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Provo residents responding in record numbers to brew pub survey

The Provo Municipal Council called for more information gathering on Jan. 21 to determine whether land use ordinances should be changed to allow brew pubs in downtown Provo.

The call for a survey was made after the council’s first hearing on an application from Downtown Provo, Inc. The application requests allowing restaurants with ancillary microbrewing as a permitted use in the regional shopping center, general downtown and downtown core zones.

The public response to the survey, which is collecting answers and comments until 7 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18 has been overwhelming, according to Karen Tapahe, community relations coordinator for the Provo Municipal Council.

The survey launched on Open City Hall, the online public engagement platform used by the council, on the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 31.

“Within four days, more than 1,100 people had viewed the topic and 860 people had taken the survey,” Tapahe said in a press release. “This is by far the topic with the most participation on the Open City Hall site.”

Responses so far show that about 90% of survey participants support the ordinance amendment and 88% would visit a restaurant in Provo that brews its own beer if the amendment passes. Around 9% said they were not supportive of the amendment.

Councilman David Harding, was one who wanted more citizen input and research done on the matter. He was not aware of the current results but said he had received messages regarding the survey.

“I received emails concerned it wasn’t scientific,” Harding said. “I don’t want to give the impression we think it’s representative (of the entire community). I don’t expect we’ll issue a scientific survey.”

Survey participants have also weighed in on issues important to Provo residents, the potential impact of allowing this type of restaurant and concerns regarding alcohol abuse.

Comments left on the survey anonymously include more than 300 written opinions, the majority of which are much like those listed below.

  • “I don’t drink. And I’m very concerned with public safety. But neither of these is a factor to me. I do not feel Provo is a very business friendly environment. Having a morality test for businesses doesn’t help. And we need to be more friendly to businesses and the personal choices people make. I’d likely frequent such a business, even though I don’t drink. They often have good food. I’m disappointed that this is even an issue.”
  • “Please defer to our public safety authorities and those who have experience with this sort of establishment. Much of the opposition seems to come from people who are just opposed to alcohol in general and don’t have concerns specific to this type of business.”
  • “It doesn’t seem like it would really make a difference considering alcohol is already served at restaurants. If there were any differences it would be that more steps of the businesses processes would happen in Provo therefore keeping more money in Provo. The changes in alcohol consumption will likely be unnoticeable to the public. If nothing else, this change would signal to other businesses that Provo is ready and willing to work together with businesses and the community to come to a compromise that works for everyone.”

“We really appreciate having the public weigh in on issues coming before the Council and I’m impressed with the number of people taking the time to fill out the survey and add their comments,” Tapahe said.

For those who haven’t already taken the survey, it will be available at http://OpenCityHall.provo.org.

The council will hear this item again at the Feb. 18 meeting after receiving the results of the survey, as well as additional research provided by staff.

Provo council considers foothills land amendment from agricultural to residential

Provo residents packed the city council chambers and overflowed into the lobby Tuesday evening to speak out against the city allowing a land use change from agricultural to residential.

The Municipal Council also shared their concern and voted unanimously against the proposed land use change amendment.

The property in question is about 150 acres of foothills land between 4800 and 6000 North and from 1000 to 3000 East just northeast of the Eastlawn Cemetery. About 100 of those acres are in the county and 50 in Provo city.

It would be the first in a process to allow for the Terra Development.

The conundrum the council faced was to allow private property development or to heed the call my many in attendance to keep the foothills unfettered and open.

According to Bob Jones, the developer seeking the amendment, he doesn’t have to work with the city as most of his property is already zoned and able to be developed in the area. However, he says he would prefer to work with the city.

Jones said the county has three criteria that he would need to meet: The developer must put in 20% of the homes as moderate income housing, 30% of land must be in green space and he must provide the open space that is available for public use.

“We meet those criteria,” Jones said.

Several residents spoke against the project during the public comment time. They are concerned about losing agricultural property, the aesthetic views and sensitive land designations. They spoke to seismic concerns and wildlife considerations.

“I’ve spent many hours trying to come to a consensus,” said Bonnie Morrow, North Timpview Neighborhood chairman. “It is a very convoluted and contentious subject.”

Morrow added, “My neighborhood is extremely split. Some want to see vacant land and horses. We have people for it because of personal property rights. It’s a great concern.”

Kaye Nelson has been leading the neighbors in seeking more information.

“Mr. Jones is a man with a goal,” Nelson said. “The last of the foothills is an irreplaceable treasure.”

Nelson added the city must not be hasty because development is not inevitable.

If Jones works with the county, he could build more than 700 units. With Provo just over 200 units. He is already approved for three units an acre on 70% of the property.

Several residents who spoke were multi-generational land users and wanted to make sure their grandchildren’s grandchildren would benefit from the open land.

Jones said a geological study would be done by now but Provo stopped that process. “It is higher up the mountain where the problem is.”

Resident Russ Loveless said if the land is to be developed, that he would like to see it done beautifully and in an organized and planned way.

