In October the Union Gospel Mission, Salem’s primary men’s homeless shelter, announced its intent to leave its current site at 345 Commercial St. NE and move north about one half mile to the east half of the 700-800 block of Commercial St. NE where it operates its retail store. In conjunction with the relocation Salem’s Urban Renewal Agency announced that it would purchase the old site and surrounding properties. The purchase for approximately $3.5 million ($1.5 million being ticketed for UGM) would help finance UGM’s relocation and also allow the City to oversee the redevelopment of the old location.

UGM has recently taken the first step to accomplish the move. In November it filed a consolidated application for a Zone Change and Conditional Use Permit at the new site. The Zone change from CO to CB is to benefit the existing retail store and make it a permitted conforming use thereby giving UGM the right to expand in the future. The Conditional Use Permit is to allow the relocation of the existing nonprofit shelter with an expanded capacity to serve approximately 300 persons, double the capacity at the existing site. The Conditional Use Permit is clearly crucial to the success of the project; without it the shelter cannot relocate to the new site.

A hearing occurred on December 20th before James K. Brewer, the designated Hearing Officer. At the hearing the proponent presented its case supported by the City Staff Report. Only two opponents appeared: Rick Yurk an adjacent property owner, and Dave Glennie, representing property owners located near Broadway and Belmont Sts. Both men testified and submitted letters. The hearing ended and the record was left open for further evidence and rebuttal. During the open record period proponents submitted 11 letters and opponents six items including one detailed legal analysis by counsel for Mr. Glennie.

The Hearing Officer released his opinion February 9th. At the start of the opinion he stated that the case was a land use decision and was limited to determining whether the application met the relevant criteria set in the governing regulatory provisions. He emphasized  that he took “evidence and arguments about the need for the services, the relative desirability of one method of providing services over another and the concerns about improper behavior and its impact on neighboring properties only in the context of the approval criteria.” Given those comments the Hearing Officer approved both requests subject to certain conditions. Opponent Glennie filed a timely appeal and the case will be reviewed by the Council  in the normal course of events, usually six weeks to two months.