Westminster College is seeking a permit to build another skyward building on its land-strapped campus in Salt Lake City.

Building height in the area is prohibited from exceeding a 35-foot standard without a conditional use permit, which can buy the developer an additional 40 feet. In the case of Westminster's master plan, a 75-foot building would allow for a new science center.

"This type of building isn't abnormal for Westminster," said Westminster spokeswoman Krista DeAngelis. "We can't really go out, so we have to build up."

Salt Lake City has hosted open houses concerning the project, and Casey Stewart, of the city's Planning Commission staff, said there has been very little dissension to the height variance or the proposal to build.

"Given that it's going to be on a campus with other buildings of similar size ... it's not going to stick out like a sore thumb," he said. The proposed building would be located immediately north of Converse Hall and next to Foster Hall, both of which already exceed the 35-foot limitation.

The Meldrum Foundation will soon be announcing a significant gift that will supplement the cost of the 60,000-square-foot facility. The soon-to-be-called Meldrum Science Center will feature 14 classroom-labs and five dedicated research labs to accommodate Westminster faculty's "hands-on approach to learning," according to Curtis Ryan, Westminster's vice president of finance and administration.

"Currently, the estimated cost is $25 million," he said, adding that the building was conceptualized in the school's master plan, which was finalized in 2000. It is projected that the new science center will be built totally "green," Ryan said. The aim is for LEED-Gold certified, which underscores the private school's previous commitments to protecting the community and the environment.

The last building added to the campus was an elevated parking structure near the athletic field, completed in the fall of 2005.

Westminster plans to petition the Salt Lake City Planning Commission for the height variance tonight at the City-County Building at 5:45 p.m. Although there will be time for public comment on the issue, Stewart said the city has received only one complaint from a resident who doesn't want Westminster to do any further expansion or construction, regardless of specific buildings.

Upon approval of the variance, Westminster will submit an application for a building permit.


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