Gilbert approves E.V.’s 2nd Mormon temple - East Valley Tribune: News

Gilbert approves E.V.’s 2nd Mormon temple

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Posted: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 11:29 pm | Updated: 1:42 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The Gilbert Town Council approved the East Valley's second Mormon temple this week in front of a crowd that surprised even church leaders with the amount of support offered by the public.

The Gilbert Town Council approved the East Valley's second Mormon temple this week in front of a crowd that surprised even church leaders with the amount of support offered by the public.

Packed council chambers usually indicate a divisive topic, but this time, the room was filled with supporters of the temple project; 68 people who filled out speaker cards indicated they were in favor of the project and none against. The council unanimously approved the project Tuesday night.

Paul Gilbert, the attorney representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he'd read letters sent into the Town Council by opponents who had said they would be at the meeting, "but frankly, we're very happy that there wasn't."

Amy Oberly and Becky Blanchard, two Mormon church members who attended the public hearing, said they were not part of any organized effort to show support about the meeting, which Blanchard said she had heard about just a couple of days earlier.

Both said they were surprised as well by the lack of opposition.

"Normally, it seems like whatever the church does, whether it's an Easter pageant or a Christmas event, there are people who are against it," she said, referring to the protesters who often march in front of the large-scale events held at the Mesa Mormon Temple.

Attorney Gilbert said there are no current plans to hold similar events at the new temple, aside from the traditional pre-dedication period of two weeks to a month during which the LDS church allows the general public to tour the temple. After the dedication, it will be restricted to members in good standing with the church, for participation in weddings, baptisms and certain other ceremonies.

Blanchard said this practice goes to show the temple "is not secret, it's sacred."

Councilman Les Presmyk said he was actually disappointed to hear there wouldn't be a large-scale lights display at the Gilbert temple.

"I'd much rather walk around these grounds with a cup of hot chocolate than go up to Mesa," he said.

The actual temple design still has not been submitted to Gilbert's Design Review Board but will be by the beginning of next year, Gilbert said after the meeting. He estimated that construction would begin within nine to 10 months and would take 12 to 18 months to complete.

The temple will be built on a 21-acre rectangle on the southeast corner of Greenfield and Pecos roads, along with a smaller meeting house similar to the other Mormon churches seen throughout Gilbert and the rest of the East Valley. The steeple on the temple will rise 180 feet into the air, making it the tallest building in town. A Gilbert emergency communications tower about a mile to the south will remain the tallest structure in town at 250 feet.

The council approved the church's requests for a minor general plan amendment and zoning changes on the property from residential to commercial. The approved zoning includes several exemptions from the town's standards for commercial areas, including a 45-foot height maximum for buildings. The temple itself can go as high as 85 feet. The planned steeple will rise an additional 95 feet above the ground. In Gilbert, church steeples aren't subject to town regulation as long as they cover no more than 20 percent of the roof.

Attorney Gilbert said the church received a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration granting formal clearance for the steeple as not being an obstacle to traffic from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

LDS temples are reserved for certain ceremonies and can only be entered by church members in good standing, so there will be a fence around it and the surrounding gardens. The meeting house will be open to the general public.

The church has committed to burying the 75-foot-tall power lines that run along the north and west sides of the property, at its own expense. The church property will reach to the curbs of Pecos and Greenfield, rather than to the edge of the sidewalk as is typical, to give the church more control over the burial process. The sidewalks will then be dedicated back to the city for public use.

In other action Tuesday, the council also voted 7-0 to increase user fees at the town's fitness centers at Freestone and McQueen parks by 10 to 25 percent and begin charging fees for the fitness room at the Gilbert Community Center, which also houses the town's senior center and other activities.

The council also voted to award a $502,837 contract to Tempe-based Pavement Markings Inc. The council split 3-3 on the contract at the Sept. 15 meeting, for which Presmyk was absent, after the town's six-member street striping crew said they could provide better service to the town at a lower cost than they have been. But Presmyk and others on the council said they were not convinced by the figures being supplied by the employees, regardless of confusion about whether they had been presented to town officials in the past.

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