Near an end to temple debate

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

exterior lighting.

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.

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