An East Valley developer and downtown Mesa landowner is attempting to buy more property just west of the Arizona Mormon Temple.

Early speculation is the land could make way for a clothing distribution center for the Mormon church adjacent to the Temple in Mesa, but no specific plans are on the table.

The developer, Dennis Barney, a church member, owns seven parcels totaling 28,213 square feet — more than half an acre — in the block next to the temple, 101 S. Lesueur. The block containing Barney’s property is bounded by Main Street on the north, Lesueur on the east, Udall Street on the west and First Avenue on the south.

Barney has developed two prominent East Valley master planned communities, Val Vista Lakes and Circle G Ranches in Gilbert.

Recently, Barney asked Dean Harper, owner of Harper Electric Motor Service, 449 E. Main St., to sell the motor shop and a used car lot Harper owns next to the temple, Harper said.

Harper’s property borders an empty building Barney bought last year, formerly Schroeders Organ and Piano of Arizona, at 435 E. Main Street.

Harper said Barney told him he is acquiring the property to allow construction of a distribution center for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon ceremonial clothing, inspirational books and other items are sold in a distribution center. Church officials closed a distribution center in Phoenix recently.

Barney’s land would be used with several parcels owned by the church to build the distribution center, Harper said. Four parcels of land in the area are owned by the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City,according to Maricopa County Assessor’s Office records.

Harper said he isn’t interested in selling and would rather see his property declared a historic landmark because it is the oldest motor shop in the city. His family has done business at the location since 1946.

"I’ve got mixed emotions about selling," said Harper, who also is a Mormon. His great-grandfather was Charles Crismon, one of the founders of Mesa, Harper said.

The walls inside Harper’s motor shop are covered with Old West and other memorabilia, including antique firearms and pictures of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Elvis Presley and other movie stars. Harper said the items add to the historic value of his building.

City officials, including Councilman Kyle Jones, a Mormon, and Mesa redevelopment director Greg Marek, said they’ve heard the church is planning to build a distribution center near the temple, but both said they have not seen specific plans.

Barney couldn’t be reached for comment. His son, Jason Barney, said the land is being bought as an investment, and there are no development plans.

Church officials in Mesa directed calls to Scott Childs in the church’s business office in Salt Lake City. Childs did not return calls.

Barney’s land is listed under the ownership of Land Equity Investors, a limited liability corporation in Wilmington, Del. Barney is listed as the manager of the corporation, according to Arizona Corporation Commission records.

Land sought

Developer Dennis Barney has approached Dean Harper, owner of Harper Electric Motor Service, to sell his property. There are rumors that Barney, a member of the Mormon Church, would build an LDS distribution center in partnership with the church.

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