Provo • Pleasant View neighborhood residents Thursday night gave the LDS Church’s plans for a high-rise at the Missionary Training Center mixed reviews.
"I think it is absolutely wonderful, and we should think about what it will accomplish," said Timothy Spencer of plans for a nine-story classroom building at the MTC.
But other residents want The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to find an alternative to putting in a nine-story building that will disrupt views of the mountains and the character of the northeast Provo neighborhood.
"If you put a skyscraper in the neighborhood, it is going to kill the view, and we’re going to have other skyscrapers in the neighborhood," said resident Todd Martin.
The church requested the meeting with the neighbors to discuss the matter and answer questions.
Richard Heaton, the MTC’s administrative director, said the nine-story building would replace five cramped classroom buildings that have antiquated plumbing and ventilation systems. The new building is expected to open in 2014, and would meet existing zoning restrictions on height.
Heaton assured the audience the church considered alternatives. He said it spent three years weighing a variety of options, from putting up a new building on land adjacent to the campus to building a new training center at the BYU-Idaho campus in Rexburg. Those options were rejected because they were either too expensive, limited growth of the Provo center or did not meet current needs.
Heaton said the building would be near the heart of the MTC campus. He showed a rendering that illustrated how it would affect views from various points in the neighborhood.
Heaton said the nine-story proposal was approved by the church’s governing First Presidency.
That made Martha Ballantyne question the reason for the meeting. "So this is all talk, it is a fait acompli," Ballantyne said.
Heaton said the church is interested in hearing residents’ concerns, and will weigh them.
Neighborhood chairman Paul Evans said he would be willing to lobby the council to make public comment a requirement for buildings that tall.
With the MTC proposal, the church only has to obtain permits because it complies with the zoning ordinance.
"We can ask for a change in the zoning ordinance and at least give the opportunity for a public comment before elected officials of Provo," Evans said.
Heaton said the church is willing to hear public comment, which is why it requested Thursday’s meeting with the neighborhood.
Neighborhood vice chairman Tom Schumann said the last time he saw such opposition to a church building for being too high was when he lived in Billings, Mont. There, he said, opponents to an LDS temple claimed the spire would block views on the nearby mountains.
He said it was surprising to see people who are devout Mormons make the same arguments against the church.
"We’re asked to give everything we have [for the church], but we can’t put up with traffic or losing a mountain view?" Schumann asked.
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