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ERDA — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint leaders have withdrawn their plan to build a residential community surrounding the announced Tooele Valley Utah Temple.
“We acknowledge the efforts of those who have raised questions and sincere concerns about the Tooele Valley Temple project, including the residential development surrounding the temple. There is a sincere desire on the part of the Church to avoid discord in the community,” the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement released Tuesday.
“Therefore, regardless of the outcome of a pending signature-gathering effort, we have determined to withdraw our rezoning request for the residential portion of the temple project.”
In early May, the real estate arm of the church revealed a plan for a residential community to be built surrounding the temple. The proposed plan featured hundreds of homes, a 55-plus adult community, parks and walking trails as the church sought to enhance and protect the land around the temple site.
The plan was met with enthusiasm from Tooele County commissioners.
“We're excited about it out here,” Tooele County commissioner Kendall Thomas told KSL.com in May. “I am excited. I am speaking as one commissioner, and I think I think other commissioners would agree with me too.”
At least one did. In June, the Tooele County Commission voted 2-1 to rezone the land for the temple and the proposed community. But the development was met with resistance from county residents.
They raised concerns about the density of the proposed housing and launched a petition in order to trigger a countywide referendum. Monday was the final deadline to gather signatures. While the results have not been certified, it is believed that the petition had enough support to force a vote.
The church plans to build the temple on a church farm at the intersection at Erda Way and state Route 36. The area around the farm is why there has been some pushback from the community. The farm is in a rural area where many homes sit on lots that are up to 5 acres in size. The proposed community of 446 homes was to be done on 167 acres.
“It was originally zoned to have 1-acre lots,” Erda resident Monica Kennedy told KSL in July. “We just don’t want it developed so dense, with nothing against the temple. We would love to see the temple come out here.”
The statement from the First Presidency did not make it clear whether or not the church would submit a new plan for the proposed development.
“We look forward to working with local officials and community members to determine next steps to move forward with the construction of the temple,” the statement said. “We hope those from all viewpoints on this matter will treat one another with kindness, civility, and Christlike love.”