Heber City Council member suggests broader view of plans for Heber Valley Temple

The proposed site of the Heber Valley LDS temple, on East Center Street in Heber City. It would be an 88,000-square-foot building on an 18-acre lot, rise to 196 feet and be illuminated at night.
David Jackson/Park Record

Deep emotion leaked into Heber City Councilor Scott Phillips’ voice Tuesday as he addressed a roomful of critics voicing concerns with the Heber Valley Temple project.

Though The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ building is planned to be built primarily in Wasatch County, parts fall into the jurisdiction of Heber City, which prompted the municipality’s engineering director, Ryan Funk, to seek a memorandum of understanding among the county, the church and the city.

The council passed the agreement Tuesday evening in a 3-2 vote.

Though the document itself establishes boundaries and responsibilities in infrastructure improvements the temple will necessitate, several community members and Heber City Council members saw the MOU discussion as an opportunity to raise concerns with the temple project at large. Comments given both during the public hearing and as the council began considering the project’s water displacement, light use and traffic impacts.

While Funk said several of the concerns brought up should be further explored, he argued those conversations should not be centered around the MOU.

After one council member made a motion regarding the MOU, Phillips took a moment to put the situation in a larger context — a frame of decades of development within Wasatch County and more specifically within the vicinity of the site of the temple project.

At one point, their houses were what the surrounding community so emphatically protested, he said.

The council had received numerous letters from residents of Red Ledges with concerns over the development of the temple, he said, but 20 years ago, the council received numerous letters from residents of Heber City with concerns over the development of Red Ledges, a subdivision that sits on the terrain to the east of Heber City and across the road from the temple site.

“You may have your truth, but there may be another truth,” he said. “The development right next to where the temple’s been proposed — Triple Crown — almost every single one of those homes has a sump pump pumping water out of their subfloor, their basement constantly year-round. The temple’s not going to be treated differently than those homes. We know there’s water there, we’ve known that for years. It’s not a new issue. The dark skies — the proposed lighting ordinance doesn’t allow any escapage of light to the sky.”

He compared what was being said about the temple now to what was being said about the subdivisions many temple project complainants now call home.

“One of these letters that I was reading, it was from a Red Ledges resident,” he said. “If I took the temple out of that letter and inserted Red Ledges in 2007, it would have been the same letter. ‘Our viewsheds are going to be destroyed. Our water’s going to be destroyed.’ You know, all of these things — it’s the same letter from 2007.”

The main complaint, he added, is that the temple would be “closed to most of the public.”

So is Red Ledges, he said, built on a site where the broader community once enjoyed camping and hunting.

And while the temple is predicted to add as much traffic to the area as 200 homes, he said, Red Ledges is currently set to add 800 more homes.  

Addressing the group’s specific concerns about threats to dark skies, he asked them why they’ve picked the temple project as a hill to die on.

“MIDA is going to blow that all to kingdom come,” he said, referring to the Military Installation Development Authority and its involvement in the development of a mass resort and base ski village in Wasatch County. “I don’t know why you guys aren’t fighting MIDA on their regulations, because they don’t fall under the county, even the county lighting ordinance.”

The complaints he was hearing, he said, are largely centered in a not-in-my-backyard mentality.

Even if the temple wasn’t going in the objecting crowd’s neighborhood, he said it would go in a different neighborhood with a different group of troubled residents.

“We’ve had to make some really hard decisions as a council,” he said. “People expect me to be an expert on everything. I’m just trying to do what the community needs and deserves.”

Speaking with The Park Record after the meeting, he mentioned he also lives in Red Ledges, and many of the people at the meeting are his neighbors.

He just wanted them to keep a broader perspective. In his eyes, yesterday’s builders and developers are protesting today’s builders and developers.


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