A BYU faculty member who serves as chair of Provo’s Pleasant View neighborhood has withdrawn his opposition to the construction of a new nine-story building at the MTC.
R. Paul Evans, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular biology in the College of Life Sciences, told the Universe in an interview Monday that he decided to step away from the group raising concerns about the MTC plan after a June 25 meeting. Evans met with Chris Randall, the president of the Sharon East Stake in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“If it becomes an ecclesiastical issue, and I receive direction from my ecclesiastical leader on what’s needed for the kingdom of God, I’m all over that,” Evans said. “But if not, I’m going to push these issues that impact the neighborhood and have a cumulative impact. These become city issues.”
The Pleasant View neighborhood is surrounded by BYU property on three sides and shares an extensive border with the MTC. As neighborhood chair, Evans previously spearheaded the effort to publicly discuss with the Church of Jesus Christ possible alternatives to the MTC’s building plans.
On July 3 Evans wrote a letter to Gary McGinn, Provo City director of community development, explaining his position change. The Universe obtained a copy of the emailed letter Monday through a request under Utah’s Government Records Access Management Act.
“I received an invitation from a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ecclesiastical leader relayed from a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” Evans wrote to McGinn. “The invitation was to support the decision of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to build a nine-story building at the Provo Missionary Training Center.”
Interviewed in his office in the Widtsoe Building Monday afternoon, Evans recounted his response to Randall, his stake president.
“President, I accept that invitation,” Evans said. “I’m out. I will not stand in the way of the nine-story building in any way.”
Evans explained that once the Church made the clear distinction that the new building was an ecclesiastical priority and no longer merely a civic issue, he would now sustain his religious leaders’ decision. The new direction had been relayed to Randall by Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy, Evans said.
When the new building was initially announced in February, Church leaders told Pleasant View residents that their concerns were strictly a city zoning/building matter. Because of that, Evans said he decided to push forward in securing a public meeting to discuss the issue and create mechanisms to voice public opinion.
Eighty percent of people in the neighborhood, including Evans, signed a petition asking for an alternative, Evans said.
“The biggest issue with a nine-story building is the unexpected size,” Evans said. “It is unexpectedly larger than anything that was ever anticipated at the MTC. It’ll be the same size as Kimball Tower. In fact it will be wider than it is tall.”
Some residents believed that because other buildings at the MTC would be torn down to make way for the new building, the change was merely a remodel and not necessary for growth, Evans said.
Evans said several times in the past few years, neighborhood residents have raised concerns with BYU in order to identify solutions to problems. Those issues have involved traffic flow around the MTC, and residents’ suggestions have been incorporated to the mutual benefit of the neighborhood and the MTC, Evans said.
Evans said he still is serving as the neighborhood chair and he loves what he does. Other residents in the neighborhood, however, may continue to press for a change to the Provo City zoning ordinance that currently allows BYU and the MTC to alter or construct buildings without a public hearing.