News Story

Plaza Agreement Process Spelled Out

SALT LAKE CITY —; Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reviewed key elements of the debate over the new Church Plaza, formerly a part of Main Street, in meetings this past week with editorial boards of Salt Lake City’s two daily newspapers.

In those meetings with editors and reporters of the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News, Bishop H. David Burton, presiding bishop of the Church, and Elder Lance B. Wickman, Church general counsel and a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, invited questions on all aspects of the plaza.

Included in the discussions was a review of the negotiations between City and Church representatives that led up to the April 1999 approval by the City Council to sell the plaza land to the Church. Questions about the legal interpretation of the easement and the so-called "severability" and "reverter" clauses were also discussed at length.

The Church has said repeatedly that the proposal to build a new plaza on the one-block segment of Main Street between North and South Temple Streets received intense public scrutiny over more than four months in 1998-1999. It has described some press reports that asserted otherwise at the time, and which led to considerable public confusion over the issue, as misleading and mischievous.

Throughout the public review process, Church representatives consistently communicated to city leaders, city attorneys, city planners and community groups that since the land was being sold to the Church it would be private property similar in character to the adjoining Temple Square and Church administration block.

Detailed questions about access and passage were not raised until late in the process because everyone regarded the transaction as a simple sale that would transfer all the usual property ownership rights.

When specific issues relating to public behavior were first raised in the Planning Commission, discussions then followed about how the intentions of both the City and the Church could be met. Contrary to assertions that there was some kind of backroom deal, the transcripts of the Planning Commission and the City Council show that the issues were clearly discussed before both bodies. Members of the City Council, as the elected representatives of the people of Salt lake City, knew exactly what they were voting for when they approved the sale in an open meeting on 13 April 1999.

Planning Commission recommendations to the City Council are non-binding. The Council has the authority to set aside a recommendation with which it does not agree.

Today (Sunday, 24 November), the Church is putting relevant excerpts from the transcripts of these public meetings on its Web site so those interested can study the issue in context.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.