By Kent Larsen
NEWSFLASH: Harrison Temple Gets Judge's Blessing
WHITE PLAINS, NEW YORK -- The proposed LDS Temple in Harrison, New
York is one step closer to reality after a New York judge overruled
the Harrison Zoning Board of Appeals. acting state Supreme Court
Justice Peter Leavitt ordered the board to grant a variance to the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Friday that allows the
Church to build the 53-foot-tall Temple. Buildings in the town are
generally restricted to 30 feet.
The Zoning Board of Appeals had rejected the LDS Church's zoning
variance request September 28th after seven months of deliberations
and delays. The board had ruled, in a 5-2 decision, that the building
would be out of character with the upscale nature of the
neighborhood, and suggested that the building be limited to 38 feet.
But Judge Leavitt ruled, in a four-page ruling, that the board failed
to give a legitimate reason for turning down the Church. "The court
in no way means to denigrate (the board's) efforts, methods or
motives in their consideration of the (church's) application.
Nevertheless, given the facts presented on this record, said
determination bears no substantial relation to the promotion of the
public health, safety, morals or general welfare."
While town officials declined to comment on the ruling, or even say
if they planned to appeal, the LDS Church's lawyer in the case, Jim
Staudt, was pleased with the result, "The Mormon Church reduced the
size of the temple building substantially and screened it from view
at the request of its neighbors and the Harrison Planning Board,"
Staudt said. "We're confident that when the temple is built, the
building and its congregants will be welcomed by the citizens of
Harrison as they have welcomed all religions."
The proposed temple would be built on a 24-acre site that the Church
purchased for $2 million in 1996. According to the Church's lawsuit,
the town building inspector, Frank DePalo, at first told the Church
that it would not need a height variance, but then reversed himself
in 1997 when the community objected. Because of DePalo's actions, the
Church claimed that the board ruled "in response to community
opposition, rather than the record and the law."
The decision, however, does not mean that the Church can proceed to
build the Temple. The Town Board must first approve the building, and
residents of the area are hoping it will turn the Church down.
"There's a temporary disappointment here," said Gary Brandt, who
lives near the site of the proposed temple. "Clearly, this decision
should be appealed. Intelligent people brought considerable
experience to bear on this matter and came up with a logical
However, any appeal would have to also overcome a federal law,
proposed by Utah Senator and LDS Church member Orrin Hatch, that
seeks to keep local governments from using zoning laws to place a
burden on the exercise of religion, unless there is a 'compelling'
government interest. President Bill Clinton signed the Religious Land
Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 on September 22nd, just
a week before the Harrison board's decision.
Mormon temple gets judge's blessing
Westchester co NY Journal News 10Mar01 D1
By Bruce Golding and Karen Pasternack: The Journal News
Proposed White Plains Temple Loses Zoning Decision