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Provo Planning Commission discusses allowing microbrewing at local restaurants

The Provo Planning Commission heard a request Wednesday for zone changes to allow microbreweries or brewpubs in downtown Provo.

Quinn Peterson, Downtown Neighborhood chairman and director of Provo Downtown Inc., requested the ordinance be amended to allow approval of restaurants with ancillary microbrewing as a permitted use in the SC3, DT1, and DT2 zones downtown.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor to approve the request and to forward it to the Provo Municipal Council with a recommendation to approve.

The DT1 and DT2 zones refer to areas in downtown Provo which include more than 75 restaurants from 600 South to 500 North and from 500 West to 100 East. The SC3 zone is for regional shopping center areas that are located close to freeways and major arterials like the Provo Towne Centre mall.

There are 15 restaurants in the DT1 and DT2 zones that currently serve alcohol. Microbreweries produce small amounts of specialty beer in independently owned establishments, most often in a family restaurant.

According to Peterson there are many state regulations that the restaurants or brewpubs would need to comply with. It is an expensive proposition and he does not believe that many would take on the brewing on site. However, there are some that would like to come into the area that would offer a high-end family restaurant ambiance while offering in-house craft beers.

Taverns and bars are a separate issue from the restaurants according to Bill Peperone, director of Development Services. He noted that Provo has two bars and a city ordinance will not allow any more. There is a monopoly with the two establishments.

Peperone added that competition in a fashion could help the two bars to upgrade.

As with any restaurant, a microbrewery or brewpub would be held to the same food to alcohol sales ratios.

“You have to eat on site and are required to order food with the alcohol,” Peperone said.

“I live in the Wells Fargo Bank Building,” said Rich Nelson, residential chairman of the downtown neighborhood. “I have to go to the Marriott Hotel to get a glass of wine. I am in full support of this.”

Joel Raker, president and CEO of Explore Utah Valley housed at the Utah Valley Convention Center, told the commission that brewpubs are a thing right now and conventioneers are looking for unique local eating and drinking opportunities.

All of Provo’s downtown restaurants are locally-owned, and no chain restaurants are located there, which provides the uniqueness that many conventions are looking for.

Raker said that Tuesday night John Garfield, manager of the Marriott Hotel, reported that 130 people were in his club/bar and they visited for quite a while.

“We need to offer visitors hospitality,” Raker said. “I support it and if done well, it can add to the community.”

Currently specialty beers and craft sodas are served in downtown restaurants but are not brewed on site, including at Communal, a popular eating establishment at 100 North and University Avenue that serves lagers, strong ale, pale ales and stout on their menu. Other restaurants serving crafted sodas and or beer include Black Sheep Cafe, Station 22, Peace on Earth, Mozz and more.

According to Marcus Draper with the Provo City Attorney’s Office, regardless of the city code, the restaurant must be licensed by the state.

The state requires and regulates yearly audits that require a percentage of alcohol to food sales. Currently, restaurants that sell alcohol cannot have more than 30% alcohol sales with 70% of their sales going to food purchases.

According to Peterson, if the sale of alcohol goes to 31%, the restaurant loses its license.

The discussion between the commissioners came down to the idea that it’s just a restaurant whether they brew in house and sell it or just sell it without brewing.

Commissioner Andrew Howard, before making the motion to approve, noted historically that Provo used to have a brewery in downtown and that the proceeds from the brewery helped to build the Provo Tabernacle, now the Provo City Center Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The idea of providing for microbreweries has floated throughout Provo for the past several years.

The Strap Tank Brewing Co. located in Springville and Lehi offers fresh brewed beers and handcrafted root beer flavors for sale. They are comparable to what Peterson is asking for in Provo.

Strap Tank was the first microbrewery of its kind in Utah County, now downtown Provo restaurant owners, and stakeholders would like to have an opportunity to have specialty on-site craft beers and sodas.

Strap Tank manager Stu Brown said owner Rick Salisbury has been well known in the Springville community. Salisbury was able to move his request through Springville’s Planning Commission quite smoothly, Brown added.

“It’s a family eatery not a bar,” Brown said. “People hear brewery and assume it’s a bar. This is a place where any member of the family can come and enjoy the food and company.”

Brown did say it took a little time educating the public that is wasn’t going to be anything more than what they said it would be.

“Early on we got a little bit of the negative,” Brown said. “They didn’t know who we were.”

Brown said they asked people to take a leap of faith and to come in and try the good food and atmosphere.

With many residents in the area being Latter-day Saints, whose beliefs adhere to the faith’s Word of Wisdom that counsels to abstain from “strong drinks” interpreted to include alcohol, Brown said there was some concern, but was soon alleviated.

“Now we have BYU coaches and senior (LDS) missionary couples coming in regularly,” Brown said.

