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:


Unknown said...

The intent of the proposed amendment to the PF zone was to, in part, make changes that are acknowledged to be needed. Both Provo City staff and the Planning Commission are on record (see additional information) above. What is missing in the blog is the dialog after the feedback from the Planning Commission on what the PF zone should look like. The obvious problems are well documented above. So why does this blog then not propose a solution? In the following comments are the ideas put forth to the council, mayor, planning staff, and BYU on August 3.

Unknown said...

Foundation Principles

1. Growth, development and remodeling is planned and encouraged in Provo City.

2. The type, density and impact of growth, development and remodeling in Provo City in the future is specifically unknown but can be generally anticipated.

3. Provo City has the right and responsibility to plan for growth, development and remodeling such that

a. city resources are available

b. neighboring property owners can act based on the plan

c. property owners can build, develop and remodel based on the plan

4. Plans change

5. In this discussion, another name for a plan is zoning ordinance

The Public Facility zone can include both absolute and situational thresholds

Absolute outcomes (Example: Nothing over 5 stories)

Absolute ability to plan by property owner, city, and neighboring property owner

Future needs cannot be anticipated and thus stymie new solutions offered by property owners

Situational outcomes (Example: Nothing over 5 stories except by conditional use)

Outcome is not certain for property owner, city, and neighboring property owner

No guarantee for property owner, city, or neighboring property owner

New solutions can be proposed

What is the appropriate mixture of guarantees and the uncertainty of new solutions?

Thresholds at which a conditional use permit is required in the PF zone

Height: Any structure over 180 feet anywhere on the PF zone property. [The maximum height allowed for buildings in the downtown area of Provo is 180 feet]

Change in use adjacent to residential neighborhoods: The establishment of a retail activity when that retail activity is within 300 feet of a residential zone.

Distance from public road or nearest residential property. Any building over 80 feet tall within 300 feet of a residential zone or public road.

Thresholds at which guarantees are in place for any PF zone entity

Height/Distance from public road or nearest residential property. A two foot setback for every foot in height to a maximum height of 80 feet within 300 feet of a residential zone.

The 80 feet (five stories) threshold will serve to elicit public input when large (for Provo) buildings are proposed in the vicinity of residential neighborhoods.. It is less of a guarantee for the developer. This lesser guarantee will help to promote a buffer in building height next to residential zones. Since the process is by Conditional Use Permit, then there is no guarantee for the developer or for adjacent property owners as to height.

I add my voice to the opinion that the PF zone interaction with residential neighborhoods requires immediate (e.g., within 30 days or even 100 days) attention. I think we have the unanticipated opportunity to use the time between now and the council meeting on September 4 to craft a PF zone language that addresses the needs of residential neighbors and PF zone entities.

As I have and continue to state after June 25, I do not stand in opposition to the nine story MTC building.


R. Paul Evans
Chair, Provo City Pleasant View Neighborhood

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