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Sent on Mormon-News: 10Jun01

By Kent Larsen

LDS Church Proceeds With Final Steps for White Plains NY Temple

HARRISON, NEW YORK -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will ask the Harrison New York Town Board to approve the proposed White Plains Temple on Monday, proceeding with the final step in the approval process despite an outstanding lawsuit. However, Town Supervisor Ronald Bianchi doesn't expect a quick decision by the Board on the controversial building, saying that the Board is unlikely to reach a decision Monday. And some local residents are still opposed to the building.

The Church has already completed the initial step in the approval process, securing the approval of the Harrison Planning Board, but when it sought a zoning variance from the Harrison Zoning Board of Appeals, the second step, it was turned down. The Church then went to acting state Supreme Court Justice Peter Leavitt, who overruled the board, ordering it to grant the variance. [In New York State, the Supreme Court is not the highest level in the court system. It is a trial court, and its decisions can be appealed to an appellate division, and then to the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.]

In April, the town filed an appeal of Leavitt's decision, which has not yet been heard. By going ahead with the third step, approval by the Town Board, the Church is trying to accelerate the process for building the Temple and secure permission to build as soon as possible.

The lawyer representing the Church Monday, Jim Staudt, said the presentation, which will ask the Town Board for a special exception permit, will focus on how the site will be used, instead of on the specifics of the building size and features. Staudt says the Church has already reduced the size of the proposed temple, lowering its height so that it will be completely screened by trees. He says the issues of building features are outside of the government's role, "In America, the government cannot be going through people's churches and telling them which parts of the buildings are religiously significant and which parts are not. That's the antithesis of the reasons this country was founded."

Town Supervisor Bianchi says he had reviewed the town's records about the proposed temple, but hasn't yet formed an opinion on the permit request. He says that the Board will review the plans and evidence before reaching a decision.

But in spite of Bianchi's statements, even in this step, the Church faces opposition. Some of the neighbors continue to raise doubts and objections. They say that they don't oppose the temple, as long as it complies with local laws, and want the town to hire an independent consultant to conduct a long-term study of the potential health, safety and traffic issues posed by a regional temple.

Neighbor Kathy Gurfein claims that the Church hasn't tried to resolve the neighbor's concerns, "The applicant has never, ever sat down with us seriously and tried to mitigate our concerns. Our concerns have absolutely nothing to do with their religion. It's the scope of the structure that we're worried about and how it could negatively impact a neighborhood built to handle single-family homes."

Another neighbor, Gary Brandt, add that Kenilworth Road, one of the streets bordering the temple property, already has too much traffic, "It's going to exacerbate a traffic problem that's already intolerable," he said.


Mormons temple proposal goes to Harrison Town Board
Westchester co NY Journal News 9Jun01 D1
By Karen Pasternack: The Journal News

See also:

Harrison NY Appeals Decision Favoring Temple

Harrison Temple Gets Judge's Blessing

Proposed White Plains Temple Loses Zoning Decision

White Plains New York Controversy Makes Local News

LDS Leaders Request Fast For New York Temple

White Plains Temple Opposition Intensifies


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