Dark Skies group gathers signatures to put Heber Valley temple plans to a vote
Citizen group Save Wasatch Back Dark Skies is working to get a referendum on the ballot to put the Heber Valley temple plans to a vote.
Inside the Wasatch County Library Thursday, a sign pointed the way to the room where dark skies advocates were collecting voter signatures.
Group members are logging hours across the county to get the word out about their referendum. They think voters, not the county council, should determine whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can build a temple on land just outside the Heber City limits.
Laurie Brown helped collect signatures this week. She’s been involved in the group for a year and a half.
“We want the citizens to be able to vote and decide whether that’s the right location for a temple, rather than Wasatch County having the entire say,” she said.
The group says the temple as planned will be too big, bright and tall for the location on Center Street. The county council approved an 88,000-square-foot building with a 200-foot steeple Nov. 8.
The petition needs 3,200 signatures for the referendum to make it onto November’s ballot. In the second week of collecting signatures, group members say they have several hundred, with more signing events planned.
Wasatch County urged citizens not to sign the petition in its statement in the information packet about the referendum.
“A referendum on this approval could result in unnecessary delays to a project that has already gone through a rigorous public approval process,” it wrote. “The council read and heard hundreds of public comments before making its decision.”
Dark Skies member Renée Waas disagrees.
“That is not okay,” she said. “A government entity cannot tell the voters of the county how to vote.”
A representative of the LDS church declined to comment on the referendum efforts.
While Dark Skies group members object to the current temple plans, many other Wasatch County residents say having the temple in the Heber Valley will make a difference in their practice of faith.
“It means everything to us,” Morris Tanner said at a public hearing this fall.
The Dark Skies group has until Jan. 25 to collect signatures from at least 16% of the county’s voters. Next, they say they hope to do more outreach to areas farther outside Heber City, like Wallsburg and Charleston.