Wyoming mayor orders his city not to issue permit for new LDS temple

The height of a steeple on the Cody structure remains a sticking point.

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

Construction of a new Latter-day Saint temple in Cody, Wyo., remains on hold after the mayor ordered the city not to issue a building permit last week.

“We’re exhausting all options,” Mayor Matt Hall told the Cowboy State Daily, as he and the City Council review the site plan and conditional use permit for the project. Hall and the council met with the city manager and the city attorney in an 80-minute executive session on Tuesday night to discuss the temple, the Cody Enterprise reported, but reached no decision.

And Hall told the Cowboy State Daily that there may be nothing he or the council can do at this point because the site plan and conditional use permit were approved by the planning and zoning board.

“We can’t revert those back,” he said. “In effect, the city has made those decisions.”

For now, the mayor’s order to the Community Development Department to withhold a building permit is in effect, according to City Manager Barry Cook. He told the Cody Enterprise the council “will continue trying to seek options. I hope there’s some resolution soon.”

A spokesperson for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — which has filed a pair of lawsuits against the city over planned construction of the Cody Temple — told The Salt Lake Tribune the global faith is awaiting a decision on the building permit.

It’s the latest twist in what has become a contentious battle over the temple. On Aug. 8, the city’s planning and zoning board approved plans for the structure, which the Utah-based church plans to build in a residential neighborhood. It imposed lighting restrictions on the nearly 10,000-square-foot edifice on a 4.69-acre site but did not impose limits on the height of the steeple.

(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.

Thus, according to the chair of the planning and zoning board and the city attorney, the approval included an OK for a steeple that would soar to almost 101 feet, although zoning for that neighborhood restricts structures to 30 feet.

City Attorney Scott Kolpitcke told the Cody Enterprise that the application the board approved “came with drawings that showed the height, including the steeple, at 100 feet, 11 inches. There were no limits or conditions placed on the height.”

A neighborhood group opposed to the steeple disputed that interpretation, and three days later the mayor ordered the hold on issuing the building permit.

In addition, there’s some question “if the mayor or I have the authority” to block the building permit, Cook told the Cody Enterprise. The city manager said there must be a reason to deny it, which usually involves an unmet condition in the building plan. The mayor has not indicated what, if any, unmet conditions exist.

Wyoming is currently home to one operating Latter-day Saint temple, in Star Valley. Beside the one in Cody, a temple is also planned in Casper.

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