Updates from the Jacob’s Property Project Team
- Spring 2021 Land Project Updates
The UCU team continues to work diligently toward purchasing the field behind the church and planning for its development and preservation. In the summer of 2020, we voted as a congregation to pursue purchase of the 9-acre field with the intention to develop affordably priced homes on a portion of it and leave a few acres open for recreation and agriculture. We meet weekly along with staff from Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity to discuss next steps and move the project forward.
Our biggest endeavor in early 2021 has been to apply for a grant from the Vermont Community Development Program (VCDP). VCDP awards both planning and implementation grants for projects involving affordable housing. On April 16, after months of research, writing, and public engagement, we submitted our application for an initial planning grant. If received, these funds (up to $60,000) would be put to use to plan for development of affordable housing units in the field. The planning phase would yield answers to questions around road access, number and placement of lots and units, and the overall feasibility of pursuing this project.
Funding for VCDP grants must be awarded to towns or municipalities. Therefore, you may have seen us at the Selectboard on February 2 introducing the project, and again at a special hearing on April 8 to receive public comment and get Selectboard approval of our application to VCDP. This hearing was publicized in the Burlington Free Press, at the Town Hall and online through Front Porch Forum and the Town website. We extend our thanks and appreciation to the Selectboard for their approval and especially to former town zoning administrator, Andrew Strniste, for his efforts in helping us compile and enter the information into the application system. We wish Andrew the best in his new position with the City of Rutland.
We expect to hear about the grant at the end of June of 2021. If the award is approved, the United Church of Underhill would be a subgrantee to the Town of Underhill’s funding. We do not know how long it will take to do the engineering, environmental reviews, site planning, permitting and possibly Act 250 work, but the end goal remains to subdivide the property into building lots that can be sold to Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity for the construction of affordable homes, while keeping a few acres open for community recreation and/or agriculture.
To date, the United Church of Underhill has raised nearly $70,000 of its own funding toward this project. Fundraising helps keep the costs of the homes affordable. If you’d like to donate, you may do so online (Give > Give Now > see designated line for affordable housing) or by mail (PO Box 265, Underhill VT; memo line: “land”). 100% of your donation will go directly to this project.
We were grateful that many near neighbors turned out for an initial presentation held in late January to share background and thinking on this project. We know our mailing list at the time was not comprehensive. If you’re interested in receiving email updates when we have news to share, contact email@example.com. We’ll do our best to keep this page updated with the latest.
- Jacob’s Property Informational Meeting
At the 2020 annual meeting of the United Church of Underhill, a group was tasked with investigating the possible purchase of land behind the Church currently owned by Phil Jacobs. The group has evolved to include Dave Clift, Sandy Wilmot, Al Simard, Mark Stephenson, Dan Manz and Pastor Jen Mihok. The agreement at the annual meeting was for this working group to bring a recommendation back to the church body before making any commitments.
Over the next several weeks, this group will be sharing during worship and in written form some of the imaginings and possibilities that have come from our research and discernment. We will also hold an informational meeting after worship on August 2, and a formally warned meeting of the body on August 9 to vote on whether or not to pursue purchase of this property. Both of these meetings will occur at 11:15 immediately following worship at the same Zoom login.
Buying a piece of property is quite an undertaking, and we know there are a lot of questions. Why do this? Why now? With what funding? In our small group, we have come up with some preliminary answers to these questions, but the more important question is, is God calling us as a church—even at a time like this—to do a new, big thing?
Given priorities recently adopted by the church around social and environmental justice and community building, the small group sees some great missional possibilities. But the decision lies with all of us. Please tune into Sunday worship, Wednesday e-updates, and this webpage as we share more information. Then pray early and often that the good people of UCU might hear God’s voice amidst all our wonderings and move forward with confidence that we are stewarding God’s mission and our resources to the best of our abilities.
July 12 worship recording (View sermon at 14:55 and announcements at 35:00 for an introduction to our discernment thus far)
July 19 worship recording (View remarks from Dan Manz on this history of UCU’s ministry through property at 41:35)
July 26 worship recording (Remarks from Sandy Wilmot on why this project, why now – 43:07)