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Posted 21 Aug 2001   For week ended August 10, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 06Aug01

By Kent Larsen

Town Meeting Highlights Neighbor Feelings Over Harrison Temple

At the July meeting opponents raised the same issues and fears that have been their reaction to the Church's proposed temple from the beginning. They object to the traffic they think that the building will bring, to the height of the spire and lighting of the building, which they say will block their view and light their yards at night, and to the fact that the building won't be open to non-Mormons, but is meant for the use of members in the region, not the neighborhood.

But the neighbors also raised claims of bad faith on the part of the Church, questioning the honesty and motives of the Church. Resident John Dearie brought Belmont, Massachusetts resident Charles Counselman to the meeting, who was one of the chief opponents of the Church's Boston Massachusetts Temple. Counselman claimed that Church members in Massachusetts lied and deceived his community about the Temple and claimed that the Temple there lit the neighborhood at night, produced steady streams of unwanted visitors and made nearby homes unmarketable.

The opponents called for a year-long, independent study of a temple's impact on the community. Dearie sought a study that went beyond impact, however, saying that the study should look at how the Church operates, "We can learn about the modus operandi, the style, the tactics, the contempt - I might say - that this applicant shows for communities."

An article in the Westchester county New York Journal News that covered the July meeting also looked at the Church's view in the matter. The Church believes that the selection of a temple site is inspired by God, and that much of the design of the buildings is meant to inspire. The height of spires, an issue with both the Boston and Harrison temples, is important because the spire is a religious symbol meant to draw closer to heaven, "Like with most religions, the steeple or spire is symbolic of reaching up to God, and with Mormon temples, it is usually an integral part of the design," said BYU geography professor Richard Jackson. The issue of the steeple's height even reached the courts in the case of the Boston Temple, where a lawyer for the LDS Church, Paul Killeen, told the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in January, "The location and design of temple buildings are directly inspired by revelation to their president, who they believe is a prophet in our time." University of Texas history professor Richard Francaviglia says that the opposition of neighbors confuses the Church and church members, "The Mormons don't understand why anyone would fault them for wanting to build tall temples that reach toward heaven, seeking to connect with the divine. They are running into trouble in the suburbs, where the belief is in spreading out and hunkering down, not reaching up for anything."

The Church is asking the Harrison Town Board for a "special exception" permit that covers how the Temple will be used. The permit is the final requirement necessary for the Temple, following the already-obtained approval of the Harrison Planning Board, and a still-in-dispute zoning variance from the Harrison Zoning Board of Appeals. When the Zoning Board of Appeals turned down the application, the Church 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 t 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.

The Church's position regarding zoning laws is helped by a federal law, introduced by Utah Senator and LDS Church member Orrin Hatch and signed into law by President Clinton in September 2000 just a week before the Zoning Board of Appeals turned down the zoning variance application. That law limits how local zoning boards can apply their laws to religious buildings.

With the approach of tonight's meeting, one neighbor family told the New York Journal News that they are selling their home, in spite of the fact that they don't have any proof that the traffic will become a problem, "I don't want to live on a street that I have to plan my day around getting off," said neighbor Sally Braid. The town has already received some complaints from neighbors that the road between them and the Temple site, Kennilworth Road, is already overburdened. But Police Chief David Hall says that Kennilworth isn't on his most-hazardous-street list. The road has had just 33 nonfatal accidents in the past 13 years -- an average of one every five months. But Hall, who is running for county legislator, says he opposes the temple's location, "Any time you flood a particular area that's primarily residential, you're going to increase the possibility of auto accidents. The risk is especially there when people are driving around who don't come from the area and aren't familiar with the road structure."

Real Estate agents that serve the neighborhood, which includes many homes valued at over $1 million, report that so far the controversy hasn't deterred customers, but they say that every buyer talks about it, "The fear of the unknown affects everybody," said Alex Sara Prince, a vice president at Julia B. Fee, a real estate agency in nearby Rye, New York. "People are afraid of change. It makes people think twice before they bid on something."


Family selling home because of temple
Westchester co NJ Journal News 6Aug01 D1
By Karen Pasternack: Westchester NY Journal News
Fastest-growing church encounters opposition to Harrison temple

Fastest-growing church encounters opposition to Harrison temple
Westchester co NY Journal News 22Jul01 D1
By Gary Stern: The Journal News

See also:

White Plains Temple Presentation Attracts Opponents

LDS Church Proceeds With Final Steps for White Plains NY Temple

Harrison NY Appeals Decision Favoring Temple

NEWSFLASH: 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

Mormon News' Coverage of Zoning Challenges to LDS Building Projects


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