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Status of Airport Road Lots at Lutheridge

Status of Airport Road Lots at Lutheridge

To: Friends, Supporters and Stakeholders of Lutheridge and NovusWay Ministries

From: Boyd ‘Bo’ Harris, Executive Director – NovusWay

Several weeks ago, at the direction of the Board of Trustees, Lutheridge residents were invited to an informational meeting in Efird Hall to share the news of the pending sale of 3 one-acre lots across from Walmart at the back entrance to Lutheridge. Since then, a number of questions have been raised by residents and Lutheridge advocates. The Board is grateful that, together with them, the deep passion for Lutheridge is so broadly shared – and it appreciates the spirit of constructive sentiment and concern.

Over the last 18 months as I have settled into my position as Executive Director, among other things the Board has studied and discussed how to best use the variety of resources to ensure and enhance the future of the NovusWay family of ministries. At its direction, in 2018 an Asset Assessment Task Force was created to explore ways to optimize the best use of land assets across the four NovusWay sites. In particular, the team was tasked with identifying the range of land options which might be exercised – but which would not diminish or jeopardize the enviable legacy of program ministry which the sites enjoy.

The potentials are innumerable and exciting. Exercising the stewardship with which it has been entrusted, over the coming years the Board will explore those which preserve the mission and vision of NovusWay. With ecology and care for the environment in mind, opportunities for conservation or mitigation banks may be explored – of a fashion similar to the conservancy trust established several years ago at Lutherock, within which lie several hundred acres of steep mountain slopes. Or, as with Trinity View in Arden, there may arise opportunities for joint venture land uses with partners whose missions are complementary to NovusWay. Or, within a site there may exist small or irregular parcels with negligible use or impact on the ministry, but which may offer greater return to the ministry if made commercially available.

As the task force presented its concluding report to the Board (which was received and endorsed with appreciation), an unsolicited offer arrived from a buyer for the three small lots on Airport Road. While the timing was almost eerie, the Board was grateful for the just-completed work and authorized the task team to explore the possibilities. Through negotiation and with a current appraisal in hand, the team was able to secure a fair price while also obtaining concessions to limit the types of businesses able to operate there, as well as restrict noise and light issues.

The decision to move forward was not easy; debate was thoughtful, impassioned, and respectful. But the Board takes seriously its obligation to the whole ministry, and how best to employ its resources so that the ministry thrives in the coming years. The Board (including all four Bishops) decided unanimously to move forward with the lot sales because the substantial benefits provide for upgrades to Lutheridge facilities, operating subsidies and scholarships (most of which are centered at Lutheridge), debt reduction, and growth in the endowment. Most importantly, it positions Lutheridge and NovusWay for continued growth and stability for the benefit of future generations. Those benefits far outweigh the real or perceived value of these three acres.

The Board feels blessed that through the hard work of staff and volunteers, the four camps are doing well and participation numbers are increasing. Solid plans are bearing fruit across all sites. But despite these recent positive signs, several years of deficits and deferred maintenance (exacerbated with the deep recession a decade ago) carry a cost which, if not addressed, will delay the forward progress of the ministry.

Across the church – within the ELCA and other traditions – recent decades have been difficult for outdoor ministries. Many have closed. Across the NovusWay southeastern landscape, finances of Synods have been stretched because of changing demographics. Synod support has fallen over this time from 15 percent of NovusWay total income to 0.5 percent.

Each and every member of the staff and Board, including the four Bishops who share a Board seat, take their responsibility to NovusWay seriously. Every member has demonstrated a multi-year (sometimes multi-generational) time and financial commitment to NovusWay. All are dedicated to its mission and vision – and to the hardworking team which makes it happen. Advancement of the ministry through wise and prudent stewardship of resources is central to the Board’s oversight.

The future of Lutheridge and all of NovusWay is bright. God’s blessings and the hard work of those who came before us have brought us to this place. We all look forward to the exciting changes the future will bring. If you have any questions, please reach out to me directly.

On a personal note, each meeting of the Board begins with a group recitation of its Behavioral Covenant. In my first meeting, I was moved by one clause in particular:

– we continue in prayer for our leaders: our synodical bishops, our Executive Director and staff, our officers and fellow board members, our committee members, and all stakeholders in the geographic area served.

They, and we as staff, covet your prayers as well. Thank you.