A planned LDS temple in Gilbert - expected be the town's tallest building if the steeple is included - was approved by the Planning Commission this week.
The panel also recommended that the Town Council approve the zoning and general plan changes the church requested for the project at Pecos and Greenfield roads.
The 85-foot-tall building, at the southeast corner of the intersection, will be topped by a 95-foot steeple, making it Gilbert's tallest building at 180 feet.
The cross atop the dome at Gilbert Mercy Medical Center is 137 feet high, and the town's tallest office building, the five-story Rome Towers, is 85 feet at its highest point. There is a 250-foot emergency communications tower at Germann and Greenfield roads. Gilbert code allows church steeples as long as they don't cover more than 20 percent of the roof.
The temple's proposed height apparently prompted the one "no" vote cast by Commissioner Jessica Sarkissian. She voted against changing the zoning from residential to commercial on the 21-acre parcel. Sarkissian was opposed to modifications that allow the temple's roof to be higher than the 45-foot limit included in the commercial zoning category.
Sarkissian said the temple will be built next to residential developments, and "I'm concerned about how much of an impact it's going to have for a couple miles around it." Sarkissian did vote for the minor general plan amendment and use permit the church is seeking.
Another commissioner, Michael Monroe, said the temple's height was far preferable to the alternative of leaving the 69-kilovolt power lines around the site the church plans to bury, at its own expense. "I believe the power poles there are 150 feet, I'd say they'd be more of a detriment to the area than the 85 feet," he said.
Other exemptions being sought for the temple structure include the elimination of a perimeter fence to allow the grounds to be open to the public, and an 8-foot-tall fence around the temple itself, which is open only to members in good standing with the church.
One member of the public, who was in favor of the project, spoke at Wednesday's hearing.
The Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is also planning to build a meeting house, similar to the other Mormon churches found throughout Gilbert, and a maintenance building which will serve the temple and church. The church is seeking control of the sidewalk rights of way along its property, but the sidewalks themselves will be dedicated for public use. The Planning Commission has authority to grant the use permit, which is required because the temple is considered a large religious institution and would be within a commercially zoned area. The Town Council is expected to vote on the zoning change and minor general plan amendment at its Sept. 29 meeting.
Paul Gilbert, an attorney representing the church, released a conceptual drawing of the building Thursday, which he said offers a general idea of what it will look like but does not have the level of detail which will be submitted to the town's Design Review Board, probably this month.
He said efforts to create a unique building caused the temple design to take longer than expected.
"Extensive emphasis and detail were put into the design of the facade to ensure the Temple was not simply an impressive mass, but a building that is graceful and 'light on its feet,'" he said in a letter accompanying the drawing.