Height of Mormon steeple contradicted

June Casagrande

City planners are reconsidering their 100-foot recommendation for

a Mormon temple steeple in light of new information that shows the

existing stake center's steeple is shorter than city documents state.

The 100-foot limit recommended by city officials late last month

was a compromise between the 124-foot steeple church planners

requested and the allegedly 86-foot steeple on the church's existing

stake center.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints representatives have

said that the temple's steeple must be more prominent than that of

the stake center to reflect the building's greater religious

significance. But, as revealed by a resident who hired a surveyor,

the stake center steeple is no more than 68 feet.

"That means they could achieve their objective with just a 75-foot

steeple," said Allen Murray, a neighbor of the proposed temple who

hired the surveyor to measure the existing steeple on behalf of a

group of homeowners near the site.

Asst. City Manager Sharon Wood dispatched surveyors to verify the

results of Murray's survey. Murray's survey recorded a 67.3-foot

height for the stake center steeple, the city survey measured it at

68 feet. Neither measurement includes an attached lightning rod.

Wood said that, in light of the new information, staff may change

its recommendation to an even lower height. The 86-foot

point-of-reference, city and church officials said, was based on the

original permits for the project approved by the city of Irvine.

"We were using the best information we had available to us," said

Weatherford Clayton, president of the church's existing stake center,

adding that much of their information was based on the original

approvals.

But he emphasized that just because the stake center steeple is

shorter than documents show, it doesn't necessarily mean that the

temple steeple should also be shortened.

"It needs to be higher, but there's no set ratio," Clayton said.

"It's important that the steeple fit in with the architecture of the

building."

Some homeowners say the new information casts an unflattering

light on church representatives and city planners. They also say that

it is typical of the problems they have had all along in getting

complete and accurate information about temple plans.

"I think this bears out our huge credibility issues in dealing

with these people," Bonita Canyon Homeowners Assn. President Steven

Brombal said.

Brombal pointed out that, while temple planners have emphasized

that only about 150 people at a time will use the facility, planners

have not specified what the turnover rate will be.

He also said he is concerned that the temple plans include

lighting the building from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. five days a week.

All these issues are expected to come to a head Thursday when the

matter comes up for a final vote of the city's Planning Commission.

Regardless of their vote, the matter could also eventually land in

front of the City Council.

* JUNE CASAGRANDE covers Newport Beach and John Wayne Airport.

She may be reached at (949) 574-4232 or by e-mail at

june.casagrande@latimes.com.

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