Town & County

Wasatch County Council approves new Heber Valley LDS temple

The council's unanimous vote to approve the temple will take effect in 15 days

WASATCH COUNTY, Utah – In a late meeting on Wednesday night, the Wasatch County Council unanimously voted to approve the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints proposal for a new temple.

The newly approved temple will sit on 18 acres and will stand 210 feet tall. The temple will be built in a residential setting on Heber City’s borders, officially sitting in unincorporated Wasatch County.

Over 600 people were in attendance for the County Council’s decision. The council voted to approve the site plan approval of the building, the legislative development agreement, and the plat approval for the land.

The council’s unanimous vote to approve the temple will take effect in 15 days when the Church can begin the process of obtaining permits for construction.

The approval comes after months of contention between the LDS Church and the Save the Wasatch Back Dark Skies group, who argue the temple will cause significant light pollution in the Heber Valley.

Other opponents of the temple have argued that it is too tall, too large, too bright, or will cause too much traffic.

To reduce the amount of light pollution emitted by the temple, the Church said it will turn of all outdoor lighting every night at 11 p.m.; minimize the exterior light reflected off the surface instead of using the “wall wash” method that illuminates the entire building; change the texture and color of the exterior stone to minimize refracting light; and will reduce the color lighting temperature from 4,000 Kelvin to 3,000 Kelvin.

A comparison of a traditionally lit temple compared to how the newly approved Heber Valley temple will be lit. Photo: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

The Wasatch County Council amended the county’s Dark Sky ordinance in April of this year, which now allows uplighting, one of the Church’s main focuses to shine light on the temple.

Wasatch County Manager Dustin Grabau spoke with TownLift earlier this year to discuss the amended dark sky ordinance.

“The new code that we adopted, we went through a six-month process, we hired an outside consultant, and we looked at a whole range of options and what other communities do,” Grabau explained. “And what we arrived at I feel is a really strong code that protects the dark sky, but also balances some competing interests, and that we do allow uplighting, but I feel like we’ve done it in a way that actually does a better job of protecting the dark sky.”

Critics of the temple and the dark sky amendments argue that the council is detracting from the county’s rural atmosphere, while county representatives contest that the new temple will be one of the darkest in the world.

“We feel that the Heber valley temple under our current code will be the most dark sky compliant temple in the world. And I think that’s something that I feel proud of. So while some people feel like you should have adopted much stricter standards, I think we have done a good job to ensure that we have adequate protections as far as the dark sky goes,” Grabau said.

At the council meeting on Wednesday night, several participants asked council members of the LDS faith to recuse themselves from the decision making process, citing a conflict of interest. Council members and county officials contend that they have approached this process as they would any other religious building.

“I’ll tell you from my perspective, the county has tried to do everything possible to be as objective through this whole process, as we can be. We are very cognizant of the fact that this is a religious institution, and while it’s a majority here, we’re trying to treat it as if it were any other minority religion that would come through,” Grabau said.

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