When Strap Tank wanted to expand to Lehi, a few residents voiced questions to the Planning Commission during the meeting’s public hearing on the issue, but their concerns were mostly just to ensure the brewery was not near schools, parks or residential areas.

The plan proposed a sit-down restaurant and microbrewery located at 3525 N. Outlet Parkway in Lehi, in an existing planned community zone. This idea was not unlike the historical brewpubs in England that offered family food and a community gathering place for the whole family, according to Brown.

The Lehi Planning Commission approved.

According to http://craftbeer.com, craft brewers reached 12.7% of the total U.S. beer market in 2017. The retail dollar value from craft brewers was about $26 billion. More than 7,000 operated for some or all of 2018.

In 2014, independent craft brewers as defined by the Brewers Association consisted of 1,412 brewpubs, 1,871 microbreweries and 135 regional craft breweries.

Pleasant Grove Fire Department saves more than people

Pleasant Grove’s Fire Department is now better equipped to help save lives, but not just the lives of humans. Thanks to a donation of special oxygen masks, four-legged friends will now be safer when there are house fires.

Invisible Fence, Inc. donated the masks to the department through a campaign called Project Breathe. According to Eric Nish, firefighter/paramedic, the donated kits include masks for different sizes of pets and detailed information for CPR and oxygen administration procedures for animals.

“The masks themselves can also be used to attach a bag valve device to ventilate the animal if they are not breathing,” Nish said.

Members of the department have encountered animals in homes during fires.

“Commonly, the animal will self-evacuate,” Nish said. “When they don’t, it becomes a challenge for us. If the homeowner is there and alerts us of a missing animal, we make all attempts to locate and save it during our attack and search on the fire, with our main priority on stopping the fire from spreading.”

Nish said that the search techniques for animals are much the same as the ones that they use for humans during a fire. “We do this knowing the animal will likely be attempting to flee from firefighters,” he said.

Often, pets are found in areas of shelter, such as kennels or under furniture. These are typically prime areas that the firefighters check when conducting searches.

Nish recalls one dog who lived at a home that was completely destroyed by fire. Members of the Pleasant Grove Fire Department made many attempts to locate the dog but it was hiding and would not respond. The dog eventually crawled out of the rubble a couple of days later, seemingly unaffected.

According to American Humane, an organization, more than 500,000 pets are affected by house fires each year, with 1,000 house fires started by pets themselves. Nish said that animals are often affected by smoke more than humans because of their inability to understand the dangers of what is happening.

“Children also can have this same lack of understanding and attempt to shelter in a closet or under a bed rather than evacuate. That’s why it is crucial to teach our children early as well,” Nish said. “Both animals and humans can perish quickly due to the effects of toxic smoke inhalation.”

According to the ASPCA, some ways to ensure pet safety in the case of a house fire or other emergencies include noting where pets like to nap, having an emergency plan with an escape route, keeping emergency animal medical information handy, ensuring all pets wear collars with identification tags and preparing emergency supplies and traveling kits beforehand.

“The equipment is so similar to the equipment we use for humans that training is almost seamless with only subtle differences in procedure, mainly being oxygen flow settings,” Nish said. “It is great to have the capability to not only assist our human citizens and give them the medical attention they need, but also their loyal companions as well.”

Utah lawmaker aims to remove clergy exemption for reporting child abuse

Every Utah adult is required under state law to report confessions of child abuse to law enforcement — unless that adult is a religious leader who learned about the abuse during a confidential confessional.

A state lawmaker wants everyone, regardless of their religious title, to be legally obligated to report child abuse to authorities. So she sponsored a bill that would amend the law to require just that.

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, introduced House Bill 90 in the 2020 legislative session. The bill would delete “provisions that exempt, under certain circumstances, a member of the clergy from being required to report child abuse and neglect,” according to its text.

“For me, this is really about protecting children,” Romero said, who proposed the bill after years of discussion with other legislators and child abuse victim advocates. “Children are some of our most vulnerable members of society” and, as a lawmaker, Romero wants vulnerable groups to feel safe.

Utah Code mandates that anyone who “has reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect … shall immediately report the alleged abuse or neglect to the nearest peace office, law enforcement agency, or office of the division.”

However, this “does not apply to a member of the clergy, with regard to any confession made to the clergy while functioning in the ministerial capacity … without the consent of the individual making the confession” if the member of the clergy is bound by a confidentiality agreement.

The exemption exists to prevent priests, bishops and other religious leaders from being required to report information they obtained in confidence.

Romero said it is in “the best interest of all Utahns” that religious leaders, whether in the Roman Catholic Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or any other faith, be legally obligated to report sexual, physical and mental abuse of children.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” the state representative said.

Romero said Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, will be sponsoring the bill in the state Senate.

