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Mormon church exchanging land with Kennecott

Published: Monday, Sept. 12 2011 3:11 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church and Kennecott have agreed to a land swap that includes almost 3,300 acres of church-owned land west of the Salt Lake City International Airport.

The deal is not expected to close for several months, but all contingencies in the contract have been cleared, said Carl L. Duke, vice president of portfolio management for Suburban Land Reserve Inc., a property management arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Duke said Kennecott Utah Copper recently expressed interest in land owned by the church, some since the 1940s and some since the 1960s. Some 3,100 acres is situated north of I-80 west of the airport and another 182 acres are south of I-80.

"In exchange, PRI (the church's real estate investment arm) received land located in the southwest part of the Salt Lake Valley. PRI has no current plans for the development of that land," Duke said in a statement released Monday. Duke added the deal also involves payment by Kennecott to the church.

Exact locations of the parcels have not yet been released.

"Kennecott has proposed to use approximately 14 acres of land south of I-80 as part of the company’s proposal to relocate a portion of the Union Pacific Railroad for the proposed expansion of the existing tailings impoundment to the northeast," Kennecott spokesman Kyle Bennett said.

"Kennecott has no current development plans for the acreage north of I-80, which formed part of Salt Lake City’s Northwest Quadrant planning area. Kennecott understands that the land in the Northwest Quadrant has environmental sensitivity and high ecological value, and Kennecott will meet with stakeholders before developing plans for that land," Bennett said.

A 2009 Salt Lake City master plan, which was never ratified, showed residential and commercial development in the Northwest Quadrant. Community activist and former Salt Lake City Councilwoman Deeda Seed said developing the infrastructure, including schools, for that kind of development would have been costly to Salt Lake City taxpayers. "And it didn't make sense to be plopping 100,000-plus people and their pets next to what we're coming to understand is an ecological resource of untold value."

Seed considers it a "possibility" Kennecott would preserve the land as open space.

"This would be a really important thing to do for the Great Salt Lake ecosystem. It would go a long way toward helping to get it right with how we address issues with regard to the Great Salt Lake."

"Salt Lake City does not know the details of the land transaction between Property Reserve Inc. and Kennecott," said Karen Hale, communications director for Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker. "We will continue to advocate that any future development of land within the Northwest Quadrant is consistent with the shared values and goals of our residents."

E-mail: sfidel@desnews.com Twitter: SteveFidel

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