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Churchs permit request means ministry must move
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BRASELTON — A ministry that helps homeless men will not have a home of its own after the Braselton Town Council approved a church’s request to relocate.

The Vine United Methodist Church asked the council for a conditional use permit to move its congregation to a location on Ga. 211. The property is currently zoned general commercial.

Kevin Keller, the town’s planning director, and the planning commission recommended approval of the permit.

Keller said The Vine plans to "lease and occupy 9,900 square feet of space in a Century Center retail space utilized for church operations and services."

The church, founded in 2006, has held services at Heather Wayne’s Dance Academy on Thompson Mill Road in Hoschton since April 2007, according to David Walters, The Vine’s pastor.

Since then, attendance has grown to almost 300 people, and Walters said the church needs a larger place to worship.

With the council’s approval this week, Walters said the church will plan to move into its new location by August.

Even though The Vine’s request was approved, some opposed its move at the council’s May 7 work session.

Eight people from Meet The Need Ministry spoke against the church’s proposed relocation. Based in Hoschton, Meet The Need, a nonprofit organization, helps men who are homeless get back on their feet.

Husband and wife, Jane and Rene Alvarez, founded the organization, and said they have helped more than 600 men since starting six years ago.

According to the organization’s Web site, an estimated 95 percent of the men who come to Meet The Need also have "some type of addiction (drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, and/or money)." Its goal, the site says, is to help them overcome these addictions through Biblical principles.

Rene Alvarez told council members last Thursday that his ministry would have to relocate if The Vine’s request were approved.

"If The Vine is allowed to come in, unfortunately for me, I will have to be relocated because I’m on the sexual registry from a plea bargain back in 1991," said Alvarez. "I would ask the council to reconsider granting this proposal to The Vine so it doesn’t run me and my wife and our ministry out of our current location."

The home, located in Barrow County, sits within 1,000 feet of the church’s proposed location. State law mandates a person on the Georgia Sex Offender Registry may not reside within 1,000 feet of a church.

Jennifer Dees, town manager, does not yet know the exact distance between the Alvarez’s location and The Vine’s approved location.

Members of Meet The Need, including Allan Lee Cochran Jr., also spoke at the meeting. Cochran told the council that the organization provides hope and help for those men who have none.

"Mr. and Mrs. Alvarez have opened their home and their hearts to the most hard-headed, stubborn and corrupted men in the community and are forming them into decent, respectable and good men who love Jesus and are learning his ways," said Cochran.

"I ask that you let this program remain in place, not just for Rene and Jane, who have made tremendous sacrifices, but for the community, for the family members and for the men who are in dire need of this ministry."

Jane Alvarez said this will be the couple’s fifth move in 2« years; they have lived at their current location for just 17 months.

"It’s hard for us now each time we move," she said. "The ministry’s gotten larger and this time when we’re having to move again, it’s going to be hard to find a place."

While Meet The Need harbors no animosity towards The Vine, Jane Alvarez said she wishes council had denied their request as it would have been easier for the church to find a new location, rather than her ministry.

As for where Meet The Need will move next, Alvarez said their plans right now are to "trust in the Lord" for help in finding a new home.