LDS Church wins approval for Wyoming temple but may yet have to lose that steeple

Decision ignores “the elephant in the room”: How high can the tower be?

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

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gained approval to build a temple in a residential neighborhood in Cody, Wyo., but the city hasn’t approved a steeple for the structure.

The church plans to move forward with construction, but it has not agreed to forgo the steeple. That means more negotiation somewhere down the line between the Salt Lake City-based church of 17 million members worldwide and the Wyoming city of about 10,000 residents.

The church did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

On Tuesday, the Cody Planning, Zoning and Adjustment Board approved plans for the nearly 10,000-square-foot temple on a 4.69-acre site in the city, but it imposed restrictions on how bright the outdoor lighting on the temple and in the parking lot can be, and what hours the lights can be on.

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

Zoning rules for the area where the temple will be built restrict structures to no more than 30 feet in height. The building itself will be 25 feet to 26 feet tall, according to plans the church submitted to the city. As for the steeple, the church proposed shortening it from 101 feet to 85 feet, but the board did not approve that and kicked the dispute down the road — a decision one board member called “ignoring the elephant in the room,” according to the Cowboy State Daily.

The Cody Enterprise reported that another board member said, “The public pressure has been overwhelming” and “the issue has divided the community. … No matter the outcome, I hope we can all grow together and move past this.”

The fate of the proposed steeple ultimately may be decided in court. The church has filed a pair of lawsuits against the city — it argues that the planning board erred when it earlier approved and then, in a later meeting, rejected plans for the temple; and it argued that the temple with the steeple met zoning requirements, as determined by city officials.

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

In Tuesday’s meeting, a proposal to approve the plans — with the 85-foot steeple — and another proposal to reject it both failed on 3-3 ties. At that point, board chair Carson Rowley amended his proposal to delete any reference to the steeple. It passed 4-2.

“The [church] has met their burden of proof for how they’re going to mitigate it,” Rowley said, according to the Cowboy State Daily. “It’s maybe not my favorite answer or favorite vote from a personal standpoint, but that’s how I’ve looked through everything and am happy to get to the end here today.”

Final plans for the temple and the height of the steeple, however, remain to be determined.

Latter-day Saints view a temple as a House of the Lord, a place where the faithful participate in their religion’s highest ordinances, including eternal marriage.