Exactly how long does the LDS Church plan to bust up boulders and haul out granite from a Little Cottonwood Canyon site?
That's what residents who packed an elementary school cafeteria Wednesday wanted to know. About 350 people gathered at Granite Elementary to vent their feelings about the plan by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the invitation of the Granite Community Council.Most of the 60 residents who spoke wanted to know either the timetable or how the church plans to rehabilitate and revegetate the area after it's through.
"The church is growing," one resident said. "They've used this (granite) on several buildings in the past and it's just going to go on forever and ever."
Church officials at the meeting responded that the operation should be through in a year, though it may extend beyond that.
Other residents said they were concerned about traffic problems along the canyon road, dust, noise and impact on wildlife and the environment. Nevertheless, "we heard no compelling reasons to not do what we're doing," said assembly building project manager Tom Hanson.
The church has applied with Salt Lake County for a conditional use permit to split and remove granite boulders at a site it owns 1 1/2 miles up the canyon. The approximately 11,000 tons of stone will be used to provide facing for the church's new 21,000-seat assembly hall, now under construction just north of Temple Square.
The boulder site is where the church extracted granite used in the Salt Lake temple more than 100 years ago.
Unless specifically limited in time, a conditional use permit extends into perpetuity. Given the sensitive nature of this application, County Development Services Director J.D. Johnson said he will recommend to the Planning Commission a two-year time limit, with a possible one-year extension.
The commission is not required to adopt the recommendation, but Hanson said it's acceptable to him.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to decide next Tuesday whether to issue the permit. Even if it approves it, there will be various technical issues to work out, particularly the grading and drainage of a 600-foot road the church plans to install from the road to a staging area.
Most of the meeting attendees were rock climbers - the site contains steep granite walls and has become very popular among climbers in recent years. Tom Hanson, project manager for the assembly building, assured them they will be allowed to climb while the granite retrieval is going on.
The church will not extract material from the rock wall itself - just boulders lying at the bottom. However, the climbers say they use many of the boulders and asked if the church could avoid removing some of them. They were not given the guarantee they sought.
Granite Community Council chairwoman Cassandra Hansen said Wednesday's meeting was meant as "a poor substitute for the public hearing."
The hearing she refers to was held March 10 before the Planning Commission. The council and residents in the area say they were given very short notice of the meeting and didn't have time to get very many people there.