written Gainesville in support of Building Systems. The Georgia Attorney General's office is reviewing the rulings.

City Manager Bryan Shuler said Sunday he hadn't seen the Municipal Court citations but they would be the next step in addressing a violation of city code.

If the judge assesses penalties, "the objective typically is to fix the problem," Shuler said.

Fines are often reduced if the violation is corrected.

The only obvious correction here, however, is removing the house.

Smereczynsky said the city hasn't allowed him to maintain the home, and he'll soon have to renew the loan.

But business in general "has been phenomenal," he said.

As evidence, he pointed to plans to assemble a home Jan. 11 in a subdivision off Ga. 60 in unincorporated Hall County.

In March, the city revoked building permits for the Waters Edge home and another that was never built, touching off the legal dispute.

E-mail: rlavender@gainesvilletimes.com

Originally published Monday, January 2, 2006

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