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Wasatch County to hold public meetings on LDS Church’s request to change lighting code

[FILE] Some LDS Temples, such as the one in Salt Lake City, shine lights upward on their walls. That practice, known as "uplighting," is at the center of a request the church made to change Wasatch County's outdoor lighting code.
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[FILE] Some LDS Temples, such as in Salt Lake City, shine lights upward on their walls. That design, known as uplighting, is at the center of a request the church made to change Wasatch County's outdoor lighting code.

After the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints requested Wasatch County change its lighting code for a new temple, the county planning commission has crafted potential new lighting rules that differ from what the church wanted.

Wasatch County recently announced two meetings that could provide much anticipated answers to questions about the LDS Church’s plans for a new temple. In November, the church requested to change county outdoor lighting code to allow upward-shining lights on buildings.

The meetings are set for March 30 and April 5; the first is a planning commission meeting and the second is a county council meeting. At those meetings, the county will present updates to its lighting code. Those updates will not match what the church originally asked for, according to County Manager Dustin Grabau.

This comes after residents expressed concerns about the church requesting code changes for outdoor building lighting.

The church first announced the temple in 2021 and held a groundbreaking ceremony last October.

Grabau said his office hasn’t received a site plan or building application yet.

Locals, especially those living in the Red Ledges community, protested lighting code changes due to potential light pollution.

County Planning Director Doug Smith told KPCW his office also had concerns about the amendment request the church filed. The church asked to pause the application process and said it would return later with an update.

The county then hired a dark skies specialist to help revise the church’s amendment. Since then, Smith and Grabau said county staff have worked with the dark skies expert and church officials on a revised amendment.

Grabau told KPCW church officials will participate in presentations to the public. However, the new regulations the planning commission and council will consider differ from the church’s original request.

“I think what you'll see is that the code amendment that is being proposed by [county] staff is quite a bit different than what was originally submitted for, overall," Grabau said. "As we've made changes to it, the council has always consistently gone the direction of what is going to be the best practices for the county as a whole, not just how it relates to this specific project.”

Grabau declined to provide specific details of the new version that haven’t been made public yet, but said in general they relate to levels of brightness, along with reflection and warmth considerations.

On March 30, the planning commission will hold a public hearing and review the code amendment application. The commission could also send a recommendation to the county council.

After that, the county council will hold another public hearing April 5. Grabau said the council will likely vote on whether to approve changes at that meeting.

He said the county is interested in changing outdoor lighting rules because current code is outdated.

“There will be a number of considerable changes from our existing code, which is not compliant with the International Dark Sky Alliance’s standards," Grabau said. "It may have some flexibility in that there are International Dark Sky Alliance recommendations that do allow for uplighting, but overall, it would be more restrictive in that we would have a better ability to restrict the amount of light produced by a given project.”

Grabau said the county will also consider policies of neighboring counties with more up-to-date codes.

Besides the lighting code, the church has more administrative hurdles to clear before it can start building.

The proposed temple location is just outside the eastern boundary of Heber City at 1400 East Center Street. That’s in Wasatch County’s Residential Agriculture-1 (RA-1) zone, where a religious structure is included as an approved permitted use.

But according to Smith, the project will need a conditional use permit because the plans are too tall for existing code.

In the RA-1 zone, the standard maximum height for a building is 35 feet. According to architect Curtis Miner, the planned height of the main building is 85 feet, with two steeples reaching 196 feet and 136 feet high.

Smith said the process for getting a conditional use permit involves a public hearing. That will happen at some point in the future.

The public meetings with the planning commission on March 30 and county council on April 5 will take place at the Wasatch County Senior Citizens Center at 465 East 1200 South in Heber City.

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