Lorie Johnson says the LDS Church's latest plans to expand its Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo are a welcome change from past efforts.
Johnson, a resident of the nearby Pleasant View neighborhood, and Mark Cannon, the neighborhood vice chairman, said LDS representatives have met with residents to discuss options that would allow the MTC to handle a ballooning number of Mormon missionaries without intruding on the neighborhood.
Those options call for extending the MTC campus south toward Brigham Young University or northeast toward the Provo LDS Temple.
"This time, we have a plan that meets the needs of the church and the neighbors," said Johnson, who helped lead the opposition to an earlier plan to build a nine-story tower to replace three classroom buildings on the MTC campus.
When that plan was unveiled last year, residents complained that they were not given advance notice, that the high-rise would destroy the character of the neighborhood and violate a supposed promise church officials made nearly 40 years ago to limit the height of MTC buildings.
LDS officials shelved those plans in October soon after church President Thomas S. Monson announced that the age for Mormon missionaries was being lowered to 18 for men (down from 19) and 19 for women (down from 21). That set off an explosion in the number of missionary applications, especially from LDS women.
Before Monson's announcement, Provo's MTC the Utah-based faith's flagship training center housed an average of 2,700 missionaries at any one time. Church spokesman Scott Trotter said that tally is expected to surge to 7,800 this summer before settling down to 6,000.
To help house the missionaries, the church is putting 1,000 in the recently acquired Wyview Park apartments and 700 in the Raintree apartments.
Johnson and Cannon said LDS representatives met with residents in late 2012 to discuss the church's needs for the site. In March, the church came back with two proposals.
One calls for expanding the 23-acre MTC campus to the south toward University Parkway and onto land now occupied by BYU buildings.
The other option would stretch the MTC campus to the northeast on land in front of the Provo Temple.
"You can't please everybody with everything," Cannon said, "but I think [the church] has been sensitive to the neighborhood."
He said he was told that the proposals were not the definitive word on what the church would do with the MTC.
Johnson, who has lived in the area with her family since before the MTC was built in the 1970s, is partial to the northeast plan. She said that proposal imposes a building-height restriction, since the church wants to maintain views of its Provo Temple.
Provo Mayor John Curtis said he did not suggest the meetings, but supported the idea of the parties working together.
"It is always good to sit down with the stakeholders," Curtis said, "and listen to the stakeholders' concerns."