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City may ax hearings on proposed churches

BOUNTIFUL -- Most of the folks who live around 700 N. 400 East don't have any problem with the new Southern Baptist church to be built in their neighborhood. But some are saying it would have been nice if the city had asked their opinion.

However, if an administration proposal is approved Wednesday night, Bountiful won't ever have to ask its residents what they think about any new churches proposed to be built in residential areas.According to City Planner Blaine Gehring, the city never intended to subject churches in residential areas to conditional use permits and public hearings. That requirement should have been deleted from the language of a zoning ordinance adapted from another city in 1993, he said. Conditional use permits allow cities to impose certain requirements on building projects over and above the minimum required by its zoning regulations.

The deletion of the conditional use requirement for churches in residential areas will be considered by the City Council at 7:15 p.m.

What prompted it was a request for preliminary site plan approval for a First Southern Baptist Church at 700 N. 400 East, Gehring said. That plan approval was considered by the city's Planning Commission Tuesday. The church occupies a building at 240 W. 1500 South.

Ray Fahring, whose back yard adjoins the proposed new church, said he had no problem with having a Southern Baptist church as a neighbor. "It's better than a mortuary," he said.

But he didn't like the proposal to eliminate public hearings. "That's being rather high-handed. I think there should be a public hearing."

Neighbor A. LeGrand Flack, whose property also adjoins the proposed church, agreed. "Any time they do something that impacts an established neighborhood, residents should have an opportunity at least to be apprised," Flack said.

As for the church itself, Flack said it was "better than a high-rise or apartments."