HEBER, Utah (ABC4) – Heber Valley community members packed the Wasatch Senior Center auditorium last night, Oct. 26, many standing in doorways and even more packing the lobby. Some residents held signs saying “Too Big! Too Bright!” and “DARK SKIES MATTER.” They were all there to voice their opinions and find out the fate of the Heber Valley Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
While no decision was made at last night’s meeting residents still had plenty to say on the issue.
One resident said he wasn’t there in opposition to the temple but to the location. Don Barski cited traffic concerns as well as concerns that many residents in the area were concerned about the loss of their view of the surrounding mountains if the temple was allowed to be constructed across from their neighborhood.
“My position is there is plenty of land here in Heber,” said Barski. “If the LDS church wants to be a good neighbor, and they usually are, then with this type of opposition why not move it to another location, that is more acceptable, and we don’t have this much resistance?”
A group of residents called Save Wasatch Back Dark Skies, the largest, collective, group in opposition to the temple, provided a statement saying, “The development agreement conveniently ignores the fact that this objective’s focus is on the development of recreational opportunities that will enhance the quality of life in Wasatch County.”
Following a recommendation from the local planning commission the Council has called for a second hearing scheduled for Nov. 8.
Church leaders announced the temple in October 2021 and broke ground one year later on a 17.9-acre lot on Center Street in Heber City. The temple will be the 28th temple in Utah.
In April of this year, the Church along with the Wasatch County Council met to establish an agreement on the county’s outdoor lighting regulations. The Church sought amendments to the regulations by submitting applications with a new code that provided “guidelines based on industry standards and encourage[s] quality lighting.”
At the time the community appeared split on the decision of the 88,000-square-foot edifice being built – the most outspoken group being Save Wasatch Back Dark Skies.
The Church and county finally reached an agreement allowing for changes in the lighting regulations, however, residents still seemed split on the decision and Wasatch County Council met again last night to hear residents on both sides of the argument.
One resident interviewed by ABC4 says he feels like the county has done a great job being cautious and careful in the research and studies performed on the project but feels the Church has done everything asked and should be allowed to proceed.
“I think it has now come to the point where if they don’t move forward, the property rights of the applicant, or in this case the church, are going to be infringed upon,” Travis Wilcox said. “I think that is a dangerous precedent to set and I think they have the right to build the building. They have complied with all of the ordinances they should be allowed to build the building.”