Control of Main Street Plaza Changes Hands Monday

Control of Main Street Plaza Changes Hands Monday

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The LDS church's contested control over a downtown block is about to take effect.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was to assume control of the block Monday at 11 a.m. In return for giving up its easement to the plaza, the city receives two acres of land in Glendale, where it may build a community center.

"It really closes, I think, a historical aspect of our city," said City Councilwoman Nancy Saxton. "That part of Main Street is really totally private."

Saxton was the only member of the seven-person council not to vote for the compromise.

When the church takes control of the plaza, pedestrians no longer will have the legal right to walk through the property, although LDS officials say the plaza will remain open to the public for the foreseeable future.

The church will have the right to control how people behave or dress and what they can and can't do or say on its property.

Councilman Dale Lambert said that the few protesters with an agenda against the LDS Church who frequented the plaza will simply have to move a few hundred feet away.

"People still have every right to express their First Amendment," Lambert said.

A federal appeals court struck down church regulations in October, saying the city had to allow speech on the plaza or eliminate the easement.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the city over the original First Amendment restrictions, will wait to see how church security handles pedestrians before it decides whether it will sue.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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