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Ministry now proposes fewer homes in plans for residential program for women fleeing sex trafficking
1116Rezoning
Plans have been scaled back on a proposed faith-based program housing and counseling women seeking to leave sex trafficking.

Hall County Board of Commissioners

What: Public hearing and final action on proposed rezoning for homes for women involved in sex trafficking

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville

Plans have been scaled back on a proposed faith-based program housing and counseling women seeking to leave sex trafficking.

Gainesville-based Straight Street Revolution Ministries is now seeking to build seven houses instead of 17, with no more than 28 residents allowed on the southeast Hall County site, according to new conditions submitted to Hall County officials Monday morning.

Also, a 75-foot undeveloped distance from neighboring properties has been increased to 100 feet along Weaver Road and 200 feet along all other property lines.

Hall Planning Director Srikanth Yamala presented the conditions at the Hall County Board of Commissioners’ work session Monday.

The commission is set to vote Thursday on Straight Street’s request to rezone 50 acres off Weaver Road, a hilly area off Poplar Springs Road, to enable the residential program.

Mike Klukaszewski, one of the opponents to Straight Street’s proposal, was at the work session to hear the brief discussion. He wasn’t totally swayed by the changes.

“The fact that it’s smaller and (buildings) are more centrally located — I think it’s going to be well done if it’s allowed to go on — will add some comfort from (concerns about) real estate value,” he said. “It’s not going to look like a prison in the middle of our neighborhood.

“But the biggest concerns are safety and security for (area) residents — not so much for the people living (on the site), although that’s a consideration as well,” Klukaszewski said.

Other conditions that have been offered by Straight Street include providing one full-time staff member at each housing unit and installing security gates at the main entrance off Weaver and internal entrances to residences.

Straight Street’s other plans call for adding an administrative building, barn, chapel, activity field, garden and meadow.

“We don’t want a compound-looking thing,” Straight Street founder Todd Robson has said. “We want a beautiful entrance to the place, maybe a nice fence that makes it look like farmland.

“And when we do the ministry offices, we want it to look like a lodge ... not a commercial building.”

The proposal has been hugely divisive, with a large crowd expected at Thursday’s meeting.

Opponents have voiced concerns about property values, safety and security. One common issue has been their contention that the housing program doesn’t belong in a residential neighborhood.

Several people have spoken in favor of the proposal, including Chase Thomas, who lives 2 miles from the proposed site.

“I praise Jesus for people like (Straight Street) who want to love even when no one else will,” he said at the Hall County Planning Commission’s Nov. 21 meeting on the rezoning request.

The planning board recommended denial of the project.

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