The Salem City Council may decide on Monday whether the public library temporarily moves into a church-owned building. It’s a controversial decision that’s gained attention in recent weeks, as some feel the move could impact the LGBTQ community.
Salem Public Library needs a home for at least 18 months while its original building gets seismic upgrades. City officials are suggesting it set up shop at a building owned by Salem Alliance Church.
The church’s beliefs, however, have led many to worry whether the LGBTQ community will be discouraged from visiting. Salem Reporter reported July 9 that the idea was called “deeply concerning” by the Salem Human Rights Commission.
Leaders from the church said they do not discriminate against the LGBTQ community. They said they do hold the belief that sex is reserved for marriage, and marriage is reserved for a man and a woman.
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Salem officials have said the city looked at 16 other buildings while weighing the potential costs of leases and repairs, how the buildings fit library needs, how they met community needs and how accessible they are.
Records posted ahead of the Monday meeting show the city considered properties like Saffron’s Supply, the former Nordstrom building, Liberty Plaza. Many were considered too expensive. Some had tenants under contract.
The 16,500-square-foot building is the former home of the Capital Press, an agriculture-centric newspaper owned by EO Media Group, which sold the building in March.
EDITOR’S NOTE: EO Media Group is a collaborator with Salem Reporter, along with the Portland Tribune, in covering the state Legislature.
Public comments submitted ahead of the meeting largely reject the idea, either because they feel it scorns the LGBTQ community or because they have reservations about giving taxpayer money to a church. A petition opposing the move was signed by 227 people.
Wren Heights on Salem Heights Avenue
A public hearing will be held against a proposal to dice 8 acres in south Salem into a housing subdivision.
Wren Heights, as it is called, would be a 34-home subdivision between the 500 and 600 blocks of Salem Heights Avenue S. Two people filed appeals in June.
Neighbors chiefly worried the development will add more traffic onto narrow streets nearby, according to the planning department’s 34-page decision to approve the project. The document said developers will be required to make some street improvements.
Neighbors also worried about developers cutting down a naturally wooded area, with nearly 130 trees, to build housing. Planners wrote that 54 trees will be preserved, a higher percentage than required by city code.
City staff are recommending council affirm the planning department’s approval.
Resiliency Task Force
Preparing for wildfires, algae blooms, earthquakes and other emergencies may be the job of a new task force.
Council will consider greenlighting a Resiliency Task Force, dedicated to improving “the preparedness of Salem residents and commuters into this city,” according to the staff report.
Mayor Chuck Bennett was the first to publicly propose the task force back in January during his State of the City speech.
The task force’s goal will be to devise plans to educate people in Salem about how to prepare for an emergency.
“What we’re after is a full-blown resiliency plan that gives us a manual on how to respond to a variety of community problems, whether it’s an earthquake or a fire or a flood or what,” Bennett told Salem Reporter on Friday. “What’s our plan?”
As mayor, Bennett would appoint the task force members. He said he has seen some names of suggested experts, but those names have not been disclosed yet.
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