The Georgia House has approved a bill that could impact an ongoing legal battle between the city of Gainesville and the owner of a company that produces modular homes.
The bill by Rep. Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, would prohibit local governments from putting restrictions on modular homes, which are built off-site at a factory.
In March 2005, the city of Gainesville halted construction on a home in the Waters Edge subdivision. The case still is working its way through federal court, and the house sits much as it did four years ago — unfinished and without a permit to proceed.
Roberts works for a modular home company, Georgia Modular Systems in Fitzgerald, in South Central Georgia. He was approached by Grant Smereczynsky of Building Systems Network of Gainesville about introducing the bill.
Smereczynsky said the bill, with amendments that were approved Monday by the Senate Agriculture Committee, could open the door for him to complete the house that has sat idle.
"The only thing we’ve asked for is for people who want this type of construction to have a choice," Smereczynsky said. He said the house, which is about 60 percent complete, could be finished in short order.
"These are stick built homes that are built in a controlled environment," Roberts said. "They have to meet requirements that are higher than most of your on-site stick built homes."
Roberts said he saw no conflict in offering a bill that benefits his industry.
"We are a citizen legislature, and that means each of us has a job or jobs outside of this building," Roberts said. "I honestly believe that a person who is knowledgeable about a subject should carry that legislation."
City Manager Kip Padgett was in a meeting Monday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.
The dispute with the city goes back to January 2005. That’s when the city issued building permits to Building Systems Network for two lots in Waters Edge, an upscale subdivision off McEver Road behind Free Chapel Worship Center’s former main complex.
City officials maintain the permits should not have been approved, and that Smereczynsky’s agent provided inaccurate or incomplete information on the applications. Smereczynsky denies the charge.
Gainesville bars industrialized homes in residential-1 zones, which cover Waters Edge and other single-family subdivisions.
Instead, houses that are mainly built off-site are limited to agricultural-residential, residential-2, or multifamily and residential-office districts.
Apparently alerted by neighbors, city officials stopped Smereczynsky in midconstruction.
Now, four years later, part of the story-and-a-half structure is still stapled with Tyvek house wrap. While no work has been allowed, city officials have allowed the owner on three occasions to remove mold from a portion of the house where water seeped in.
The bill that Smereczynsky sees as his hope in this situation was favorably passed out of committee on Monday and now goes to the full Senate for action.