It appears the long, at times bruising, debate about the proposed
Mormon temple in Newport Beach is nearing its end.
Given the needs of the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints and the demands of residents living near the
proposed temple, the Planning Commission did a laudable job with what
has been a very emotional issue. The vehemence of the discussion is
not surprising given that on one side are religious beliefs and the
other a desire to maintain a neighborhood and property values.
What has been heartening throughout is the mostly neighborly
manner in which the matter has been discussed. Leaders of the Mormon
church have agreed to significant changes to the proposed temple,
which originally included a 123-foot 9-inch steeple and 24-hour
In the final plans, the steeple will stand 99 feet 9 inches and
the lighting will be on from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
However, in the final days before the commission vote, one bit of
not-so neighborliness did sour the give-and-take a bit. The original
call for the higher steeple was based, Mormon leaders said, on the
need for the temple to be more prominent that the church's existing
stake center, which supposedly had an 86-foot steeple. But it turned
out that the steeple was never built to the height allowed. Instead,
it topped off at 68 feet when surveyed by the city.
Some leaders in the Mormon community acknowledged that they knew
the stake center's steeple was not has high as the plans said. Their
late admission was counter to the open, engaging manner in which most
of the debate was handled. It came at an unfortunate time.
It remains to be seen whether that one slip will cause the issue
to linger on. Those who have been opposed to the plan are weighing
whether to appeal it to the City Council. Already worried about the
effect the temple would have on traffic and their views, skepticism
about what they are being told could lead them toward an appeal that
most people likely don't want.