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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended September 29, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 03Oct00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Proposed White Plains Temple Loses Zoning Decision

HARRISON, NEW YORK -- The LDS Church's plans to construct a Temple in Harrison, New York, just north of New York City, were dealt a set back last Thursday when the Harrison Zoning Board of Appeals rejected the Church's request for a height variance. The requested variance would have allowed the Church to construct a 44-foot high building in an area zoned for residences no taller than 30 feet.

The 5-2 decision caps a four-year-long debate with the community and the town's planning and zoning boards, which said the proposed Temple simply didn't fit the neighborhood. "The majority of the zoning board found that the building was out of character with the neighborhood," said the zoning board's chairman, Richard Rafail.

About 12 neighbors at the board meeting on Thursday applauded as the vote came, and Jeff Grant, lawyer for the opposition, said he was pleased with the result, "We think the zoning board rendered a fair and reasonable decision based on all the evidence presented." One of the neighbors, Kathy Gurfein, added, "All the residents appreciate that the zoning board held up the same standard for the church as they hold to our homes."

The decision leaves the Church with several options. First, it could try to redesign the Temple to meet the 30 foot zoning requirement. However, that restriction would yield a building that might either stretch over a large area, or be scaled back to a 'smaller' Temple.

The Church might also appeal the Board's decision in the Courts. Because US President Bill Clinton signed into law the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 on September 22nd, just a week before the Harrison decision, the Church may claim that the decision violates that law. The law prohibits local governments from using land use regulations to place a burden on the exercise of religion, unless there is a 'compelling' government interest.

The Church could also give up on its plans to build a Temple on the Harrison site, and seek a site for a Temple elsewhere. With the dedication of the Boston Temple on Sunday, the travel time for Church members north of New York City has been cut drastically. But the growth rate in the New York region is enough to justify a larger Temple, and probably require a Temple soon.


Zoning board rejects temple variance
Westchester NY Journal News 29Sep00 N1
By Karen Pasternack: Journal News


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