A California lawmaker introduced a similar bill in 2019 but withdrew it after facing opposition from the Catholic Church, the Sacramento Bee reported, which argued that mandatory reporting would require clergy to break the Catholic seal of confession and potentially be excommunicated.

Other states, like Texas, have mandatory reporting laws that apply to clergy members, bishops, attorneys and other individuals whose communications would otherwise be considered privileged, according to Southern Methodist University.

The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City hasn’t taken a position on the bill, said Jean Hill, the government liaison for the diocese. Hill said she is analyzing the legal and constitutional ramifications of the proposed legislation.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has also yet to take a stance on Romero’s bill. “The Church will need time to review the bill and its implications before taking a position,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Judy Larson, head of the Utah branch of the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), supports mandatory reporting requirements for all religious leaders — both as a SNAP representative and a survivor of child sexual abuse herself.

Larson said she was raped multiple times by a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit when she was 10. She reported the abuse to police decades later in 2016 but, due to the state’s statute of limitations, could not seek legal recourse.

The Archdiocese of Detroit reviewed the allegations of Larson and others and found them credible, she said.

“If you know that a child has been harmed, then you need to report it,” Larson said.

Saratoga Springs, Utah County plan for Pony Express Parkway expansion project

Saratoga Springs residents and those who drive on Pony Express Parkway may soon notice construction taking place as the city and county prepares for an expansion project of the widely used road.

The project was approved by the Mountainland MPO Regional Planning Committee and is expected to cost $3.8 million, according to an interlocal agreement between Utah County and Saratoga Springs. The Utah County Commission has not yet signed off on this agreement, which needs to happen for the project to take place.

The Pony Express Parkway Extension will widen the road, which runs through Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain, and expand it from Redwood Road to Old Saratoga Road.

Funding for the project will come from the Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG), Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and county transportation sales tax funds, according to the agreement. Saratoga Springs will be responsible for covering 6.7% of the costs, which equals $254,600.

The expansion project was presented before the Utah County Commission during a work session on Wednesday. Utah County Department of Public Works Director Richard Nielson told the commission that Saratoga Springs would be responsible for fronting the project costs and would be reimbursed by MAG in 2021.

“Saratoga Springs is wanting to start on the work,” Nielson said. “They just want to make sure they have the agreement in place (with Utah County) so they do get reimbursed when the time comes and the funding is available.”

According to the interlocal agreement, “MAG will not reimburse expenses on (the expansion project) unless funding is made available by UDOT and Utah County.” This could require the project “to be placed on hold” by the county or that Saratoga Springs “advance their own funds” toward the project with reimbursement to be made “upon receipt of available funding from UDOT and/or Utah County.”

Commissioner Bill Lee questioned whether Saratoga Springs would be okay with “footing the bill” for the project with no guarantee of reimbursement.

“Are they comfortable with signing an interlocal agreement that says they’re going to spend money but they may not get fully reimbursed?” Lee said.

Reimbursement for the project, according to the agreement, is capped at $3.6 million. Any costs exceeding this amount must be paid for by Saratoga Springs.

The interlocal agreement was signed by Saratoga Springs Mayor Jim Miller on Dec. 17. The commission did not sign the agreement since decisions are not made during work sessions. The commission will make a decision on the agreement in its next public meeting on Jan. 15.

US, Iran step back from the brink; region still on edge

WASHINGTON — The U.S. and Iran stepped back from the brink of possible war on Wednesday as President Donald Trump signaled he would not retaliate militarily for Iran’s missile strikes on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops. No one was harmed in the strikes, but U.S. forces in the region remained on high alert.

Speaking from the White House, Trump seemed intent on deescalating the crisis, which spiraled after he authorized the targeted killing last week of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. Iran responded overnight with its most direct assault on America since the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, firing more than a dozen missiles at two installations in Iraq. The Pentagon said Wednesday that it believed Iran fired with the intent to kill.

Even so, Trump’s takeaway was that “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.”

Despite such conciliatory talk, the region remained on edge, and American troops including a quick-reaction force dispatched over the weekend, were on high alert. Last week Iranian-backed militia besieged the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and Tehran’s proxies in the region remain able to carry out attacks such as the one on Dec. 27 that killed a U.S. contractor and set off the most recent round of hostilities.

Hours after Trump spoke, an ‘incoming’ siren went off in Baghdad’s Green Zone after what seemed to be small rockets “impacted” the diplomatic area, a Western official said. There were no reports of casualties.

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that it was “perhaps too early to tell” if Iran will be satisfied that the missile strikes were sufficient to avenge the Soleimani killing.

“We should have some expectation,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper added in a Wednesday briefing, “that Shiite militia groups, either directed or not directed by Iran, will continue in some way, shape or form to try and undermine our presence there,” either politically or militarily.

