DAVE & DUJANOVIC

City looks for answers in unauthorized demolition of century-old meetinghouse — on Easter

Apr 1, 2024, 4:47 PM | Updated: 8:07 pm

Demolition work occurring at 740 S. 300 West in Salt Lake City has been halted due to lack of prope...

Demolition work occurring at 740 S. 300 West in Salt Lake City has been halted due to lack of proper permitting on Monday, April 1, 2024. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY —  On Easter Sunday, a wrecking crew showed up at the abandoned, boarded-up Fifth Ward Meetinghouse in downtown Salt Lake City and tore about half of the chapel down before city officials stopped them. There was no demolition order for the building. 

A city staffer who noticed it being razed passed the information to two city preservation planners who arrived quickly at the site and presented an emergency stop-work order. The staffer only noticed it because they were driving by the meetinghouse at 740 South and 300 West on Sunday.

When the planners called the police, the crew ran off.

Who tore the meetinghouse down?

Nick Norris is the director of planning for Salt Lake City.  He told KSL NewsRadio that the city is now working to locate the crew members.

 

“We’ve got a picture of the vehicle that they left in, the name on the door of the truck that they were in. We’re working on taking the appropriate enforcement action now,” said Norris.

Norris also said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had sold the meetinghouse property “decades ago.”

The Fifth Ward Meetinghouse was completed in 1910. The ward formed on the southwest side of the city in 1853, making it one of the state’s oldest congregations, according to a history of the building compiled by the Utah State Historical Society in 1978.

According to Norris, demolishing the meetinghouse, a historic landmark, is subject to stricter rules and scrutiny.

“In order to get approval to demolish a landmark site, you essentially need to demonstrate that there’s no economic value of the building … it would be really rare for someone to be able to demonstrate that, “said Norris.

‘Correct the problem’

The city is contacting the parties involved in the demolition. They hope to work towards a resolution, according to the planning director.

“We’re trying to track down the registered agents for the contractor,” said Norris. “We know who the property owner is. It’s an LLC with the managing partner, an individual named Jordan Atkin and so we’re already communicating with that person and trying to create the path forward to correct the problem.”

“The owner has relayed that they had somebody there but they’ve indicated that they weren’t supposed to start demolishing the building,” Norris said.

Potential Penalties 

Those involved with the demolition will be subject to zoning violation fines, Norris said. 

“The penalty for this kind of a violation is $100 a day and each day is considered a new violation. It adds up until its corrected,” he said. 

In this case, there were two zoning codes violated. First, crews were working without a permit. Second, they were demolishing it without historical approvals. Norris said those fines will be added together, to a total fine of around $200 each day the owner is not in compliance with the codes. 

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City looks for answers in unauthorized demolition of century-old meetinghouse — on Easter