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Newport Approves Mormon Temple

The church's decision to reduce a steeple's height wins the support of the city and most neighbors, who feared the tower would hurt land values.

November 14, 2002|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

Church officials have won Newport Beach's approval to build Orange County's first Mormon temple, ending a yearlong controversy over the height of a steeple.

"We're very pleased with the results of the meeting," Weatherford T. Clayton, president of the church's Newport Beach stake, said Wednesday, a day after the City Council unanimously approved plans for the 17,575-square-foot temple at 2300 Bonita Canyon Drive.

More than 100 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were at Tuesday's meeting and applauded the council's action, as did some residents who had earlier criticized the proposed temple.

Members of the Bonita Canyon Homeowners Assn. had said they were worried that the steeple -- to be topped with a gold-colored statue of a trumpeting angel -- would dominate their hillside skyline and decrease property values.

Originally, the church had proposed a 124-foot steeple, then reduced it to about 100 feet.

In the end, a compromise by the church to lower the steeple's height to 90 feet saved the proposal, said councilman Steve Bromberg, who helped resolve the neighborhood feud in his district.

"I was trying to avoid a civil war here," Bromberg said. "It almost got to one. In the end, though it was only 10 feet of difference, it may have been a mile."

Bromberg said he took his role seriously after it became evident that both sides were not willing to compromise. The church had made concessions to its temple plans but the steeple's height was the last sticking point.

"My goal was to facilitate and do it in such a way to give everyone a comfort factor. However, I knew not everyone would be thrilled with the results," Bromberg said.

Steven Brombal, president of the homeowners group, said the 90-foot height limit was acceptable to most of the group's 287 members.

"It feels good to put this behind us now," Brombal said.

Some residents hired an attorney to appeal the Planning Commission's approval of the temple. But attorney Ronald Talmo's only comment after the council's decision was that his clients were pleased with the results.

The church had voluntarily scaled back its plans for the temple, including cutting hours of lighting, lowering lighting wattage by 30% and changing the temple's bright white exterior to an earth tone.

"We're pleased with how the community now feels about the temple," Clayton said. "I hope the whole community will support and take pride in the structure."

Construction of the $10-million structure is expected to take 18 months to two years.

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