There is no obvious path to diplomatic engagement, as Trump pledged to add to his “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions. He said the new, unspecified sanctions would remain in place “until Iran changes its behavior.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the overnight strike was not necessarily the totality of Iran’s response.

“Last night they received a slap,” Khamenei said. “These military actions are not sufficient (for revenge). What is important is that the corrupt presence of America in this region comes to an end.”

Trump, facing perhaps the biggest test of his presidency, credited the minimized damage to an early warning system “that worked very well” and said Americans should be “extremely grateful and happy” with the outcome.

The strikes had pushed Tehran and Washington perilously close to all-out conflict and left the world waiting to see whether the American president would respond with more military force. Trump, in his nine-minute, televised address, spoke of a robust U.S. military with missiles that are “big, powerful, accurate, lethal and fast.” But then he added: “We do not want to use it.”

Iran for days had been promising to respond forcefully to Soleimani’s killing, but its limited strike on two bases — one in the northern Iraqi city in Irbil and the other at Ain al-Asad in western Iraq — appeared to signal that it, too, was uninterested in a wider clash with the U.S. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the country had “concluded proportionate measures in self-defense.”

Trump, who is facing reelection in November, campaigned for president on a promise to extract the United States from “endless wars.”

On Wednesday, he said the United States was “ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.” That marked a sharp change in tone from his warning a day earlier that “if Iran does anything that they shouldn’t be doing, they’re going to be suffering the consequences, and very strongly.”

Members of Congress were briefed on the Iran situation Wednesday afternoon in closed-door sessions on Capitol Hill, where Democrats and some Republicans expressed dissatisfaction with the administration’s justifications for the drone strike on Soleimani.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said it was “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue, in the nine years I’ve served in the United States Senate.” He said it was “distressing” that officials suggested it would only embolden Iran if lawmakers debated the merits of further military action. He and Sen. Rand Paul announced their support of a largely symbolic war powers resolution to limit Trump’s military action regarding Iran.

Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced after the briefing that the House would vote Thursday on a war powers resolution of its own.

Trump opened his remarks at the White House by reiterating his promise that “Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.” Iran had announced in the wake of Soleimani’s killing that it would no longer comply with any of the limits on uranium enrichment in the 2015 nuclear deal crafted to keep it from building a nuclear device.

The president, who had earlier pulled the U.S. out of the deal, seized on the moment of calm to call for negotiations toward a new agreement that would do more to limit Iran’s ballistic missile programs and constrain regional proxy campaigns like those led by Soleimani.

Trump also announced he would ask NATO to become “much more involved in the Middle East process.” While he has frequently criticized NATO as obsolete and has encouraged participants to increase their military spending, Trump has tried to push the military alliance to refocus its efforts on modern threats.

Like the U.S. troops in the region, NATO forces have temporarily halted their training of Iraqi forces and their work to combat the Islamic State.

Soleimani’s death last week in an American drone strike in Baghdad prompted angry calls for vengeance and drew massive crowds of Iranians to the streets to mourn him. Khamenei himself wept at the funeral in a sign of his bond with the commander.

Milley and Esper told reporters that a total of 16 missiles were fired from three locations in Iran. Eleven hit the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq’s western Anbar province and one targeted a base in Irbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. The missiles were described as likely short-range with 1,000- to 2,000-pound warheads. Four failed to detonate, they said.

Milley added that the Pentagon believes that Iran fired the missiles with the intent “to kill personnel.” He praised early warning systems, which detected the incoming ballistic missiles well in advance, providing U.S. and coalition forces adequate time to take shelter at both bases. He described the damage to tents, parking lots and a helicopter, among other things, as “nothing major.”

Officials also said that the U.S. was aware of preparations for the attack. It’s unclear if any intelligence identified specific targets or was more general.

Ain al-Asad was first used by American forces after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, and it later was used by American troops in the fight against the Islamic State group. It houses about 1,500 U.S. and coalition forces. Trump visited it in December 2018, making his first presidential visit to troops in the region. Vice President Mike Pence visited both Ain al-Asad and Irbil in November.

Trump spoke of new sanctions on Iran, but it was not immediately clear what those would be. The primary agencies involved in implementing such penalties – the departments of Commerce, State and Treasury – do not preview those actions to prevent evasion.

Since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal, the administration had already imposed harsh sanctions on nearly every significant portion of Iran’s economic, energy, shipping and military sectors.

Wednesday’s effort to deescalate the conflict came after world leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, appealed for restraint.

The fallout for Trump’s order to kill Soleimani had been swift.

Iraq’s Parliament voted to expel U.S. troops from Iraq, though Trump said they would not be leaving.

Trump and top national security officials have justified the Soleimani drone strike with general statements about the threat posed by the general, who commanded proxy forces outside Iran and was responsible for the deaths of American troops in Iraq.