Board Calls Special Congregational Meeting for February 7, 2021

A Special Congregational Meeting will be called by the board to vote on a resolution to enter into a land use agreement with HHV. This meeting is scheduled for February 7 at Noon. Watch for future emails regarding this meeting. Read the full resolution.

Why do we need a congregational vote on this issue? The proposed land use agreement would encumber UUCS, and UUCS by-laws require that a “special meeting shall be held for any congregational vote on the encumbrance, sale or transfer of any real property of the Congregation”.

The UUCS Board of Directors has been working for over 2 years with the Habitat and Hope Village (HHV) board of directors on their vision of reducing the crisis of homelessness in Salem. HHV is asking to negotiate a land use agreement with UUCS for the purpose of allowing HHV to use part of UUCS land to construct a transitional housing facility. Over the course of the past 2 years, The Board has reviewed HHV plans, and has asked for and received clarifying information on their plan. The focus of these exchanges has been to ascertain what is the best way for UUCS to effectively use its energy and resources to reduce the problem of homelessness in our community.

The Board recognizes that HHV is deeply concerned about the problem of homelessness and have worked for years looking for ways to improve the lives of those living so precariously. We owe these members a debt of gratitude for their efforts and their commitment in bringing this issue before the congregation now.

Three very important facts related to the HHV request:
1. HHV is not proposing that UUCS be a partner in the operation of its housing program. HHV is simply requesting that UUCS allow HHV to use a part of UUCS property for the program.
2. HHV plans to raise the funds for construction and operations through donations and grants to HHV. Operation and oversight of the housing program will rest solely with HHV.
3. The responsibility of UUCS and its Board of Directors is to ensure that the negotiated Land Use Agreement clearly defines the legal responsibilities and liabilities of HHV in the operation of their program on UUCS land.

Concerns have been expressed by multiple members of the UUCS congregation and several board members. UUCS is being asked to consider focusing our energy and resources on providing a portion of its property to HHV to build a house for five high-functioning women each with her own private car. A few of the concerns raised by building such a building on UUCS property are the following:
1. The women would be expected to get themselves into town for grocery shopping, counseling, health care, and job search/employment. Since there is no public transportation servicing the UUCS site, what would happen if the HHV client’s car broke down? Not having public transportation available is a glaring concern.
2. If/when the HHV transitional housing project ends, HHV intends to give the farmhouse to UUCS. There is concern that this would be a liability rather than an asset for the congregation.
3. The HHV housing program will have no on-site supervision of the HHV clients. The clients will be responsible for making sure the farmhouse and UUCS property are well managed/maintained.
4. As owner of the land under the farmhouse, UUCS could be held liable for any injury or accident at the farmhouse. The lack of on-site supervision raises this concern higher.
Other concerns unrelated to UUCS liability include:
1. The Oregon Statewide Shelter Study recommends Salem focus first on emergency shelter rather than transitional shelter.
2. Best practice advises permanent housing with Rapid Rehousing assistance.
3. UUCS and HHV could easily partner with existing homeless projects, rather than create a new program.

Over the many months of considering HHV’s proposal, the Board determined that the operation of the housing program rests solely with HHV. The Board’s role in negotiating a land use agreement is to ensure that the agreement spells out all of the land use issues involved in placing this encumbrance on UUCS. Many of these issues are listed in an addendum to the resolution to be voted on by the UUCS congregation on February 7.

The Board encourages you to learn and understand both sides of this proposed resolution. Read the resolution and the addendum and attend the information sessions on Wednesday evenings in January. Submit your questions or comments to either Christine Ertl, UUCS Board Chair, or Paul Wilson, HHV Board Chair,