Friday, August 31, 2012

The Council's Role in the MTC Height Issue

Next Tuesday night the City Council will hold a public hearing on a citizen-initiated proposed change to the Public Facilities (PF) zone and may make a decision on it. Some people have been calling this the Missionary Training Center (MTC) issue, but no matter what the Council decides, this will not likely affect the MTC. Before it can be said why this is the case, there's a bit of background that is needed:

The MTC Application
  • Last Spring, the MTC made an application to add a nine-story building to its campus, which is located in the PF zone. 
  • The current PF zone standards requires buildings over 35 feet to be two feet away from residences for every one foot of height (see figure 1). This is the standard that applies to the MTC nine-story addition. 

Figure 1 - Current PF Zone Rule (Scenario) - Click to Enlarge

Citizen Proposal
After the MTC application, a citizen initiated a proposal to change the PF zone rules. The proposal: 
  • requires buildings over two stories or 35 feet to get a conditional use permit from the City. 
  • allows tall buildings to be closer to residences (see figure 2).
  • makes the change in all PF zones across the City (see City zoning map).

Figure 2 - Proposed PF Zone Rule (Scenario) - Click to Enlarge

Planning Commission Recommendation
The Planning Commission doesn’t decide on this matter but recommends that the City Council deny the citizen-initiated proposal. 

If the City Council Approves the Citizen Proposal As Written, What is the Impact on the MTC Nine-Story Building?
There is no impact because the MTC’s application was made before the citizen-initiated proposal. The law protects applications from subsequent changes to the law. In other words, the application is grandfathered.

What Would Happen if the Proposed Amendment As Written Did Apply to the MTC’s Nine-Story Building?
The only effect would be that the MTC would be required to get a Conditional Use Permit.

Wouldn't a Conditional Use Permit Allow the City to Stop the MTC’s Nine-Story Building Proposal?
No.  Under the law, conditional uses are presumed to be allowed.  The burden is on those against the proposal to show that a nine-story building would:
  • cause unreasonable risks to safety because of traffic, parking, large gatherings, or other causes;
  • creates a need for essential municipal services which cannot be met;
  • unreasonably interfere with the lawful use of surrounding property.
What About My Property Value or View?
Under the law, a decrease in property values or the blocking of a property’s view is not a reason that the City can deny a conditional use permit. 

How can I make my opinion known to the City Council?

Come to the Public Hearing and Speak
The public hearing will be held on Tuesday, September 4. The meeting begins at 5:30pm but this is the 10th item under Council consideration. If you would like to speak at the public hearing, it is suggested that you arrive no later than 7:00pm.

You may email Council Members directly. Their email addresses may be found at You may also email the Staff Coordinator at

You may submit your comments in writing by mailing them to PO Box 1849, Provo, UT 84603 or deliver them by hand to the Council Office at 351 West Center Street, Provo. 

Additional Information:

Friday, August 24, 2012

Council Meeting Schedule Changes

At their August 21 meeting, the Provo Municipal Council approved an ordinance (4:1) that moves the start time of their regular meetings Council Meetings from 7:00 pm to 5:30 pm (held on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays). The approval also eliminated the need for the Council to hear issues twice (once at an afternoon study meeting and then again at the regular evening meeting). The change will go into effect at the September 4, 2012 Council Meeting. 

Council Members stated various reasons why they supported the changes, including:

For most issues, the sparsely attended afternoon study meeting proved to be redundant and doesn't allow the public to be present for the presentations and discussions that are held there. 

Moving all the issues that are up for consideration to the evening meeting will increase government transparency by allowing the public an enhanced opportunity to hear all the facts, speak during public hearings and hear the subsequent Council debate.

Timing of Agenda Topics
As more items will be discussed in the evening meeting, the earlier start time will help the Council to retain a reasonable end time to their meetings. General information presentations will be held first with public hearings placed later on the agenda so that more individuals may participate in the discussion. 

The changes should reduce the number of hours that City staffers are required to attend meetings (some of whom are on hourly wages), thereby increasing efficiency and saving taxpayer money. 

The Council will retain the ability to continue issues to future meetings if they believe it is in the best interest of the City. 

Council Chair Laura Cabanilla stated that, “so many times the Council has heard an issue three or four times and so at times the public who hasn’t seen all of that is left wondering how the Council could approve such important issues so quickly. I really believe these changes will provide a better opportunity for Provo’s citizens to understand what is happening.”

After acknowledging the recent shift to a paperless office, Council Member Sterling Beck stated that “the Council office is continually trying new ways to improve the process. This will be done on a trial basis, and if we see that public attendance drops off, we will fix it and fix it rather quickly.”

Council Member Kay Van Buren voted against the proposal. “I supported the reasons for the change but had hoped that we could have established a 5:00 pm start time as originally proposed.” Council Members Hall Miller and Gary Garrett were attending to other commitments and were excused from the meeting.