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BOC approves temporary five-year permit for Dawsonville man’s portable sawmill
Jackie Townley said he’s been using the portable sawmill for about six weeks as of Sept. 21. James Brewer shared that Hulsey has seen and heard the machine since June. Photo courtesy of the Dawson County Planning Department.

Resident Jackie Townley can continue to operate his hobby sawmill through June 2026 after the Dawson County Board of Commissioners approved his application for a five-year temporary special use permit during its Oct. 21 voting session. 

Townley is only allowed to operate the portable sawmill between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. per the county’s noise ordinance. Logging vehicles or large trucks are not permitted to move wood products and/or materials produced by or utilized in connection with the sawmill onto or off of the property.

Townley, his family and/or friends can only use the sawmill for personal projects and not commercial ones. To that end, wood products and materials produced by the portable sawmill are not to be sold on or off of the property. County staff will conduct annual property inspections to ensure that the hobby sawmill operation is not growing in size. 

The portable sawmill is on parcel L18-068, located at 24 Laina Bennett Road. 

When Townley came before the Dawson County Planning Commission on Sept. 21, the board recommended a one-year permit. He was partially spurred to request the permit because at least one person had complained to the county. 

“I didn’t know I had to have a permit to have a temporary, hobby saw mill,” Townley said at the Sept. 21 meeting. 

At the BOC meeting, he described usage of the portable sawmill as from one to multiple days a week, usually for one to three hours at a time rather than continuously all day. 

Many people who live within earshot of the sawmill have taken issue with its noise, describing it as intrusive to the quiet environment they expected of the area. 

One of those area residents, James Brewer, gathered a petition with over 100 signatures opposing the special use permit. 

At least a dozen residents opposing the permit attended the Oct. 21 BOC session, and about twice as many came to the Planning Commission meeting one month ago. 

Both Commissioner Chris Gaines and BOC Chairman Billy Thurmond spoke to the challenge the board has in deciding whether to grant or deny permit applications.

“One of our jobs is to balance private property rights for a private owner [who] owns land in an R-A zoning with the rights of those around him,” Gaines said.