A Feb. 11th hearing hosted by the Snyderville Planning Commission, on the proposed expansion of the Mountain Life Church in Silver Creek, brought out a crowd that filled the room and supported the project.
The Planning Commission didn’t make a decision, putting off the item to get more details on some of their concerns. But the planning panel did not raise any major objections to the proposal.
The public hearing brought out over 80 people. A dozen speakers stepped up to the podium, virtually all of them in favor of the plan, which calls for increasing the church size to over 44,100 square feet.
The existing church is located on an 11-acre parcel. The Church has acquired an adjacent property of some 29 acres, in order to expand its parking to about 350 spaces.
The planner representing Mountain Life, Wade Budge, said the aim of the proposal is to “right-size” the church to accommodate growing demand.
Executive Pastor Steve White, said they have three goals—to provide flexibility for a growing number of users; to safely accommodate the parking; and to be sensitive to the environment.
“We’re already compromised in the ability to offer support groups, in the ability to meet the needs of our youth. We’re shuffling rooms around and groups around and turning down opportunities simply because of our own space limitations.”
Several members of the congregation said that Mountain Life is a welcoming community.
Jared White, a student leader and worship leader, said the expansion will be great for them.
“Inviting people into a presence where they can focus on something that is greater than themselves. My sweatshirt is “God is greater than the highs and the lows.” Having that environment. And the expansion will allow us in the kids ministry to have more space for kids, have more classrooms as worship, to have more modernized and contemporary worship, which draws more people in. As a Latino ministry to have its own individual space, to have a Sunday morning service instead of something drawn away on a different night. As a student ministry, to have its own space, for the students and youth to come together themselves away from their parents, because nobody likes sitting next to their parents in a church service.”
Ruben Navarette, the Church’s Latino Ministry Pastor, said he’s from Venezuela and had ministered many years in Tucson. He said he’s proof of Mountain Life’s affection for the Latino community.
“Who is taking care of them, beside giving food, free food, free clothing, free medicine and medical care. That’s very important and beautiful. But who is taking care of them, about hope, about love, about future, about having a family, more than having food. Mountain Life want to tell them, “We are a family for you”. I’m here. Ruben Navarette is here. Sixty years old. Having a new challenge in my life with my wife. She’s here. I am so thrilled to be here to help my people, to help Latino people, to be part of the Mountain Life church. But we need the space.”
However, one neighbor, Larry Finch, said the Church is commendable in many ways, but he opposes the project. He said it’s changed from a neighborhood gathering place to a regional church. Finch said the proposed parking lot is the same size as Smith’s at Kimball Junction.
Finch said if the project has to happen, it should be mitigated in several ways. He proposed limiting construction hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Finch also proposed more of a visual buffer.
“We’d like to see some shrub willows planted along the border to Silver Creek Road and the adjacent properties, to buffer both the visual impact and the lighting impact. Mountain Life’s done a great job with their landscaping over there. It’s a beautiful building. Landscaping’s grown up. But it’d be nice to see that, particularly along the borders of that parking lot.”
In response, the applicants said that Mountain Life, in terms of parking or lighting, isn’t the same as a grocery store open 24-7. They said it’s use will consist of Sunday meetings, plus some other special events.
Planning staff was also concerned that the expanded parking intrudes on open space designated in Mountain Life’s original approval 20 years ago. But Wade Budge said they’re only seeking 12 additional stalls on an area where a septic tank is located.
Finch had also suggested that the plan should be processed at the same time as the county’s choice of a new Silver Creek connector route, called Church Street, which runs along the southern edge of the Mountain Life property. Dave Morse, from the Church’s building committee, said they are willing to work with the county, but the projects are separate issues.
Snyderville Chairwoman Malena Stevens said before voting on approval, they want to finalize more details on construction mitigation, lighting and the amount of paving on the property.