Planners OK temple with lower steeple

June Casagrande

A Mormon temple with a 99-foot 9-inch steeple and slightly reduced

hours of lighting won Planning Commission approval Thursday night,

closing a chapter of the most controversial project this year.

But widespread resident opposition to the modified project could

land the matter in front of the City Council for a final decision.

Residents for and against the temple of the Church of Jesus Christ

of Latter-day Saints packed City Council chambers Thursday and

spilled out onto the City Hall lawn as planning commissioners heard

passionate speeches.

"I'm concerned about allowing something like this that doesn't

conform with the community," said Kathy Cole, a resident of Bonita


Adding this input to the hours of testimony they had already heard

and the hundreds of letters and e-mails they had received,

commissioners finally decided in a 5-1 vote to approve a temple with

the scaled-down steeple. Michael Toerge was the lone dissenter.

"I think that the revised proposal brings the steeple into

parity," commission Chairman Steven Kiser said.

Information revealed this week about the height of the existing

stake center's steeple cast skepticism and confusion on Thursday's

proceedings. Kiser confronted church officials about whether they

knew staff documents inaccurately reported that the stake center

steeple was 86 feet tall, when a privately conducted survey later

revealed it was 68 feet tall.

Some church leaders admitted they had been aware of the

discrepancy, others said they had not known.

"Someone should have brought it up," Kiser said.

Original temple plans included a 123-foot 9-inch steeple, which

was a lighting rod for the bulk of homeowners' criticism: Many

neighbors said the steeple would take up too much of the local

skyline. Original plans also included 24-hour exterior lighting,

which was scaled back first to 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. and, in the final

proposal, changed to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Residents concerned about holiday lighting and decorations on the

temple found assurance in the commission's decision. Commissioners

included a provision that no holiday lights will be permitted, not

even with a special event permit..

The temple, estimated to cost at least $10 million, is slated to

be built at 2300 Bonita Canyon Drive.

"We're looking forward to a good relationship with our new

neighbors," said Weatherford Clayton, president of the church's

Newport Beach stake center.

* JUNE CASAGRANDE covers Newport Beach and John Wayne Airport.

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

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