Mormon Temple construction begins

June Casagrande

The first Mormon Temple in Orange County broke ground Friday, nine

months after the City Council approved the construction.

Weatherford Clayton, president of the Newport Beach stake center

of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the process

of getting permits through the city and approving details through the

church's Salt Lake City headquarters took longer than expected.

"The permits are almost complete, and we hope to have everything

in place very shortly, so this was the right time to break ground,"

Clayton said.

Work could be complete in about a year and a half on the

17,575-square-foot project, which is next to the stake center, at

2300 Bonita Canyon Drive.

The temple was the center of a long and heated community debate

after some neighbors objected to the 124-foot steeple and other

visual elements of the original plans. Through a series of public

meetings and discussions, the church ultimately agreed to a steeple

shortened to 90 feet. The outside lighting and the color of the

building were also toned down to blend in better with the area.

The new building on the 8.5-acre site will include public gardens

and water treatments. Once construction is complete, the church will

hold an open house with tours of the facility. After the temple's

dedication, however, some areas will be open only to church members.

The gardens and other areas will continue to be open to the public.

In the Mormon faith, temples are especially holy places and the

only places where certain rites can be performed. For now, the

county's 40,000 Mormons must travel to Los Angeles or San Diego

counties for such ceremonies.

"This temple came about through what was really a Herculean effort

by both parties," said Mayor Steve Bromberg, who helped broker a

compromise for the steeple. "I'm really proud of the people on both

sides."

* JUNE CASAGRANDE covers Newport Beach and John Wayne Airport. She

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

june.casagrande@latimes.com.

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