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Heber Valley temple lawsuit decisions postponed to May

An image of the proposed Heber Vallely Utah Temple was displayed at Saturday's ceremonial groundbreaking.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
An image of the proposed Heber Vallely Utah Temple was displayed at Saturday's ceremonial groundbreaking.

It will be another six weeks before any decisions are made in a lawsuit over the Heber Valley temple.

Judge Jennifer Mabey, of the Fourth District Court, heard arguments from three attorneys Tuesday, April 9, about a lawsuit over development plans for the Heber Valley temple. She said no decisions will be made in the case until late May.

First, some background: The Wasatch County Council approved plans Nov. 8 for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to build a temple on an 18-acre site on Center Street, just outside the Heber City limits. The temple is expected to be 88,000 square feet and will reach 200 feet at its tallest point.

A group of citizens from Red Ledges, the neighborhood across the street from the site of the future Heber Valley temple, filed a lawsuit shortly afterward, arguing it was illegal for the county to approve a legislative development agreement rather than ask the church to apply for a conditional use permit.

The land use dispute came up in court Tuesday afternoon for two key decisions: a motion to intervene and a motion to dismiss.

The church made a motion to join the case as a defendant in January. During Tuesday’s hearing, an attorney representing the church, Tanner Camp, told Mabey the church wants to represent its own interests in the case rather than leaving it in the county’s hands.

“Just because the interests right now are currently aligned, it does not mean that they’re coextensive,” he said.

As far as the motion to dismiss, deputy county attorney Jon Woodard argued the county council’s process was sufficient and the residents’ complaints are groundless.

“Taking it through public process, public hearings, public meetings, we’ve done exactly what the legislature asked us to do in making a legislative development agreement approval,” he told Mabey. “So I would encourage the court to not get into the controversial issues by finding that there is not standing in this case and avoiding the political disputes.”

But Robert Mansfield, the attorney for the Red Ledges residents, told the judge the question was whether the county broke the law in approving the development agreement.

“The cases are numerous where courts have reviewed whether a political body has or has not followed the law in granting its various approvals, regardless of how controversial the topic may or may not be,” he said. “But that is exactly the type of issue that a judicial body should review and not leave to the political process.”

After the attorneys answered Mabey’s questions, she declined to make immediate decisions about either motion Tuesday.

“I don’t believe I can rule from the bench on these motions,” she said. “I do need to take some time to consider the arguments, as well as the notes that I’ve taken today on the motion to dismiss, which necessarily then impacts the motion to intervene.”

Mabey said she plans to rule on both motions May 23 at 2 p.m.