Temple re-approved with 90-foot steeple

June Casagrande

A Mormon temple with a 90-foot steeple can be built on Bonita

Canyon Drive, City Council members decided Tuesday.

The 6-0 vote closes the final chapter of the most controversial


development to come before city officials in more than a year.

“This thing had the makings of a civil war, but in the end, it did

not go there,” Councilman Steve Bromberg said. “Everybody has taken

the high road.”


Church officials have said they hope to begin work as soon as

possible on the 17,575-square-foot temple at 2300 Bonita Canyon

Drive, estimated to cost $10 million.

“I’m grateful for all the work you’ve done to help us get to this

point tonight. We look forward to building the temple with the

90-foot steeple,” said Weatherford Clayton, president of the church’s

Newport Beach stake center.

The final sticking point in the plan -- the steeple -- was


resolved in a compromise: Originally proposed at 124 feet, the church

knocked the steeple height down to 100 feet.

Then, after Bromberg met with local and national church leaders in

late October, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’

decision makers agreed to shave another 10 feet off the steeple

height, partly as a good-faith gesture to neighbors angry over the

plans and the proceedings.

The steeple will include an 8-foot statue of the Angel Moroni;


original plans included a 12-foot statue. Outdoor lights on the

building will be shut off at 10 p.m. and can be turned on no earlier

than 6 a.m. The church must obtain a special-event permit to put

holiday lights on the building. Holiday decorations, such as manger

scenes, on the surrounding grounds are allowed without a permit.

Church officials have said they have no plans to put on elaborate

holiday light displays.

The Mormon temple will be the first and only one in Orange County.

Church members say the structures are crucial to their faith because

some rites, such as marriages, can only be performed in temples. For

now, the county’s 40,000 Mormons must drive to Los Angeles or San

Diego counties for such ceremonies. The 8.5-acre project will include

public gardens and water treatments.

After plans for the temple were announced in October 2001,

hundreds of residents contacted the city to oppose the project. At

the same time, many church members and supporters who live in Newport

Beach voiced their support. The objections centered around the color

of the building, the amount of lights on it and, most of all, the

steeple height.

The Planning Commission in October approved revised plans, which

included reduced hours of lighting, a toned-down building color and a

99-foot, 9-inch steeple. Some residents said they felt this height

should have been reduced more in light of revelations that the

existing stake center’s steeple was 18 feet shorter than planning

documents showed. Some appealed the matter to the City Council.

Bromberg met with church leaders to explain the ill will fostered

by the proceedings. In a gesture of good faith to neighbors, church

leaders finally agreed on the 90-foot steeple.

“This is a wonderful solution to a problem,” said Ronald Talmud,

attorney for the residents who filed the appeal. “We welcome them to

the neighborhood.”

* JUNE CASAGRANDE covers Newport Beach and John Wayne Airport.

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