River Heights tells opera company to clean up its act
RIVER HEIGHTS --The City Council gave a stern reminder Tuesday evening to the Utah Festival Opera to make its property look nicer, due to residents' complaints.
Mark Brenchley, representing the opera company, pleaded with the council to give him more time before the city takes action against his company.
The Utah Festival Opera company has used the old elementary school building at 443 S. 400 East ever since the new one was built on the border of county land on 600 South and 700 East in River Heights. Councilmman Noel Cooley and City Recorder Sheila Lind said the company gained access to the building through the influence of famous opera singer and Cache Valley resident Michael Ballam.
"They're renting it for a dollar a year," said Lind.
They have been renting the building since 2000, using it mainly for props, valuable collections of music, and even rehearsals at one time. Tenants have even lived in the building, said Brenchley. River Heights granted conditional use based on compliance of several key points, many of which have not been complied with, said the council.
One of the usages the city demanded was to have it be more of a community center, and not just a place for UFO to use. Brenchley claims that UFO doesn't have the funds to comply with zoning ordinances if the building is to be used as a community center. For example, if it has over 300 people in it at a time, it is classified as an "A" building (Assembly) and must have an elaborate sprinkler system and fire alarm.
"We can not allow any group, other than the main two, River Heights City and Utah Festival Opera, to use this building," said Brenchley.
Brenchley says they have an inspection certificate from the state of Utah but they also need one from county building inspector Don Davis.
Some of the complaints from residents are that the exterior of the building has not been kept up, and the dying spruce tree has deposited unsightly needles everywhere. The council sent a letter in September 2002 to UFO detailing the desired changes if the company were to be granted a conditional use permit.
"We had no response whatsoever," said Councilwoman Gladys Ann Atwood, "not a telephone call, letter, nothing."
Brenchley denied receiving the letter, but when council produced the letter he saw that it was addressed to Michael Ballam and carbon copied to himself.
"I don't remember getting this letter at all," said Brenchley.
The council agreed that the opera company would have to make the necessary changes by May 1. Atwood reminded Brenchley of the company's current status with River Heights.
"At this point you don't have a conditional use permit," Atwood said.
The existing agreement with River Heights is that the opera company is supposed to maintain and preserve the trees on the property. So it will not only have to cut down the moribund spruce, but replace it with another tree.
Brenchley said that he could not plant another blue spruce because it was right on the corner and it would illegally block drivers' views. He said that Logan has a law that signs and other obstructions cannot be four to six and one half feet above the ground on an intersection corner, because drivers in vehicles sit about that high off the ground. Even a young spruce tree would be too thick. The council discussed other trees that would be sufficient.
The council also addressed the building's unlawful occupancy.
"Several residents nearby were pretty well convinced that there was more than one person [living] there," Councilwoman Mary Yancey said.
"There was a couple," said Brenchley. "They stole a piano, and we had them ejected [evicted] and arrested."
Also, the council asked for a nicer sign. Although the opera company complied with the current restrictions, the council decided that a small laminated sign pasted on the door was not sufficient.
After Brenchley left, the council said that complying with River Heights' requests had not been a priority of the Festival Opera Co.
"They put it on the backburner, and let it go," Councilman Brent Greenhalgh said.
But the council agreed that this latest meeting would bring about results.
"I think we have their attention," Atwood said.
We've published stories since 1998. We've saved them all. Click the link below to take you to the Archive home page. We have no search engine on the archive, so if you're looking for a particular story, you'll need to search month by month or use keywords from the story in Google.com