LDS Church sues Wyoming city over plans for a new temple

Church argues Cody planners violated their own rules when city ruled against the structure.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) This artist's rendering shows the temple that's planned for Cody, Wyoming.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is suing a Wyoming city after it voted to approve plans for a new temple — and then decided that vote didn’t count, rejecting the plans.

The Cowboy State Daily reported that on June 15, five members of the seven-person Cody Planning and Zoning Board met to consider the proposal for the temple, which the church plans to build on a 4.69 acre site overlooking the city of about 10,000. The board voted 3-1 to approve, with one abstention.

But board chairman Carson Rowley then ruled that the motion had failed because it had not been supported by a majority of all seven board members, including the two who did not attend the meeting.

That, the church argued in a lawsuit filed on Monday in Park County District Court, violated the board’s own rules.

The Cowboy State Daily reported that, under Cody municipal code, approval requires “an affirmative vote of a majority of the Planning, Zoning and Adjustment Board members in attendance at said meeting.” And with three votes from the five members in attendance, that standard had been met.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) This is the spot in Cody, Wyoming, where the LDS Church wants to build a new temple.

According to the report in the Wyoming news outlet, there has been “heated” reaction to the plans for the temple and its “controversial 77-foot steeple,” which will be “illuminated late into the evening” and has “drawn more opposition than any other aspect of the project.”

The Cowboy State Daily went on to report that the Cody Planning and Zoning Board met again Wednesday to discuss plans for the Latter-day Saint temple. And that, though the meeting agenda stated “no action would be taken,” the board determined “that any approval of a conditional use permit for the temple would be contingent on accepting the special exemption for the steeple.” On June 15, the board had voted to approve the temple but tabled a proposal to approve the steeple.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) This map shows where in Cody, Wyoming, the LDS Church plans to build a new temple.

The area where the church plans to build the temple is zoned residential, and structures cannot exceed a height of 30 feet. The temple building would be 25-26 feet tall; the addition of the 77-foot steeple would take that to more than 100 feet.

A group calling itself Preserve Our Cody Neighborhoods is leading the opposition, and more than 300 people turned up for the June 15 meeting to discuss the structure — “more opponents than supporters,” according to the Cowboy State Daily. And “most of the people who testified on behalf of the temple … are members of the church.”

The news outlet reported that most of those in opposition said they weren’t against the temple, but they wanted to see it built somewhere else. However, one man called this “the most divisive issue Cody has ever faced” and argued the temple would be a “100-foot billboard advertising Mormonism that us gentiles would have to view day after day.”

Church members view a temple as a House of the Lord, a place where the faithful participate in their religion’s highest rites, including eternal marriage.