Provo council rejects plan to curb Mormon missionary building
Provo • Residents living near the Mormon Missionary Training Center (MTC) didn't get what they wanted Tuesday.
The Municipal Council voted 4-3 to reject their proposal to require a conditional use permit for high-rise structures at places such as the training center, where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is proposing to build a nine-story classroom building. But the council did agree to review the public facilities zone ordinance to address future controversies.
Council Vice Chairman Gary Winterton, who made the motion, also called for the LDS Church and Brigham Young University to meet with the residents to try to alleviate their concerns.
"I don't see how we can stop this building from going forward," Winterton said.
That did not sit well with the residents of Provo's Pleasant View neighborhood, who said the proposed Melvin J. Ballard building will destroy the character of their neighborhood.
"This council had a real solution in front of them, and they didn't take it," said R. Paul Evans, the neighborhood chairman who initially proposed the ordinance change.
Currently, buildings in the public facilities zone which includes the MTC, BYU and Utah Valley Regional Medical Center can be taller than 35 feet as long as they are set back from residential zones 2 feet for each additional foot of height.
The proposed ordinance would have eliminated the setback requirement and forced those seeking taller buildings to get a conditional-use permit and submit to a public hearing on their proposal.
The Planning Commission recommended rejecting the ordinance, but revising the public facilities zone.
Community Development Director Gary McGinn said the ordinance would have allowed high-rise buildings right next to residential zones, and the conditional-use permit wouldn't stop it as long as there were no health, safety or welfare concerns. Blocking views and lowering property values, the residents' main beefs with the MTC project, would not be grounds for denying a conditional-use permit, McGinn and Council Attorney Brian Jones said.
Lorie Johnson, a resident who assumed sponsorship of the ordinance after Evans backed down when he said an LDS Church official told him and other residents they had to support the MTC plan, said the church is reneging on a past commitment to limit buildings to four stories at the training center.
LDS Church representatives have said in the past that there was no record that anyone made that commitment.
Councilman Hal Miller said the problem was not with the application, but with the city for not fixing the ordinance in the past.