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For week ended March 05, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 06Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Boston Globe Supports Provision That Allowed Boston Temple
Boston Globe pg C6 5Mar00 N1
Boston Globe Editorial

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS -- A Boston Globe editorial looks at the so-called Dover amendment, the Massachusetts religious-zoning law that had helped the LDS Church get the Boston Temple past the objections of its neighbors. The Globe supports the amendment, saying "the state is wise to interpose the so-called Dover amendment in the way of a neighborhood veto." The editorial puts the Globe on the side of the LDS Church. One of the lawsuits against the Boston Temple claims that the Dover amendment is unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution's 1st and 14th amendments.

The Dover amendment arose because of a controversy in the Massachusetts town of Dover, which tried to keep the Catholic Church from purchasing an old estate and turning it into a priory through a town bylaw. Then state attorney general Francis E. Kelly sued, and simultaneously encouraged the state Legislature to exempt religious and educational institutions from local zoning. Although the town backed down and allowed the Catholics to purchase and convert the estate, the Legislature passed the law exempting religious institutions and educational institutions in 1950.

The LDS Church isn't the only institution to benefit from the law. a Congregational Church and a synagogue in Acton are expanding their buildings under the law, and a 1991 change which included day care centers allowed the Lil' Munchkins center in Scituate, the Barn Yard in Westwood and the Language Enrichments Arts Program in Sudbury, Massachusetts to escape the resistance that is common to day care centers.

The law does allow local zoning boards to regulate the size and height of a building, within reason. This led to the recent decision by a Massachusetts district judge who ruled that the Church must keep the overall height of the Temple, including its steeple, within the town zoning law. The town had ruled, deferring to the Dover amendment, that the Church could put an 81-foot steeple on the 58-foot building. The judge's ruling will limit the Church to an additional 14 feet over the 58-foot building height.

One Massachusetts legislator, John Stasik, is currently planning legislation to give cities and towns greater say, while keeping most of the law's provisions. He wants towns and cities to be able to control the height, size, lighting and landscaping of buildings. But the Globe says that the law already has "adequate provision for local concerns to be ventilated." It says that the Dover amendment puts the burden of proving the need for restrictions where it belongs -- on the communities, not on religious and educational institutions.


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