Council Hears from Creators of Main Street Plaza Pact

Council Hears from Creators of Main Street Plaza Pact

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LDS Church and city leaders take a trip down memory lane to the days when the Main Street plaza was first planned.

"But the intention always was to have a quiet, peaceful, reflective place in the middle of our city," says former Salt Lake City Mayor DeeDee Corradini.

"What Mayor Corradini has indicated fits entirely with my remembrance of the initial intent of the church and the city," says H.David Burton, Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

So how could a carefully crafted, legal deal turn into one of the most divisive issues in Salt Lake City's history?

That's what the City Council set to find out in a fact-finding hearing with key players tonight.

When it comes to the Main Street plaza, opinions are divided, emotions are raw.

How did things get so out of control?

Tonight, the City Council tried to take the feelings out of it by getting the facts about what happened.

Sorting through the history of the Main Street deal took place in a packed room on live public radio and television.

The look back uncovered differences that existed even in 1999, starting with what everyone intended the plaza to be.

"The church would have the ability to control behavior on the plaza, just as they do on the administration building block," Corradini says.

"We said under no condition would we go forward with the purchase if the church was not protected," Burton says.

The city's original idea was to create a community asset -- a peaceful place to replace a public street. Lots of people liked the idea. But it was a sticky proposition, because the area was, after all, Main Street.

And one City Council member thought the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints got special treatment for its part.

"It felt like it was a done deal from the moment the news conference happened until the final vote. And you know, others may have different perceptions of that but it truly felt that way to me," says former council member Deeda Seed.

Concerns about public access originally included a clause to create private property with access like a park. That part of the deal, Condition 15, disappeared after the LDS Church objected, and the public easement was created instead. It's a move some now regret.

"The way it was handled was proven since, and maybe more recently was, maybe clumsy," says Keith Christensen, former Salt Lake City Council chairman.

It is clear there was, and still is, anger over a deal that forever changed downtown, but that happened relatively quickly. It is anger that may not have a solution.

"What needs to be fully acknowledged is that the public input during the process never really mattered. The Corradini administration knew the church wanted control over Main Street. But the public didn't know that," says Reverend Tom Goldsmith with the First Unitarian Church.

The City Council is searching for a way to make everybody happy. The look back appears to have helped sort through the facts, but it's still not going to be easy.

Hundreds of people turned out to listen to tonight's meeting, but there was no public input. The public will get a chance to be heard next Tuesday night, December 17. That's at a public hearing scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

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