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For week ended November 21, 1999 Posted 24 Feb 2001

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Calendar becomes new foe for Mormon temple's steeple

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Calendar becomes new foe for Mormon temple's steeple
Boston Globe 21Nov99 D1
By Caroline Louise Cole: Globe Correspondent

BELMONT, MASSACHUSETTS -- The LDS Church may be at a disadvantage in its on-going dispute with neighbors of the new Boston Massachusetts Temple because of timing concerns. The Church had hoped that the dispute over the Temple's steeple could be resolved in time for it to be completed before the building's dedication ceremonies, but court delays are making that increasingly unlikely.

The LDS Church received permission from the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance to build a 139-foot steeple where a 72-foot steeple is allowed by regulations. But six of the building's neighbors appealed the Zoning Board's decision to Middlesex Superior Court, where their lawsuit awaits a trial date. The Church is pushing for a December date, after repeated delays have delayed the trial for more than a year.

LDS Church spokesman Kenneth Harvey explain's the Church's position: "We're told we need six to eight months to build the steeple, not because the construction itself is complicated but because it could take several months to bring back a crew to the site. The court is backlogged. To use an aviation analogy, they have us circling over the airport waiting for an open runway, but they seem to think we have unlimited fuel tanks. It's very frustrating."

The Temple itself is close to completion. Exterior work is nearly done and interior work is about 50 percent complete. Window frames should be set into place over the next few weeks and stained glass put in place after that, according to Harvey. The spire will be roofed over temporarily until the dispute is resolved.

The building is also the subject of a second lawsuit by neighbors who claim that a Massachusetts law, the so-called Dover amendment, violates the U.S. Constitution's separation of Church and State. The town of Belmont relied on the Dover amendment, which allows Churches and Schools to bypass some local zoning restrictions, in granting the LDS Church permission to build. While a federal judge ruled that the Dover amendment is constitutional last May, the plaintiffs have appealed, and a trial date for the dispute is expected to be set in February or March.

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