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TOWN REJECTS BUILDING PERMIT FOR ZION THEATER

The town council on a tie vote rejected a building permit for a controversial giant-screen theater, but it will take up the issue again next month.

Some members of the council said Tuesday night that they wanted more information in light of last week's earthquake before deciding whether to allow the IMAX-type World Odyssey Theater to be built at the mouth of Zion National Park.Assistant town clerk Sue Fraley said the town engineer suggested further geotechnical review be made.

Al Warneke, a retired park employee and geologist living in Springdale, said the hill that began sliding after the magnitude 5.9 earthquake Sept. 2, destroying three luxury homes, was very unstable and could threaten the theater.

He said the town could be subject to liability if it approved a building permit now.

Doug Memmott, a partner in the developing company, Zion Theater Partners, did not consider it a serious threat but said, "It's always a possibility and . . . your having discussed it and made us aware that we build at our own risk alleviates the town for liability."

Memmott said the proposed theater would be earthquake proof and that previous studies have been adequate.

However, he was instructed to provide geological studies and approval of the health department and fire and water agencies for the Oct. 1 meeting.

Earlier, the motion to approve the building and excavation permits for the theater was made by Mayor Bob Ralston, a strong supporter of the project, and seconded by council member Bert Chamberlin.

Council members Stephen Roth and Marcel Rodriguez voted against the motion, and council member Mavis Madsen declined to vote.

Rodriguez is opposed to the project. Roth and Madsen indicated they wanted more information.

The screen would be 55 feet high and 70 feet wide. Developers plan to show a movie about the park's natural splendors.

The theater would be in the corner of an 11-acre plot up against the park boundary.

The National Parks and Conservation Association, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the Wilderness Society lost a court challenge to the plans. They contend the theater would detract from the park's natural beauty.

Proponents see the project as a potential economic windfall.