Friday, October 12, 2012

LDS Church Abandons Proposal To Construct High-Rise Missionary Training Center In Provo, Utah

In a rather unexpected development, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced on October 12th, 2012 that it will not proceed with the construction of a new nine-story, 161-ft. tall Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah. This decision is surprising considering that the announcement of the lowering of age limits for missionary service means that more missionaries will be called, and more MTC space needed to accommodate them. For the time being, the existing MTC structures will be used, and any excess missionaries may be housed in BYU dorms during the spring or summer semesters; there are an average of 2,700 missionaries at the Provo MTC at any given time. Media stories published by the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News and the Provo Daily Herald. KSL news video embedded below:

LDS Church spokesman Michael Purdy issued the following statement:

"There has been a great deal of discussion regarding the Church's proposal to construct a new building at the Provo Missionary Training Center. Church leaders have determined that, due to a number of complexities and concerns, we will not move forward with the nine-story building originally proposed.

"Expansion of the MTC is necessary but we are confident we can find a solution that builds upon the long-standing working relationship between the MTC, BYU, and the community at large. We look forward to further discussions as the process moves forward."

Although the LDS Church has not announced any replacement scheme, it has not pulled its application to build. According to Provo Community Development Director Gary McGinn, the Church could amend the application and still be vested to build. But any new application would be subjected to a moratorium on the construction of buildings taller than five stories in a public facilities zone that is within 1,000 feet of the Pleasant View neighborhood passed by the municipal council back in September.

Provo Mayor John Curtis expressed his appreciation for the Church working hard to find a solution to a difficult situation, and says he looks forward to working with them as this unfolds. Neighborhood activist Paul Evans expressed his relief, saying "I think we can all look at this and think we're heading in the right direction. We look forward to working with the MTC and helping them meet their needs as growth and expansion occur."

The proposed project, first announced in March 2012, drew mixed reaction from the mostly-LDS residents in the neighborhood. While many were pleased with the proposed expansion, others complained about the possible negative impact upon property values due to the possibility that the structure would block views of the mountains. In July 2012, the discourse took a more controversial turn when a local stake president relayed an invitation from a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Russell M. Nelson, to support the Church's decision to build the facility. It was presented as an "invitation to support the decision of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles" to build the facility, after which neighborhood chairman Paul Evans, who promoted the idea of constructing two separate five-story buildings instead, abruptly reversed his opposition to the Church's proposal, in part because he is a BYU employee. After complaints surfaced about turning the MTC proposal into a "worthiness" issue, Stake President Chris Randall said that that to suggest that this was an attempt by Church leaders to exercise undue influence was without merit.

Perhaps the LDS Church will now consider Paul Evans' alternative idea of constructing two five-story buildings instead.

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