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Federal money sought in South Hall project for developmentally disabled adults
0814JUSTPEOPLE
Work could begin soon on a 21-acre site in South Hall County for development into a community serving developmentally disabled adults. The “Just” People community project has been in the works since its highly contested rezoning by the Hall County Board of Commissioners in September 2015.

Construction could start later this year in South Hall on an 84-unit residential complex for developmentally disabled people, as federal financing is being sought for the project.

“Just” People is pushing for money through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development’s Direct Loan and Grant Program for the $18 million project, a 21-acre site off McEver and Radford roads near Flowery Branch.

“We’re expecting to have an answer back by the first or second week of September,” project manager Kyle A. Ivey said. “(USDA is) trying to use up the rest of the money before the end of the fiscal year (on Sept. 30).”

As part of the project, “Just” People had to complete an environmental assessment of the property.

“Also, USDA conducted an independent evaluation of the environmental assessment,” a legal ad on the project states. “No significant impacts are expected as a result of the construction of the project.”

In addition to housing units, the site will include commercial space of up to 10,000 square feet and at least 25 percent of land devoted to green space.

Officials have said the commercial areas will mainly serve residents and include a cafe, snack bar, personal care salons and sports training areas.

The project, which could take 12-14 months to complete, has been in the works for a couple of years, gaining the Hall County Board of Commissioners’ approval in September 2015 after a tough, emotional rezoning battle.

Opponents signed petitions and otherwise lined up to speak against “Just” People’s proposal to put a community in the area. They complained about the development’s potential impact on surrounding property values and traffic in the frequently congested area.

After the favorable vote, Becky Dowling, the group’s founder and president, described her reaction: “I was like, ‘Thank you, God, you’re still looking after my people.’”

The Norcross-based nonprofit organization has been getting the word out about the new development, including sponsoring a booth at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Expo earlier this year.

The organization has scheduled a Sept. 29 golf tournament at Reunion Country Club in South Hall as a fundraiser, with half of proceeds going to the residential complex and half helping the group’s Special Olympics athletes.

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