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New Mormon Missionary Training Center building plan upsets residents

Published May 16, 2012 12:04 pm

Height • Neighbors concerned about visual impact.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • Pleasant View neighborhood residents weren't satisfied after a presentation on plans for a nine-story building at the LDS Missionary Training Center.

"I wonder why [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] didn't contact the people before they hired the architects," said resident Kay Woodworth. "I feel tricked."

Woodworth was among 20 residents who crowded into the Provo City Council's study session for the presentation by Richard Heaton, the MTC's administrative director. The council did not accept public comments during the meeting.

The residents are planning to illustrate their concerns with balloons. R. Paul Evans, the neighborhood chairman, is distributing balloons on 160-foot strings for them to fly Saturday to demonstrate the planned building's visual impact.

Heaton said Tuesday that the new structure will replace the current Melvin J. Ballard classroom building and four other instructional buildings. He said the almost-40-year-old buildings have antiquated —and failing —heating and air-conditioning systems.

Upgrading the buildings would be too costly, Heaton said, and other options — expanding the MTC campus or shipping missionaries off to other training centers around the world — were not practical or would create additional problems.

But Woodworth and others argue that a nine-story building would destroy the character of their neighborhood. They complained that the building was now a "done deal" and violated an agreement the church had made in the 1970s that MTC buildings would be capped at four stories.

Heaton, though, said a review of the church's records found no evidence that such a promise was made.

Heaton, who also lives in the area, said he made sure residents' concerns were communicated to church leaders during the planning process. He said the church also asked for a neighborhood meeting in March to hear residents' concerns, and created a website to explain the project to neighbors.

The church has applied for a building permit for the structure and plans to start work in September. Heaton said the building will be completed in late 2014.

dmeyers@sltrib.com

Twitter: @donaldwmeyers