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Community Remains Divided Over Plaza Issue

Community Remains Divided Over Plaza Issue

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View Real Video of Main Street Plaza StoryNews Specialist John Daley reporting

A community divided over Main Street comes together to put diverging views on the record.

The fight over the future of Salt Lake's Main Street plaza was the topic at hand at tonight's City Council meeting.

Hundreds of people showed up for the meeting set up especially for public comment.

Tonight we saw democracy in all its glory.

Those speaking seemed to represent the full spectrum of opinion on this contentious issue -- from those who avidly support the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to those who vehemently oppose it -- and plenty of shades of gray in between.

Before the public hearing, a pair of doves in a cage were presented as a gift to the man at the center of the Main Street storm.

"I think that's why these children gave us the doves. They think we're bringing peace to the community with this latest proposal," says Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.

The mayor's latest proposal, his second in 10 days, would swap the city's easement on the plaza owned by the LDS Church in exchange for a parcel of land on the city's west side.

As part of the deal, free speech restrictions resurrected in October by a federal appeals court would be reinstated.

Tonight hundreds show up to exercise their First Amendment rights at City Hall.

The mayor's cooing doves are taken from the room, and the debate over the city's symbolic center, while civil, remains at times pointed.

The speakers advocate a broad variety of positions, from those arguing that the city should follow the mayor's latest proposal, to those who say the city should never give up the easement.

But beyond the details there's more here.

With a statue of the city's founder Brigham Young looking on, residents grapple with this community's age old Great Divide over the influence of the LDS Church.

"Former city attorney Cutler mentioned a small but growing group of vocal people who will always resent the church. Well, I'm sorry, but after sitting in my community council and hearing promises that haven't been kept, who can blame us?" one angry resident asks.

"Today I was at the temple with my niece and it was very disheartening to me to have her come out of the temple and have some of the things being screamed and yelled at her," says another resident.

By and large, it seems the lion's share of those speaking tonight are in favor of the mayor's latest proposal.

The Main Street issue is far from resolved.

The Council will obviously have to consider everything it's heard from the public tonight, along with the proposal put forth by the mayor and the Alliance for Unity.

Early signs suggest some members of the Council think the city should consider that proposal, the so-called "Land for Peace" deal, that would give the city land in west Salt Lake City in exchange for the easement on Main Street.

No decision is expected before year's end.

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