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For week ended June 13, 1999 Posted 19 Jun 1999

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SLC Would Rather Give Up Access Than Change Deal

Summarized by Eric Bunker

SLC Would Rather Give Up Access Than Change Deal
Salt Lake Tribune 11Jun99 C6
By Rebecca Walsh: Salt Lake Tribune

The ACLU is protesting vehemently Salt Lake City's sale to the Church of the two-acre portion of Main Street from South to North Temple, The Church is currently tearing up the street and constructing a pedestrian park/mall area in its place. (The location is the former Main Street area between Temple Square and the Church Office complex.) Possible court action is planned on the basis of the loss of free speech.

In its sale, the City retained dead restricted easement rights of public access and certain restrictions on construction. It means that the church could not put up buildings on the property and that the general public must have physical access. Though the property would be privately owned and maintained, the city didn't want to loose it as a public space.

In agreeing to those provisions, the Church negotiated with the City to allow Church oriented broadcasts and proselytizing activities, and the ability to restrict other types of public access, including the manner of dress, boom-box radios, signs, protests, non-Church sponsored broadcasts and even riding bikes through the plaza, with the Church being the final arbiter on the types of public access.

Salt Lake City legal officials feel very confident that they could easily win a court battle. They have no intention of taking back possession of the land and refunding the Church's money. They have informed the ACLU that in the improbable event that a court battle is lost, the city would just relinquish all of its dead restricted rights to the Church and allow the property to become totally private without any restrictions on its use.

It isn't against the law for any government entity to turn over public property to private concerns as long as the sale is done legally and openly, with fair market value received in return. Deed restrictions are just a compromise condition of the sale that can be canceled at any time by the seller who installed them.

Salt Lake City's Attorney Roger Cutler, said, "The [LDS Church's] position from the beginning was clear that the purpose for which they were expending millions of dollars in constructing improvements on this 2 acres would not accommodate the turmoil and disruption of an open, free speech public forum."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information