Monday, January 21, 2008

Stuff We Learn in Church

Sunday the Social Action Committee showed The Story of Stuff, a documentary about the consumer/waste stream. If you missed it you can catch the full video on the website (though that requires a certain amount of stuff -- recent vintage computer, broadband connection, etc.) Alternatively, you can find it chopped up and posted on YouTube (again, stuff required.) Below is the first segment:

As acknowledged in the sardonic parentheticals above, moderating one's consumption of stuff is tricky business. Me, I love my stuff. That stuff I don't love I'd like to replace with better stuff. The Story of Stuff unblinkingly calls out us stuff lovers, especially we whose religious principles call on us to take care of the planet.

Here are a couple of ideas for those of you looking for further inspiration. Colin Beaven set out to reduce his family's environmental footprint to zero and became No Impact Man. The experiment is over, but you can read the experience and his continuing adventures on his blog. Dave Chameides is undertaking something similar this year -- a year of throwing nothing away to learn about his place in the waste stream. Closer to home, Akron-based Terra writes a blog on environmental news and tips.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Half of Guarding Religious Liberty Is Showing Up.

This evening Rev. Mary and Susan Davis sent out an email alert. The Richfield Village Board of Zoning Appeals was hearing an appeal regarding the proposed Sree Venkateswara Hindu temple. The proposed temple on Brecksville Road just off 77 has generated considerable controversy among some residents of Richfield. They claim it will generate traffic, noise and "the influx of strangers into the residential neighborhood." Stop me if you've heard this before.

Last month the Richfield Planning and Zoning Commission granted the temple a preliminary permit. Temple developers are working on tweaking the plans to ultimately get what's called a conditional use permit that would allow them to proceed with construction. Our congregation has been following the issue through our involvement with the Akron Area Interfaith Council, with special interest, given our own history with zoning and church construction.

We learned tonight that a group of residents styling themselves Concerned Richfield Homeowners is seeking to overturn the decision of the PZC. They simultaneously filed appeals with the Court of Common Pleas and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

That set up tonight's hearing. Happily, on a couple of hours noticed, between 12 and 15 members of UUCA showed up to offer support. Even more happily, our support was not necessary. The BZA dismissed the appeal based on an opinion of their law director that they do not have jurisdiction. Instead, the proper route to appeal the decision of the PZC is to the Court of Common Pleas, which the unhappy homeowners have done.

It should be noted that the issues are different in this case than in our case. In our case we had a nonconforming use -- that is our church is not a use permitted under the current zoning code, but was permissible at the time it was built. Expanding a nonconforming use is always a contentious issue and offers opportunities for decision makers to make judgement calls. Not so the Temple's case. As I read the accounts, it appears they are in conformance with the zoning code, so the only question is whether the Commission can put reasonable conditions on (things like landscaping and drainage) to ensure the facility doesn't disrupt surrounding properties.

What absolutely is not at issue, at least at this point, is any constitutional question. The court first has to decide if the Temple fits into the zoning scheme. If it does, the case is done and construction proceeds. If not, then the Temple may raise some Constitutional questions.

But I digress into legalisms. The big story here is our little church doing our part to ensure that everyone has freedom to worship as they see fit. It was a night well spent.