published Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Catoosa County neighborhood dispute escalates to courts

Bob Gentry, left, tosses wood to Craig Burchfield Friday on Burchfield's  Dietz Road porch.
Bob Gentry, left, tosses wood to Craig Burchfield Friday on Burchfield's Dietz Road porch.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

A conflict between two neighbors over a wood-chopping business in Catoosa County, Ga., has now escalated to two lawsuits, and both sides say they won't back down without a fight.

For eight years, Craig Burchfield has been chopping and selling firewood at a home on Dietz Road, but his neighbors say they don't want the hustle and bustle of a heavy-equipment business next door.

The chain saws and the Bobcat and piles of wood have been an eyesore, said Wayne Dunn, Burchfield's next-door neighbor.

"My wife likes to sit on the deck, but they are chain-sawing," he said. "It looks like a junkyard."

Dunn, convinced Burchfield's ASAP Tree Service was lowering his property values, led an opposition effort at the Catoosa County Commission last year. While he didn't want to run Burchfield out of business, Dunn said, the wood operation needed to be moved.

The county agreed that Burchfield needed to scale back and said he could go back to work only after he complied with zoning requirements and ordinances.

Burchfield's sister owns the home and he lives there with his son. He said he's complied with the county's requests to reduce the hours he runs his wood chopper. He also moved equipment off the lawn and built a solid metal wall around his property that matched a barn in Dunn's backyard.

He said he was surprised when the county voted unanimously to sue him for being a public nuisance in November 2010. The lawsuit, filed in April of this year, is pending in court.

"They want to stop me from working on my property," Burchfield said. "The only work we do on this property here now is we have one guy who cuts and splits firewood. Everything has been moved to another location."

When his lawyer told him that Dunn was turning in surveillance videos of his property to the county zoning commission as proof for his complaint, Burchfield got mad.

"My neighbor next door put up hidden surveillance cameras," he said. "Wayne Dunn is the leading person against me."

So now he is suing Dunn for invasion of privacy and harassment, he said.

Dunn wouldn't talk about the lawsuit Burchfield recently filed in Catoosa County Superior Court, but he admits there is tension in the neighborhood.

"I have no problem with him. We don't speak now, of course," he said. "I think he is a good, hard-working guy. He just needs to move.

"I've been here 35 years. I built this house. I am not going nowhere."

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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