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2 on council seek plaza restrictions

At least two members of the Salt Lake City Council have said this week that they will not be voting for Mayor Rocky Anderson's proposed community center solution for Main Street Plaza, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Instead, City Council Vice Chairwoman Jill Remington Love and Councilwoman Nancy Saxton say they prefer Anderson's previous plan to allow the church to control activity and speech on about 90 percent of the plaza. The remaining 10 percent would be the city's easement, and free speech would be allowed there.

"My new position is that (retaining an easement) is my preferred position, too. You can pass it on to the mayor," Love told Anderson's chief-of-staff, Dave Nimkin, during Tuesday's City Council meeting. "He won't have my vote on the other one."

That "other" plan calls for a two-acre parcel owned by the LDS Church to be given to the city in exchange for the city's easement across the Main Street Plaza. The land on Salt Lake's west side would be developed by the Alliance for Unity, which would seek to raise $5 million for a building where the University of Utah and Intermountain Health Care would offer free legal, business and medical advice as well as educational opportunities for children and adults.

Saxton added Wednesday that she doesn't support Anderson's community center solution and is, like Love, supporting "time, place and manner" restrictions that would outline how free-speech rights are exercised on a city easement through the plaza.

Anderson's "time, place and manner" plan for the city's easement through the plaza would allow a full range of free-speech options, including bull pens at the north and southeast corners for small protests.

The LDS Church has repeatedly said that the time, place and manner plan is not an acceptable solution.

"I'm not in favor of the land swap and giving (the city's easement) to the LDS Church," Saxton said. "My first preference is time, place and manner."

Love and Saxton are furious with Anderson, who has instructed Nimkin to tell various community councils and community groups that the mayor dumped time, place and manner only after "that didn't seem like it was going to be successful with the City Council."

Tuesday, Saxton told Nimkin to stop telling community groups that the council didn't support time, place and manner. Nimkin refused.

Love said Wednesday that her comments Tuesday came out of anger that she really doesn't have a legitimate time, place and manner plan to vote for since city staffers have worked almost exclusively on the community center proposal. Love criticized Anderson for dividing the community further between those who support the church and those who don't. Because Anderson has instructed Nimkin to note that the community center plan is not the mayor's preferred option and that, instead, time, place and manner is the mayor's preferred option, Love said the mayor has increased the divisiveness within the community. When Nimkin says that, Love said, it further pits members of the community councils with differing views against one another.

"I'm frustrated that the mayor will not be a leader on this issue," Love said. "He cannot grasp one solution and sell it."

Along with Love and Saxton, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah is similarly pushing time, place and manner. ACLU of Utah executive director Dani Eyer said she was excited to hear that there was some support for time, place and manner with the council.

"I'm very heartened," she said. "It kind of gives us a little hope."

Four days after he proposed the time, place and manner restrictions, Anderson suggested the community center plan after the church balked at time, place and manner.

Eyer said that the ACLU's free-speech issues on the plaza could be resolved with some sort of version of time, place and manner, which might be slightly different than the plan Anderson proposed.

"We're definitely in favor of that, not because it's an original concept but because that's how competing interests are resolved throughout every city in America," she said.

As for the community councils, Anderson spokesman Josh Ewing said the mayor will not back away from his contention that the council would not have supported time, place and manner and Nimkin will continue to make that inference in community meetings. Anderson contends that the council could still vote on the time, place and manner plan if it wishes.

When the city sold the block of Main Street to the church in 1999, it retained a public-access easement across the proposed plaza. In response to a lawsuit brought by the ACLU, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the easement creates a free-speech forum, similar to what exists on public sidewalks.

The church didn't like that decision because it paid $8.1 million for the land and the ability to control what happens there, including restricting protests, demonstrations, leaflet distribution and some dress and speech.

The court suggested that the city either give its easement to the church — dissolving the right to public access and free speech — or craft time, place and manner restrictions for the plaza.