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