The new — and hopefully better — solution for MTC expansion in Provo has required work on two fronts. First, the immediate and pressing need created as a consequence of last October’s announcement had to be addressed. Figures shared with area residents during recent planning meetings indicate that there were 2,800 missionaries in the MTC when the announcement was made. Sometime this summer the number is expected to climb to about 7,800 missionaries before it eventually stabilizes at around 6,000 missionaries in 2016.
The church made two moves to respond to the immediate need. In January it announced that it would open a new MTC facility in Mexico City for missionaries called to serve in Mexico and other Latin American countries. And then in March church officials announced that they will open temporary MTC facilities in Provo at the Wyview Park and Raintree Commons apartment complexes.
Those two moves should provide immediate accommodations for up to 2,700 missionaries, taking significant pressure off of the existing Provo MTC facilities and allowing LDS leadership the time it needs to carefully evaluate their long-term options for expansion, Trotter said.
And that evaluation, Trotter continued, has included numerous meetings with area residents and Provo City planners to solicit input, ideas and support.
“Church representatives met with area residents multiple times to describe the need for growth of the MTC campus and to get feedback from the community,” Trotter said. “While residents have varying opinions, significant adjustments have been made based on input from neighbors, Brigham Young University and Provo City. We are grateful for the time and energy invested by the community.”
A big chunk of that time was spent last winter during a series of public meetings as well as meetings with individual property owners.
“It was fantastic,” said Lorie Johnson, who cares for her mother in her family’s home that borders the MTC campus on the west. “They presented a number of options, and then they listened to what we had to say. There were some really good ideas expressed, and (the church representatives) seemed to be really interested in what we had to say.”
The process contrasted with what residents said happened with the announcement of the nine-story building, which they say was presented as a “done deal,” with no input from them. When they objected to the tall building, which they felt would impact their views and property values, Johnson and Frey said they were portrayed by some in the community as being selfish and anti-church.
“We are definitely pro-missionary work and pro-MTC, and we understand and support the need for expansion,” said Johnson, who was among the most vocal critics of the plan. “We’re active members of the church. These are our children and grandchildren who are going on missions, and we are thrilled that they are going. It was totally unfair for people to say that we don’t support the church and we don’t support the missionary program.”
Beginning just days after the church publicly discontinued its nine-story plan, the process for strategizing long-term MTC expansion was launched in a very different way.
“We had this planning meeting in November,” said R. Paul Evans, chair of the Provo City Pleasant View Neighborhood Council. “They said they needed to double the capacity of the MTC. They presented a few ideas and then opened up the floor. It really felt like they wanted our input and they were listening.”
Provo City officials also attended and participated in the planning meetings, said Bill Peperone, assistant director of community development for the city.
“I believe the two plans that have been suggested accurately portray input that was given at this planning meeting,” Peperone said. “Because no formal application has been submitted to the city, there has not been sufficient review of the plans to form a formal preference or recommendation (from the city).”
However, Peperone did indicate that both plans have their advantages. The south plan, he said, “would minimize the need for missionaries to cross 900 East, which is a busy collector road” and likely to get busier as BYU closes streets on the interior of its campus. The northeast plan, he said, would have less visual impact on the Pleasant View neighborhood because the tallest buildings would be farther away.
Johnson, Evans and Frye indicated that although they have a definite preference for the northeastern plan, they can live with either plan — although they do have some concerns that would need to be worked out with the south plan, including the height of the buildings required to make everything fit in that smaller space. And in fairness, they pointed out that there are others in the neighborhood who prefer the south plan. In fact, a straw poll taken at one of the meetings showed strong support for both plans.
“We’re not telling the church what to do — we’re not making any demands,” Johnson said. “I just love that they came and got our input. We’ve been asked to let them know what we think, and we have done that.”
“They have a lot of things to consider here,” Evans said. “It’s their decision.”
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