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Variance denied for proposed LDS seminary

5/25/16

Elizabeth Medora
Staff

ANTHEM – After a contentious, tension-filled meeting on May 19, the Anthem Parkside Community Association Board of Directors voted three against, two in favor a variance agreement to the LDS Church for the proposed seminary house near Boulder Creek High School.

The variance denial leaves the seminary house in limbo; as the variance regarded occupancy, the LDS Church could potentially allowably move permanent residents into the house and then hold seminary in the house. A church representative could not be reached by press time for comment on the future of the seminary house.

Local residents have debated the need for the LDS seminary. Currently, early morning seminary classes are offered at the LDS Church in Anthem. If the seminary house plans came to fruition, seminary students would leave Boulder Creek High School for one class period during each school day as part of a released-time program and attend seminary at the home, located at 3605 W Memorial. As the home would not have a full-time resident, an occupancy variance was sought from the APCA Board; the variance has now been denied.

One of the issues debated at the May 19 meeting was whether or not the LDS Church currently rents space from Boulder Creek for seminary classes; commenters disagreed on whether this was the case. Tina Robinson, who handles facility rentals for the Deer Valley Unified School District, said in an email to The Foothills Focus that the LDS Church rented classroom space for seminary outside school hours up until 2012.

“They do not currently have a contract at this time,” Robinson stated.

The May 19 special meeting gave Parkside residents additional time to state their opinions on the seminary house issue. Board president Doug Sutherland started the meeting off with strict rules on comment time limits and respectful audience behavior; some disagreed with the guidelines, and, towards the end of the meeting, one commenter was escorted out by MCSO officers after causing a disruption.

Multiple residents spoke at the meeting, with about 60 percent opposed and 40 percent in favor.

“I’m opposed to the variance, pretty much because of the word variance,” said commenter Donald Madson. He and multiple other commenters asked for homeowners to be able to vote on the issue. “We should have a vote with the whole community.”

Commenter Ginger Gurr spoke in favor of the variance, noting that her son is currently in early morning seminary and that all five of her children will eventually attend. She said if the community could see into the future of the seminary, they would see her daughter parked in the schoolyard and walking over to seminary, nights and weekends at the house would be quiet, and students would be respectful and appreciative of the community’s support.

“The church is coming to you guys asking to have this variance in respect to the community,” Gurr said. “I think it outweighs any unpredictable, worst-case scenarios out there, and I think it will be a benefit to our community.”

“It is time to send a message,” said commenter John Balzer, speaking in opposition to the variance. “Residential property is something we need to preserve. There should be no question of that.”

Board members Doug Sutherland and Loren Linscott voted in favor of granting the occupancy variance. Board members Bettye Ruff, Teresa Oorin, and Chris Yano voted against it. This was Yano’s first vote as an APCA Board member. The other members’ votes mirrored their votes at the previous meeting in April, so Yano was set to cast the deciding vote from the start of the meeting.

In a statement after the vote, Yano called being the newest Board member in this decision “the most difficult thing I’ve ever been in,” saying he had been “50/50, for a long time, until about four days ago.”

“I am heartbroken for how the kids are going to feel about this, from the LDS Church,” Yano said, saying that he had put much thought and prayer into the decision.

 He continued, “I spent hours upon hours upon hours understanding that my decision is going to have a big impact on this community. I ultimately had to go back and understand, I want to make sure I get this right, that in my heart of hearts I have to act in the best interest of the corporation and uphold the CC&Rs.”