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For week ended July 04, 1999 Posted 17 Jul 1999

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White Plains Temple Opposition Intensifies (Harrison Opposition)

Summarized by Kent Larsen

White Plains Temple Opposition Intensifies (Harrison Opposition)
without permission. For list info see
White Plains Temple Opposition Intensifies (Harrison Opposition)

HARRISON, NEW YORK -- The group of Harrison, New York residents that are opposing the size of the LDS Temple proposed for their area, is intensifying its efforts to restrict or stop the building. The residents claim that the building would increase traffic on the already highly traveled Kenilworth Road. The increased traffic would reduce property values, according to the residents.

The group, called the Harrison Neighborhood Preservation Association, has some 200 members and claims to have spent about $250,000 in legal fees to oppose the building. The Church is seeking a special permit to build the temple on a 24-acre site in Harrison, New York, just east of White Plains and about 30 minutes north of New York City.

The traffic in the neighborhood is a major concern for the group. Group member Kathy Gurfein says, ''A regional temple will only make things worse,'' she adds that the group is not opposing the LDS Church, just the building.

The LDS Church claims that the traffic to the building would not be that large. New York planning consultant J. Michael Divney, who is working for the LDS Church, estimates that no more than 500 visitors would come to the temple on a Saturday, and notes that the temple would be closed on Sunday. The article erroneously indicates that the temple district includes 600,000 members of the Church, ten times the actual number.

The group is also opposing the height of the temple's steeple, "We were flabbergasted when we found out that the steeple was 169 feet high," says Mrs. Gurfein. "That's the equivalent of 17 stories high." The LDS Church has since reduced the height of the spire to 139 feet, while the neighborhood zoning law only allows heights of 30 feet.

The Harrison residents point out that since the Church doesn't pay property taxes, the municipality would loose $500,000 in property taxes that could be generated from 10 or more private homes on the property. The group is also concerned about the building's impact on adjacent wetlands.

Area President Elder Donald I. Staheli points out that the temple would be an addition to the neighborhood and would occupy less than one-half acre of the site. "The temple is intended to be a quiet, tranquil setting for individual worship," he said.

The Harrison Planning Board is scheduled to release its findings on the proposal this month. The Harrison Town Board will then rule on the Church's special permit request.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information