During the council discussion, Chairman George Handley said, “the general plan is not an adequate document for this issue.”

The city is working on other documents including protected lands amendments concerning the foothills that Handley and others would like to have completed before a decision is made on Jones’ land.

“It would be irresponsible for us as a council to vote on such a thing tonight,” Handley said. “I’m content to wait for a foothills ordinance.”

Councilman Travis Hoban says he sees Jones as a capitalist. “Provo needs capitalists. Our homes were built by developers. Developers are building the future of Provo. Go find a developer and give him a hug.”

Pleasant Grove planetarium project almost fully funded

James Porter did not want to have to send out emails to 23 schools telling them their students wouldn’t be launching off on a space mission this year. But with high demand and construction that cut off a few weeks of opportunities, the Christa McAuliffe Space Center at Central Elementary School in Pleasant Grove was booked.

“This has been a rough year,” said Porter, the space center’s director.

That’s about to change.

The space center and Central Elementary School are in the process of being rebuilt as the Alpine School District continues to fundraise for about $4 million for a new space center. The new school facility will see students this fall. Porter expects the new space center will be open in time for summer camps.

When complete, the center will be able to see 120 people a day, up from its current capacity of 80.

More than 400,000 students have been through the space center and its simulated space missions since it opened in 1990. Students travel from across the state for field trips to the center, which is completely booked every year. Private and business groups also use the center.

Its simulators test guests on different curriculum topics, put quick decision making to the test and encourage teamwork and leadership skills.

Fundraising efforts began about a year and a half ago as the space center started with a goal of $800,000 in order to increase its capacity and add a permanent planetarium dome.

Then, Porter said, more people began getting behind the idea and seeing the potential of what the planetarium could become. The center, with the district’s backing, decided to go forward with a $4 million goal.

The Alpine School District has raised about $3.2 million in cash or other commitments for the project so far, according to Kimberly Bird, a spokeswoman for the district. The district has grant applications out and meetings scheduled with potential business donors in order to fund the final amount.

“I think we have a high confidence level we will reach it sometime this year,” Bird said.

Donations have included $1 million from the Woodbury Corporation, $100,000 from doTerra, $25,000 from Facebook, $50,000 from Tyson Foods and $1 million from the Edward St. John Foundation, which is located out of Baltimore and whose parent company, St. John Properties, owns facilities in Utah County.

When finished, Bird said the district believes it will have the only school in the state with a planetarium.

Sixth grade students in the district visit the planetarium on field trips. Bird said the district will ask in meetings who has been to it, and every person in attendance will raise their hand.

“It is a memory that you remember,” Bird said.

Bird said the district is appreciative to its donors, which have included both individuals and businesses.

Central Elementary School was one of the district’s oldest buildings. With a new facility that includes a wing just for the space center, Bird said the school will become a 21st century space.

From the outside, it currently isn’t obvious that the school has a space center. The new building will make the facility more visible.

“We have always had the experience where people walk into the school confused that this is where they are supposed to be,” Porter said. “Then they step through the door and that immersiveness happens. We are going to start getting people excited when they pull into the parking lot.”

The permanent planetarium dome will be 40 feet, making it the second-largest planetarium dome in Utah, behind the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City, with a 4k resolution screen, allowing audiences to pick out small details. The planetarium will also include about 70 seats that tilt backward to make the viewing experience more comfortable for guests.

The new center will also include updates to simulator technology to create a better learning experience for students. Porter said the prior center had limitations.

“I am excited for schools to come and put their students in that immersive nature of the planetarium and see things from a different perspective,” he said.

But what gets Porter the most excited is the ability to access up-to-date information and immediately be able to provide new content to guests. He said the old system didn’t allow for that, but that the new one will allow for the planetarium to offer monthly new information about space.

He anticipates the center will be able to provide more community events and is looking at doing regular planetarium shows on the weekends. Those community programs, Porter said, help to fund the center and keep the cost of field trips low.

The rebuild of Central Elementary School is being funded through the Alpine School District’s 2016 bond. As talks about the rebuild started, it was always the goal for the space center to remain connected to the school.

Porter said the center provides opportunities for people to learn about space and keeps an educational experience in the community. While the Clark Planetarium is in Salt Lake City and Brigham Young University has a planetarium in Provo, Porter said not everyone is able to make it to one of those two locations.

“This one, we are literally down the street in a school, and it’s very welcoming,” Porter said.

Spanish Fork launching rebate program to encourage residents to buy electric, battery-powered lawn equipment

Spanish Fork will be launching a rebate program later this year to incentivize residents to purchase battery or electric-powered lawn equipment in an effort to reduce emissions and improve air quality in Utah.

Residents who dispose of their gas-powered lawn mowers, snow blowers, leaf blowers, grass trimmers or chainsaws will receive up to $300 that would go toward purchasing more environmentally-friendly equipment that is powered by gas or electricity, according to Spanish Fork Power and Light Superintendent Kelly Peterson.

Peterson told the Spanish Fork City Council about the rebate program during its meeting Tuesday. He said the program is expected to launch at the end of March or beginning of April.

