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Plans to build rental townhouses in Grove Park for formerly incarcerated people withdrawn

Freedom Fighting Missionaries had planned to build 16 rental townhomes on property owned by The Grove Church in east Charlotte.
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Freedom Fighting Missionaries had planned to build 16 rental townhomes on property owned by The Grove Church in east Charlotte.

A Charlotte nonprofit has decided not to build an affordable housing project for formerly incarcerated people in the Grove Park community after hearing strong opposition from nearby residents.

Freedom Fighting Missionaries, which serves formerly incarcerated people, wanted to build 37 rental townhouses in east Charlotte with the help of $2 million in coronavirus recovery funds approved by the city.

Twenty-one FFM rental townhouses were unanimously approved for Sardony Lane. But FFM’s founder Kenny Robinson withdrew the plans for the 16 townhouse rentals slated for the Grove Park community on property owned by The Grove Church.

“As you heard, many in the community opposed it and opposed it with great vigor, and we made an agreement to shift some of that funding to the community to correct some of their concerns,” Robinson said.

Those included a push for a park and educational needs versus building more affordable housing. A few residents who live near the project did support it, such as Mary English Trib.

“While many of my neighbors have voiced concerns about safety and too many affordable housing units in east Charlotte, I’m not deterred to wanting to see all of our neighbors housed and those with children thriving and I enthusiastically support this partnership,” Trib said.

Robinson’s proposal calls for 90% of the tenants in both projects to be single mothers. In addition, all of them would have to be fully employed and participate in financial and other counseling sessions. Christopher Brown says he still needs more information on the tenants.

“I can’t sign off on not knowing who my neighbors will be,” Brown said. “They (FFM) can’t tell me that a murderer won’t be one of these people living here. They can’t tell me if my daughter will be safe. These are people with backgrounds in doing criminal activity, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask who’s gonna be there."

Council member Braxton Winston responded, “You don’t get to go to Zillow to find out who your neighbors are, or a Realtor can’t tell you the background of your neighbors. That’s ridiculous. Some of the things I heard tonight proves to me that the past is still the present in this city.“

A Grove church official who described the opposition to the plan as vicious conceded the rental townhouses probably will never be built on their property.

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Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.