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
"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