LDS Church Takes Control of Main St. Plaza

LDS Church Takes Control of Main St. Plaza

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Richard Piatt reporting Salt Lake City's Main Street Plaza is now, officially, private property.

Four years of lawsuits, appeals, protests and divisiveness, are now over.

This morning, Mayor Rocky Anderson signed over the easement to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, giving the church control of both the property itself, and over what can and cannot happen on that property.

LDS Church Takes Control of Main St. Plaza

Another lawsuit could be coming from the ACLU, but it's looking less and less likely there will be any challenges to the deal finalized this morning.

It just took a couple signatures: One from Mayor Rocky Anderson, and from the church's presiding Bishop David Burton to seal this deal.

This is a hugely symbolic ceremony: Main Street Plaza has sparked strong emotions that mostly ran along religious lines: LDS versus non-LDS.

It all centered on an ACLU lawsuit, which challenged the Church's control over the previously public property.

Now, the Church owns the property and the right to enforce rules--a deal made in exchange for money and property on the city's West side.

In the last year or so, emotions were amped up when these loud street preachers used the plaza as a platform for anti LDS protests. Their presence on the plaza was mostly timed with conference weekends.

Here's a look back at how the plaza came about, and how it became such a sore spot.

In December of 1999, the city and the Church announced the original deal: One block of Main Street sold for 8-million dollars.

That deal was finalized in the spring of 2000.

LDS Church Takes Control of Main St. Plaza

But around that same time, the A-C-L-U filed two seperate lawsuits, focusing on how the deal was made, and over concerns about free speech rights on the ex-public street.

In January of 2001, A Federal Judge rules the City/Church deal was legal.

In June, the ACLU appeals the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Protesters start to exercise free speech on the plaza that year--two men are arrested in April.

In October of 2002, the 10th Circuit affirmed the ACLU Appeal, saying free access and free speech on the plaza are linked. Protesters take to the plaza right away, irritating Church officials and some plaza visitors.

In January of 2003, Mayor Anderson floats time, place and manner restrictions for the plaza.

That is later replaced with another deal: The church trades land and about a million dollars extra for the right to control behavior and speech on the plaza.

That deal is approved in June of this year.

And today, after a waiting period, the deal became final.

The man who donated the land, James Sorenson, Chairman and CEO of Sorenson Development is trying to help bring peace to the Plaza situation.

James Sorenson/CEO Sorenson Development: "I am thrilled to be able to bring a peaceful solution in an area where there is no peace, in a world where there is no peace. And the peace starts with the kids."

The donated land is located directly east of the Sorenson Multi Cultural Center and is valued at over 800 thousand dollars.

Sorenson hopes that the 2.45 acres will be used to expand the already successful Multi Cultural Center. This center provides children a safe haven after school and during the summer months. An expansion would allow even more children to take advantage of the programs is has to offer.

Along with the land contribution, Sorenson has also committed a cash donation of 500 thousand dollars.

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