We’re not ready–UUCS needs future plans before we consider any proposal.

Homelessness is a huge problem in the Salem area and in our country. HHV is to be lauded for its efforts to create solutions to alleviate the suffering of people without homes. To that end, HHV has proposed a Farm House which they would site on UUCS property.

As UUCS did in the past, our congregation has a “duty of care” to use resources wisely as we create a path for UUCS’s future. A Yes/No vote regarding the HHV Farm House project is premature because UUCS has yet to do the groundwork to support an undertaking of this magnitude.

How can we choose wisely when we lack consensus about our Social Justice’s and Facilities’ future purposes, directions, goals? How can we consider a proposal with permanent and long lasting ramifications before we examine pros, cons and options? Is the HHV Farm House the highest and best use for our site?

The 2018 UUCS Strategic Plan recommends that Social Justice in Action “Create and implement a Social Justice Program Strategic Plan” and that Facilities create a “Facility Strategic Plan that encompasses Facility Use(s) and Facility Management”. These plans could give us a framework for our discussions about the HHV plan and inform decisions as to whether it or not it fits into our future.

We need to say NO (at least for now) to the current HHV proposal because UUCS lacks the comprehensive insight that congregational discussion and long term planning could provide to help us credibly say yes or no. Think of the HHV project as a “cosmic boot” to actively create foundation plans for UUCS’s future and then weigh their proposal.

Joan Stembridge, in her HHV Proposal opinion piece, highlighted concerns which I believe have merit. Additionally, here are examples of other issues to consider:

1. Is it possible for UUCS to use that site to generate income for the congregation by building a duplex or townhouse for families without homes, which could be master leased to a non-profit agency to handle renting, maintenance, etc. UUCS could potentially/eventually have an income stream to move us closer to reducing our dependence on pledge income to further our vision and goals—a large undertaking that is worth exploring.

2. Is the proposed HHV plan sited to best utilize the land? Would it be possible to have both an HHV Farm House and a rental use?

3. Carefully review the Farm House as proposed for its suitability should it revert back to UUCS. HHV’s current plan for reconfiguring the building seems less than optimal. What will be the costs of a reversion back, which costs would be covered by HHV? Will HHV have money set aside to cover them?

4. What are the planned materials and finishes, landscaping? Is the proposed building congruent in style, etc. with our current facility?

5. The current Farm House plan’s main entry is directly into the kitchen with traffic flow through the kitchen. Is it possible to reconfigure so there could be an entry area, a “living room/gathering area”, double sinks in the restrooms (five women, only two sinks???), etc.