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Temple should follow Heber City lighting code, councilmember says

Jun 19, 2023

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints plans to build its Heber Valley Temple on the south side of Center Street, which is in unincorporated county territory. But it's also right at the border line with Heber City. City engineer Russell Funk told the City Council Tuesday that creates a conundrum for Heber.

"There's not really anything in the works right now, where if there's a large project in the county that affects our road system and impacts our road system that we can collect impact fees for it," he said.

Funk presented a draft Memorandum of Understanding to the council which would clarify what the county, city and church would take responsibility for with regards to the project.

For instance, the church would give the city some property along Center Street to facilitate expansion of the road there. The church has also indicated it would be willing to foot the cost of a roundabout at the intersection of Center Street and the forthcoming Heritage Farms Parkway. That’s where the north entrance to the temple will be.

"The cost for the church to put that roundabout in is going to likely cost more than if we were to just charge them impact fees," he said.

But Funk said a recent traffic study found that the temple would add about 2,000 more car trips in Heber every day. And that would speed up the need for improvements at other intersections that could otherwise be years or even decades away. He suggested the council add impact fees for those other intersections to the MOU.

Trulan Preece, a representative for the Church, said the "concept" of that idea was fair.

"Do we want to be pay our fair share? Absolutely," he told the council. "But make sure you calculate it correctly."

The MOU draft also gives the Church responsibility for maintenance of its property behind the curb, and those improvements would have to follow county requirements. The city would take responsibility for roadway improvements, including the public storm drain system and the street lights.

Those street lights — two on the roundabout and another at the temple’s east entrance — would have to follow the city’s lighting code. All other lighting on the temple property would follow the controversial lighting ordinance recently passed by the county.

Councilmember Ryan Stack proposed a slight adjustment to the MOU on that point.

"I could be willing to agree to the MOU on the condition that the church agreed to accept and adopt the city's dark sky standards for its entire project site," he said.

Councilmember Mike Johnston countered that the MOU didn’t really give the city the leverage to make such a demand.

"I believe the city is asking for the MOU," he said. "I don't think this is a requirement. We're asking them to put all this stuff in and pay for it and maintain it."

But Stack said county code on uplighting was too permissive, and it was one of the concerns he’s been hearing from Heber City residents about the temple project.

"There’s a great deal of frustration amongst Heber City residents, feeling like they're not being heard by the county regarding the impact this particular project is going to have on their homes and their view and what the lighting is going to do," he said. "And so if this MOU is the only way that we as a city get to dip our toe in these particular waters, then I feel like I need to so at least folks in the city feel like they're being heard by somebody."

Councilmember Scott Phillips said he wasn’t inclined to "infringe" on the county’s code. But Councilmember Yvonne Barney said Stack’s idea was worth consideration.

The county's action on the temple "is going to impact the majority of Heber City residents," she said. "And I think that we need to be sensitive to that. I think we need to be careful and make sure that whatever we do on our end, we do it right."

Mayor Heidi Franco said the city should approach the county before adopting an MOU with such a stipulation. She said the city should also take time to study the county’s new code.

"I'm just not sure how to compare the apples and oranges right now, because we really haven't seen that yet," she said.

Preece encouraged that study of the county’s code, and said residents would be happy with the temple’s adherence to it.

"There will not be light that is bled into the sky," he said. "This will probably be the most dimly lit structure, temple structure that the church has ever built in the entire world."

The council voted to continue discussion of the MOU for a future meeting.