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LDS Church applies to change Wasatch County dark sky rules

An artist's rendering offers an early look at the Heber Valley temple.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
An artist's rendering offers an early look at the Heber Valley temple.

As part of the plan to build a temple near Heber City, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wants Wasatch County to relax its rules against light pollution.

The LDS Church is planning a new temple in the Heber Valley and wants to change Wasatch County’s outdoor lighting code so it can light it up.

LDS temples commonly shine bright exterior lights upwards. In November, according to records obtained by KPCW, the Church proposed an overhaul of Wasatch County code that regulates that in order to allow uplighting. The church is asking exterior lights be allowed to shine upward until 10 p.m., and be turned on again at 5:30 a.m.

Wasatch County Planning Director Doug Smith says the dark sky regulations, which began in 2002, mostly apply to streetlights and haven't been enforced in minor infractions such as garage lights. He says the ban on upward lights hasn’t come up much in building applications.

The Church hasn’t submitted a building application with specific details about the project on its 18-acre lot east of the city boundary. So far it’s announced only that the temple will be three stories tall with 88,000 square feet of space.

Core Architecture sent a letter to the county council on behalf of the LDS Church with a proposed new law attached. The firm’s letter says the changes would provide “an objective framework” for the county’s lighting rules. It argues the changes would still set limits on light pollution hours and standardize which types of lights are allowed.

A representative for the LDS Church told KPCW he couldn’t prepare a statement in time for this report but would consider releasing more information to the public soon. The author of the letter from Core Architecture didn't respond to KPCW's request for comment in time for this story.

Amending the code requires approval by the county council. Before that, the planning commission will have a chance to review the church’s request, but it’s not scheduled in a meeting yet.

According to Smith, the county planning department didn’t agree with some of the changes the Church wants. The county has hired a consultant to work with the Church to find middle ground before the planning commission and council review.

This is a developing story. KPCW will continue to provide updates as they become available.

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