Summarized by Kent Larsen
Judge Rules Against Boston Temple Steeple
Boston Globe pgB1 23Feb00 D1
By Caroline Louise Cole: Globe Correspondent
BELMONT, MASSACHUSETTS -- Middlesex Superior Court Judge Elizabeth
Fahey ruled against the LDS Church yesterday, saying that the steeple
on the Church's Boston Massachusetts Temple must stay within zoning
requirements, in spite of the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeal's grant
of an exception. The ruling comes in a lawsuit by neighbors of the
Temple who claimed that the Zoning Board exceeded its authority in
allowing the Church to put an 81-foot steeple on top of a 58-foot
building. Town zoning law limits the height of a building, including
steeple, to 72 feet.
In her ruling, Judge Fahey said that while a steeple adds to the
inspiring look of the building, it is not essential, ''While a spire
might have inspirational value and may embody the Mormon value of
ascendancy towards heaven, that is not a matter of religious doctrine
and is not in any way related to the religious use of the temple.''
She also said that the Church had failed to prove its claim that the
height restriction was unreasonable.
Six neighbors of the Temple had filed suit against the Church after
the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals granted the Church the right to
put an 81-foot steeple on the building. They claimed that the steeple
would dominate the skyline and cast shadows over their properties.
They claimed that the Church wasn't exempt from zoning laws covering
the height of the building in spite of the state's law that allow's
churches to locate in residential neighborhoods, because the height
above the zoning restriction isn't an essential part of the religious
nature of the building. Judge Fahey's decision voids the special
permit issued by the zoning board, and requires that the Temple stay
within the 72-foot height provided by the law.
The ruling leaves the LDS Church with few options for the steeple.
Since the building is 58 feet high, a steeple within the zoning law
would only rise 14 feet above the building. The Church could also
appeal the decision.
One of the attorney's representing the Church, Paul Killeen, told the
Boston Globe that the Church is studying the decision and that he
couldn't comment until they had had a chance to review it. But Bishop
Grant Bennett of the Belmont Ward, which meets in the building next
door to the new Temple, had told the Globe prior to the decision that
the Church intended to appeal an adverse decision.