Neighborhood continues fight to prevent future plans for high-rise buildings

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MTC neighbors gathered at the Provo City Municipal Council meeting Tuesday night to amend ordinances that would prevent future plans for tall structures near their homes.

The opinions and backgrounds of those gathered at the meeting varied widely. It was not only Pleasant View residents in attendance; several members of other neighborhoods, like Tod Ferguson, came to voice concerns over the proposed MTC building.

“I think the entire process could be written up in a business law school about what not to do,” Ferguson said. “They really had all their ducks lined up before they gave any input to the neighbors, and I watched it and wondered why they just didn’t have a little more transparency in this situation.”

BYU was also represented at the meeting by Steve Sandberg, University Counsel. He was understanding but firm in his views of the standstill that had been going on for the past four months.

“BYU is committed to the public process of going forward, of talking through the PF zone,” Sandberg said. “What I don’t think is the appropriate way to do this is using the public process to hold hostage property rights that the MTC has the right to use.”

The council spent much of the meeting revising the current ordinance in place, trying to find an appropriate solution that would pass that night and could then be put before a team of interested individuals to finalize.

Provo Mayor John R. Curtis spoke, giving his opinion as to what he wished would come out of the meeting.

“My personal preference is that the community needs closure on this issue; it has been painful and the dialogue is not healthy anymore,” Curtis said. “We need to focus on the future.”

Curtis favored putting the issue of the MTC building aside. He wished to focus on an ordinance that would affect future construction, as well as one that would not hinder the progress of surrounding facilities like BYU.

The idea of putting a hold on all building permits for the next two weeks was discussed, and Sandberg was asked if this would negatively impact BYU’s current plans in any way.

“My understanding is that on BYU’s core campus, I’m not aware of any [building permits] that need to go through within the next month,” Sandberg said.

It was made clear that this moratorium on building permits would not in any way affect the MTC building, which would go on as planned.

Member of the council Rick Healey was working throughout the meeting to find a solution that would change the outcome of the proposed MTC building as well as prevent any future high-rise buildings from dotting the surrounding neighborhoods.

“Any time that I look out and see a building that is much taller than the ones around it, it looks out of sorts,” Healey said. “I propose that we amend the ordinance so that any building taller than five stories must receive a conditional use permit.”

Healey’s motion was seconded and supported by one other member of the council, but this was not enough to pass it through.

Some members of the council were worried that this type of legislative change would make it too difficult and time consuming for organizations like BYU’s campus to build new structures if they had to petition for a conditional use permit every time they wanted to construct a building over five stories, since it is not BYU’s core campus that is of concern to Provo neighborhoods.

Council member Gary Winterton acknowledged the strain that the past few months of negotiations have put on the parties involved. He, like Mayor Curtis, desired a change for the future and a forgiveness of the past.

“Sometimes beginnings are hard, and as I look at the changes that are going on in downtown Provo, things are changing and we have little ability to grow out; our only possibilities are to go up,” Winterton said. “I think we need to consider this. We definitely need to look forward and to the future of where Provo can go. We will not stay the same; we cannot stay the same.”

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