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Housing plans for women fleeing sex trafficking go before Hall planning board Monday

A Gainesville ministry’s heavily opposed plans to build a campus housing women involved in sex trafficking goes before the Hall County Planning Commission Monday evening.

Straight Street Revolution Ministries is hoping to build the campus on 50 acres off Weaver Road, a hilly area off Poplar Springs Road in southeast Hall County.

The nonprofit organization is looking to eventually build 17 houses for the women, as well as an administrative building, barn, chapel, activity field, garden and meadow, according to the Hall County staff report.

The initial phase calls for one home that would house four people and one caretaker, the report says. Also, services that would be offered at the site include counseling, education programs and life skills training.

The ministry’s proposal also calls for a gated entrance and that no visitors will be allowed on site.

The residents would be women over 18 who are referred to Straight Street through a partner organization.

“The ministry and its partners are working to reduce human trafficking by providing services to victims,” the report says.

Straight Street’s plans have met fierce opposition from neighbors, who met with ministry officials last week, peppering them with comments and questions.

Opponents have said they worry such a development would raise safety concerns and lower property values.

Several residents said they applauded the group’s work but they simply don’t believe such a development belongs in a residential neighborhood.

One of the chief worries has been that sex traffickers might try to hunt down women at the complex.

Jennifer Robson of Straight Street said women are easily replaced in the industry, so it’s unlikely they would be pursued.

“It only takes one incident,” said Weaver Road resident Donna Clendenning, one of the most vocal opponents, at the community meeting.

The county planning staff is recommending approval of the proposal, with conditions, including that vegetation be installed between the campus and neighboring residential properties.

The planning board’s recommendation will be forwarded to the Hall County Board of Commissioners for a Dec. 8 public hearing and final action.