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Proposed Wasatch County dark skies ordinance to be released this week in anticipation of new temple

KPCW | By Leslie Thatcher Published March 22, 2023 at 11:14 PM MDT

The Wasatch County planning staff will unveil a revised dark skies ordinance on Thursday before next week’s public hearing on the topic.

A public hearing on the proposed amendments to Wasatch County’s lighting code is set for March 30. In order to accommodate what’s expected to be a larger-than-normal crowd, the meeting will be held at the senior center. Wasatch County Manger Dustin Grabau said the proposed amendments will be available for public review starting this Thursday, March 23, when the staff report is complete. He said he expects the ordinance will be more stringent than what is currently on the books. “What it does is it expands the areas in which the county can regulate lighting,” he said. “So, what it would do is limit the overall amount of light a project can produce; limit the color temperature of those lightnings; the hours in which they can operate with the intent for the county to adopt International Dark Sky Alliance standards, which our current code doesn't comply with. So, it may ultimately provide some additional flexibility. But I believe overall, it will be much more conservative than what the county currently has.” The amendments are in preparation for an application from the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, which plans to build a new temple – and wants to light it at night - in the Heber Valley. Grabau said county planners are working with the church and have provided updates on the proposed ordinance. “I think that they're comfortable with several of the changes that they even suggested don't actually affect their project,” Grabau said. “And I think that they are indifferent towards those changes. There are some that may end up affecting their project, that ultimately, I think the planning commission and county council will have to weigh in on what they want those standards to be.” The county hired a consultant to work through what he said are very technical changes. “Our consultant has done a good job of educating a subcommittee of our council on some of the ins and outs of the different ways in which you can measure light and what the implications of those measurements are and kind of translating some of the technical aspects to a little bit more lay understanding so that we can communicate it to the public and to the elected officials,” Grabau said. The church has not submitted a final site plan or project application. Grabau said he believes it’s waiting to see what restrictions it will be working with. “I think it makes sense in my mind that they're waiting to see what those final standards are because it may affect what it is that they submit,” he said. “For instance, they're not able to do one set of lighting standards, they may have to adjust their plans in order to accommodate whatever code the council adopts.” Another hurdle for the church will be to get a conditional use permit that will allow it to build above the 35-foot height limit. Preliminary plans show the temple to be 85 feet tall in places, extending to nearly 200 feet tall with the steeple.

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