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Planners nix appeal in setback dispute
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The Hall County Planning Commission stuck by the letter of the law when it denied an appeal at its meeting Monday.

Asa and Mary Hollowell appealed building permits issued by the county to neighbors Eric and Lori Branam, claiming their deck and a connected two-story garage violate the 10-foot setback requirements between their property.

The Hollowells’ attorney, Matt Reeves, called the additions to the Branam’s home on Warpath Road in Flowery Branch a "massive expansion," and said his clients were appealing the expansion of property into the setback.

"My clients object to certain permits issued to the Branams," Reeves said.

Much of the issue stems from the previous owner of the Branams’ home having built a deck that encroached into the setback.

The Branams applied for a permit to build a new deck over the existing one that follows its footprint, which is legal in Hall County. The deck connected to the garage, which was not accessible at the ground level because of the placement of the septic tank on the property.

Mary Hollowell said she moved to Hall County to escape the out-of-control growth in Gwinnett County. She feels the additions to the Branam home are similar to what she saw in Gwinnett.

"Part of the reason we moved out here and made this large investment in this property was to get away from that, and I feel like I’m right back where I started," she said. "Every time I’m in my front yard I feel like I’m under a microscope."

Lori Branam’s husband, Eric, spoke in defense of the improvements to his home.

"Every bit of building on that house has been inspected by Hall County," Branam said.

The members of the planning commission agreed that though it is an unfortunate situation, they could not find any fault with the permits issued to the Branams.

"They went by the code of the law," said Planning Commissioner Bill Evans.

"I’m not so sure I have a problem with what’s going on," said Planning Commissioner Jones Cottrell.

Chairman Don Smallwood said he can side with both parties.

"I see the Branams taking advantage of everything they can," Smallwood said. "And the Hollowells want their privacy."

Smallwood made the motion to deny the Hollowell’s appeal with the condition that the Branams cannot build anything unless they make sure it falls exactly within Hall County code.

"No variance, no gray areas," Smallwood said.

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