Summarized by Kent Larsen
Mormon church near Big Sky turned down by zoning commission
Billings MT Gazette 11May00 D1
By John Miller
[Submitted by Mary Etta Parkinson]
BIG SKY, MONTANA -- The Gallatin County Zoning Commission voted 3-1
against a proposed LDS chapel, saying that its location was a bad
spot for a church. In a two-hour hearing on the issue, neighbors of
the property questioned the building's compatibility with the
subdivision while Church supporters questioned the religious bias of
those that opposed the project.
However, the Commissioners ultimately claimed that they were judging
a building, not a religion in voting against the permit necessary for
construction to begin. One of the commissioners, Bill Murdock, told
the hearing before his no vote that the scenic character of the
neighborhood and its location outside of the existing commercial
center ran against the zoning district's goals. "With the location of
this use, it doesn't seem appropriate," he added.
The lone voice on the commission in favor of the permit, Phil Olson,
disagreed, calling the Church's application, "one of the better
conditional uses" for a residential neighborhood. He said that
traffic from the current 10 active LDS Church members would have
minimal impact on the neighbors, "There could be more impact from a
residence," he said,
adding that loud parties or other residential activities could cause
a greater disturbance than twice-weekly Church services.
One of the fears expressed by the building's neighbors was that the
building might end up, in the future, much larger and more involved
than the current plan. One neighbor returned from Chicago for the
meeting, bringing with him several poster-board-size illustrations,
including one showing a monstrous LDS Temple on the site, blotting
out the view.
Opposition to the Church's plan was lead by J.C. and Marjorie Knaub,
who live near the proposed building, J.C. Knaub said that the vote
shows that the community wants to be careful about development, "It
proves that people in the know are the people (in Big Sky) who have
been chosen to review development," he said. "This . . . affirmed the
views of the
But Church supporters claimed that a petition circulated by the
Knaubs included misleading information, including the assertion that
the building would have 12,000-square-feet of floor space and a
20-foot spire, neither of which were part of the Church's request.
The current request was for a 2,000-square-foot building that could
be expanded later.
But Marjorie Knaub told the Chronicle last week that her petition
didn't mention a 12,000-square-foot building. "The paper that people
signed said they do not want a church in thatsubdvision, They did not
attest to the size of the church
when they signed the petition."
LDS Church spokesman Charles Brown, in Helena, Montana said that
Church officials in Salt Lake would review the Zoning Commission's
decision, and added that the Church also remains committed to
building a chapel in the Big Sky community. Any alternative site must
meet the LDS Church's requirements as far as cost, location and the
needs of the local LDS community. According to Brown, the Church has
a policy against building chapels near bars.
And local LDS Church members are optimistic that a place will be
found, "There's a spot somewhere," said Mardella Coil. "There's a
place for us somewhere."