The idea came up during a Utah Municipal Power Agency (UMPA) conference last March, where a group gave a presentation on air quality and the different sources of air pollutants.

“We just thought it would be a good idea to … try to offer some type of program to help move people away from gas-powered equipment” and toward battery-powered equipment,” Peterson said.

The program is in partnership with UMPA, which will give out the rebates and train utilities and billing departments on how to keep track of customers to avoid duplications, said Peterson.

Funding for the rebates will come from an UMPA Energy Efficiency Fund to which Spanish Fork has contributed $55,744.

“We’re hoping that will last more than one season,” Peterson told the council, “But we’re not sure.”

Peterson said that other cities who partner with UMPA, including Provo, Salem and Nephi, will have the option of opting in to the rebate program.

Residents can dispose of their gas-powered lawn equipment at a solid waste service district, which will give them a receipt verifying the disposal. After they purchase a new piece of equipment, they can submit the receipts to UMPA and receive their rebate.

Residents who dispose of gas-powered equipment will receive a rebate that either matches the purchasing price of the new equipment or a maximum of $300 for lawn mowers and snow blowers and $50 for grass trimmers, leaf blowers and chainsaws.

Newer residents to the city who are making first-time purchases will be incentivized to buy electric or battery-powered equipment as well, Peterson said. Purchases without disposals will be rebated up to $175 and $25, depending on the type of equipment.

Councilman Chad Argyle asked whether residents would be able to purchase equipment of any brand. Peterson said they could, adding that the only requirement is that the equipment is not powered by gas.

The city is looking to partner with local retailers to get the word out about the rebate, Peterson said, including The Home Depot, Ace Hardware and Lowe’s.

Residents interested in applying for a rebate can do so by filling out an application on a website that is still being developed, Peterson said.

Highland lawmaker introduces bill to require warning labels on pornographic material

A state representative from Utah County wants all pornographic material distributed in Utah to include a warning label about the potential harms pornography can have on minors.

Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Highland, introduced House Bill 243 on Tuesday. The bill would allow “the attorney general or a member of the public to bring an action against a person who distributes pornography without a visible warning.”

A pornography distributor who violated the labeling law would face a civil penalty of up to $2,500 for each violation, according to the bill’s text, and would also be responsible for paying filing and attorney fees.

The warning label, which is included in Brammer’s bill, would state the following: “Exposing minors to pornography is known to the state of Utah to cause negative impacts to brain development, emotional development, and the ability to maintain intimate relationships. Such exposure may lead to harmful and addictive sexual behavior, low self-esteem, and the improper objectification of and sexual violence towards others, among numerous other harms.”

The label would have to be placed in “clear, readable type” on the cover of print publications or displayed for at least 15 seconds prior to the display or pornographic videos or images. It would be similar to labels on tobacco products warning that use can lead to increased risk of lung cancer and other health problems.

Brammer said constituents have asked him what can be done to prevent minors from being exposed to pornography.

“It’s continuing to be a problem,” he said, adding that he believes this bill is one solution.

The bill follows in the footsteps of a 2016 nonbinding resolution sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, that declared pornography as a “public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.”

Gov. Gary Herbert signed the resolution into law in April 2016, comparing the harms of youth viewing pornography to drug and alcohol abuse.

While the harms of drug addiction are well known, “we also want our young people to know that there is a particularly psychological and physiological detriment that comes from addiction to pornography, too,” Herbert said at a press conference.

The resolution received national and international attention. Since then, multiple states have enacted similar anti-pornography resolutions, including Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Oklahoma, according to Fight the New Drug, a Salt Lake City-based organization that raises awareness about the dangers of pornography.

In an email, Fight the New Drug described itself as a “non-legislative organization” and declined to comment on Brammer’s bill.

H.B. 243 defines pornography as any description or representation of “nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse” that does not have “serious value for minors.” Literary, artistic, political or scientific works containing sexual themes would not be required to have warning labels.

The National Center for Exploitation, a group that helped Weiler draft his 2016 resolution, has argued that there is a correlation between pornography consumption and sexual violence.

H.B. 243 would require that half of any penalty paid for noncompliance would go to the Utah Office for Victims of Crime, which would deposit them in a Crime Victim Reparations Fund.

Marina Lowe, legislative and policy council for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, said the civil liberties group is still reviewing the bill and doesn’t have a firm position yet, but added that it “definitely raises some constitutional concerns” at first glance.

“There’s a constitutional protection for some of this type of speech,” Lowe said, “and so a labeling requirement might chill that First Amendment protected speech.”

Brammer said he does not believe the bill raises First Amendment concerns. He pointed to California’s Proposition 65, which requires businesses to provide warnings about exposure to toxic chemicals.

“And it does not prohibit the transmission of pornography in any way,” Brammer added. “It merely requires a warning label, as opposed to preventing the actual speech.”

Brammer said he is waiting for the fiscal note of the bill to be looked at by analysts, at which point it will go to committee.