Fort Collins residents oppose LDS Temple

Sep 16 2011 - 6:36am

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Residents' collective desire to stop a controversial Mormon temple from building in their southeast Fort Collins neighborhood is probably not enough to trump private property rights, city planners told residents.

About three dozen residents living in the Westchase neighborhood attended a briefing by Fort Collins current planning staff on the process it will use in reviewing a potential annexation and development proposal by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

While no formal application has been filed, the LDS church has told the city it wants to build a two-story, 27,000-square-foot temple with an additional steeple and 275 parking spaces on 18 acres now owned by Wayne and Janice Leistikow at the southeast corner of South Timberline and Trilby roads.

Many of the 35 residents attending the meeting at Fossil Ridge High School asked about traffic, lighting, height restrictions, what criteria would be used to review the project and how neighbors' wishes would be considered.

Chief planner Ted Shepard told the group the only sure-fire way to stop the temple from coming in to their neighborhood was to buy the land. Otherwise, he urged them to prioritize their complaints and determine "what they could live with."

If the proposal meets all city codes and requirements it is likely to be approved, Shepard said.

"So it's a neighborhood with a small HOA against an organization with much deeper pockets?" Randy Russell asked rhetorically.

Russell told planners residents would rather see the land used for something that benefited the entire neighborhood -- a pool, for example -- rather than a temple and asked how neighbors' opinions would be factored in to the planning process.

Excluding a temple as an allowable use in the neighborhood would require changing the land use code, Shepard told Russell.

It's a lengthy process that City Council may not look favorably on considering there is a project waiting in the wings.

Shepard reiterated private property owners can develop their land as they see fit as long as it meets all city zoning and code requirements.

Asking the planning and zoning board to deny it based on neighbors' opposition was a risky strategy, Shepard cautioned.

"If your tactic is to roll the dice and go all or nothing and you want the group gone come hell or high water, it is a legitimate strategy; but recognize it has a risk to it," he said.

Devin Hirning, who lives one block away from the proposed temple, said after the meeting he isn't sure what the next step is.

He said residents were discouraged last week when Larimer County Commis-sioners approved a proposal to reconfigure the Leistikow property from four to three lots and remove a county-imposed restriction that allowed only residential development on the 16-acre lot where the temple would be built.

Neighbors felt commissioners had their minds made up before the land-use hearing, Hirning said.

Not all residents at the meeting opposed the temple.

Laura Thompson and Brad Thompson, both Westchase residents and LDS church members, said they supported the temple.

"I'm confident the church will follow every rule," and build a beautiful temple, Thompson said.

Asking the planning and zoning board to deny it based on neighbors' opposition was a risky strategy, Shepard cautioned.

"If your tactic is to roll the dice and go all or nothing and you want the group gone come hell or high water, it is a legitimate strategy; but recognize it has a risk to it," he said.

Devin Hirning, who lives one block away from the proposed temple, said after the meeting he isn't sure what the next step is.

He said residents were discouraged last week when Larimer County Commis-sioners approved a proposal to reconfigure the Leistikow property from four to three lots and remove a county-imposed restriction that allowed only residential development on the 16-acre lot where the temple would be built.

Neighbors felt commissioners had their minds made up before the land-use hearing, Hirning said.

Not all residents at the meeting opposed the temple.

Laura Thompson and Brad Thompson, both Westchase residents and LDS church members, said they supported the temple.

"I'm confident the church will follow every rule," and build a beautiful temple, Thompson said.

From Around the Web

  +