ERDA — The Tooele Valley Temple will be the first temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the county, but some residents said they aren’t so sure about the project anymore due to a high-density subdivision planned around it.
They’ve gathered hundreds of signatures to petition for a referendum to decide whether they will allow high-density construction on the Erda site, saying they approve the temple but not the small home lots.
“Life is still busy, but it feels a little calmer when you’re out here,” said Erda resident Monica Kennedy. “We have fallen in love with the people.”
But things are quickly changing in Kennedy’s neighborhood with the development of the new Tooele Valley Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Plans call for an exquisite three-story, 70,000-square-foot building to be Tooele County’s first temple.
“We were really excited when the temple was announced,” said Kennedy.
April 2020 construction plans show the temple is part of a larger project that will turn 167 acres of farmland into a master-planned community, complete with a farmer’s market, playing fields and even a pioneer cemetery.
Suburban Land Reserve, the developer and a for-profit affiliate of the church, plans on building 446 homes ranging in size from a few half-acre lots to several high-density lots. This is where Kennedy’s excitement ended.
“To have it come in with that many homes (it) just kind of felt like a big city plan in a rural community,” said Kennedy.
The development was approved by Tooele County Commissioners in June.
“I was actually really disappointed in the commissioners’ vote,” said Kennedy, “I felt like they didn’t listen to what the community was saying. They just approved it and made no changes to the plans.”
Kennedy isn’t alone. Residents have gathered over 1,500 signatures for a referendum to determine the rezoning of the temple site.
“It was originally zoned to have 1-acre lots,” said Kennedy. “We just don’t want it developed so dense with nothing against the temple. We would love to see the temple come out here.”
Richard Droubay, Tooele Valley Temple spokesperson, said they want to attract homeowners in different stages of life.
“I think it will be a great community because of the diversity that we can have with this particular plan,” said Droubay. “The goal is to create a plan where there will be some starter homes, some intermediate homes and some luxury kinds of homes, as well as a 55+ community. We can in that way include a wide range of ages, abilities, financial strata — which will really be helpful for that community.”
He said the temple depends on the infrastructure being paid for by developers, saying the project is a packaged deal.
“It was a singular proposal and it was one package for the whole thing — that is what was approved,” said Droubay. “If the referendum succeeds, it could very well delay or alter the ultimate decision to have a temple.”
For now, residents like Kennedy were hoping to find some middle ground.
“For me, personally, I would love to see a compromise. I would love to see them come and say we will do bigger lots,” Kennedy said.
Residents have until Aug. 15 to gather the 2,500 signatures needed.
Tooele County Commission Chairman Tom Tripp and Commissioner Shawn Milne voted in favor of the development. Commissioner Kendall Thomas voted against it.
Thomas told KSL he also signed the petition for the referendum. KSL is working to reach Tripp and Milne — we reached out to them and were waiting for a reply as of Thursday night.