May 16, 2021

Ministry making second attempt to acquire Special Use Permit

The proposed site of the Encounter Ministries development located at 1400 Notnomis Road (Photo: Encounter Ministries on Facebook)

(Franklin, GA) — The first meeting of the Heard County Board of Commissioners in 2020 will open tomorrow night with a public hearing in regards to a Special Use Application submitted by Encounter Ministries — a faith-based organization currently based in Carrollton.

The ministry was founded by a Heard County mother (Sherrie Kagey) and her son (Kevin Raines) in 2014.

This will be the second time the group has attempted to obtain a Special Use Permit for the property located at 1400 Notnomis Road located just west of HWY 27 near the Town of Centralhatchee. The lot is now zoned for agricultural/residential use.

The proposal was first presented to the BOC on December 18, 2018 but never reached a vote after a motion by District 2 Commissioner Keri Denney died for lack of a second.

The application applied for currently is almost identical to the original proposal in 2018 and would include the erection of a Multipurpose Worship Center, a Petting Zoo and Ranch, and a Lodge that according to the application would to be used to house campers, staff, and special event guests.

Commissioner Denney’s motion at the 2018 meeting suggested a limited approval of the application with a provision that the site not include lodging.

A number of people spoke in opposition to the proposed site at the 2018 Public Hearing — citing concerns about increased traffic and a lack of understanding of the group’s overall plans.

Sherrie Kagey, a resident of Heard County for 60 years and CEO of the ministry spoke to the board for the first time at the November, 2018 meeting on how Encounter Ministries was started and why they do what they do.

“Encounter Ministries was birthed because of mine and my son’s life story. We became a non-profit organization in 2014. We started by sharing our story to others,” she told the board.

She told the commissioners how God had helped her family overcome much pain and crisis involving sexual abuse, drug addiction, depression and attempted suicide.

Kagey stated that her group and ministry wanted to be there for those dealing with similar circumstances.

“We understand how people feel that have gone through these things. We are here to be a mentor and to show hurting people the love of Jesus Christ. To help families and make a difference! To give a person hope who has none! That’s what Encounter Ministries is.”

The current application offers further details about the plans of the organization for each particular area of the 89.40 acre lot.

The Worship Center is to be located near the front of the property and include a stage with lighting and sound for worship, conferences, concerts, teaching, discipleship and special events. The facility will also include a place for children, a commons gathering area, and offices.

The group says the Petting Zoo and Ranch (A Storyland) will be a place for people to receive animal therapy and will offer riding schools and camps for kids to enjoy the animals.

The application states, “A Storyland will be a place to equip our teens for life and teach responsibility for all creatures. Encounter will use this as a vital tool outside of the walls of a worship center to teach and impart the value of life and difference, to connect and relate specialty skills, and to build leadership qualities.”

The application promises that the group will require background checks for all staff and volunteer personnel as well as offer private security for any larger events. They also say they will be mindful of the noise at the facilities. They estimate on average from 50-300 people may be on the premises at any given time.

According to the details, “Encounter Ministries understands the importance of noise factors in a community. We feel strongly about the community around us and their needs. We treasure the tranquility of nature and the grandness of being out in the country and the serenity that nature brings. We are very respectful of the quality of living for individuals after sundown hours.”

Tuesday night’s meeting begins at 6:30 PM at the Heard County Administration Building located at 201 Park Avenue in Franklin.

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